Happy Winter Solstice!

It only gets better from here! It is the first day of winter, but the days will be getting longer beginning tomorrow (assuming you live in the Northern Hemisphere).

At 4:44 AM (CST) today, the North Pole was tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun, its farthest point. At noon today, the sun will be directly overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn, 23.5 degrees south of the equator.

Bring on the sunshine!

winter-solstice

Happy winter solstice!

Or summer solstice, if you happen to be in the southern hemisphere.

The December solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. This year the solstice occured on Tuesday December 22nd at 04:49 GMT (Universal time). For us in the US Central Time Zone, it occurred at 10:49 CST last night.

The winter solstice happens every year when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year.

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One Moment in Time: The Solstice Seen from Newgrange

Deep inside the world’s oldest known building, every year, for only as much as 17 minutes, the sun — at the exact moment of the winter solstice — shines directly down a long corridor of stone and illuminates the inner chamber at Newgrange.

Newgrange was built 1,000 years before Stonehenge and also predates the pyramids by more than 500 years.

Lost and forgotten along with the civilization that built it, the site was been rediscovered in 1699. Excavation began in the late 1800s and continued in fits and starts, until it was undertaken in earnest in 1962. It was completed in 1975.

Seen as a tomb, the function of Newgrange in regards to the solstice wasn’t known until 1967 — and then by happenstance acting on a hunch. It was in December of 1967 that the astronomical alignment was witnessed and understood…

Read the whole thing, of course.

Newgrange