Winter solstice 2016: What is it; when does it happen; Stonehenge connection

Herman Weaver
December 23, 2016

Average temperatures continue to drop until the sun climbs higher in the sky, according to the weather service.

The solstice marks the astronomical beginning of winter, while meteorologists view winter (the three coldest months) as starting December 1. And if you're a weather enthusiast, winter already began on December 1.

This year, the December, or Winter, solstice occurs at 5:44 a.m. EST.

This year, the winter solstice occurred on the morning of 21 December and marks the day which will have less daylight than any other this year.

Winter solstice has come, bringing the longest nights for 2016.

North of the Arctic Circle it's dark all "day" long on the Winter Solstice, and the North Pole hasn't seen a complete sunrise for a couple of months. It represents the exact moment when the Northern Hemisphere is tilted at its furthest point away from the sun.

The solstice is the shortest day of the year, but how long is the sun up where you live? Winter solstice marks the fifth of those 10 days. This leaves only 11 hours and 19 minutes of daylight. That city will get less than four hours of sunlight all day on Wednesday.

The Earth is tilted at roughly 23.5 degrees on its vertical axis.

The summer solstice was a day of cultural significance for many ancient civilisations, who marked it with magnificent festivals and celebrations.

Thousands of druids and pagans have descended upon the Stonehenge site the watch the sunrise on the shortest day of the year. Further north, in Chicago and Boston, the difference amounts to over six hours.

No, despite being the longest day of the year the summer solstice doesn't feature the yearly extremes for sunrise and sunset. The most direct sunlight shifts around different latitudes, leading to what we experience as the change of seasons in the middle to higher latitudes of the globe.

NY: 4:32 p.m.

This year the sun will rise over Stonehenge in Wiltshire at 8.09am and set at 4.02pm. In purple areas, the earliest sunsets are not until after 5 o'clock. However, the southern hemisphere has a higher proportion of water to land than the northern hemisphere has; since water absorbs heat less than land does, the southern hemisphere's greater water surface moderates the heating of a slightly nearer sun.

Pick any two points on the map within the same time zone and draw a line between them.

More northern latitudes will see more and more daylight faster than any places closer to the equator, but that's also because the amount of daylight near the equator doesn't widely vary from season to season.

What causes this astronomical oddity, though? "The summer solstice is named for the brief time when the sun appears to pause its movement across the sky".

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