Here are 10 things about the December Solstice you might not know:
Winter and Summer Solstice
In the Northern Hemisphere, the December Solstice is the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year. In the Southern Hemisphere, it is summer solstice and the longest day of the year, because equinoxes and solstices are opposite on opposite sides of the planet.
A Specific Point in Time
Most people count the whole day as the December Solstice. However, the Solstice is actually at a specific moment – when the Sun is exactly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn. In 2017, the December Solstice is on December 21, at 16:28 UTC. Due to the Time Zone difference, some locations will have their solstice on a different date.
Second Solstice of the Year
Solstices happen twice a year – once around June 21 and then again around December 21. On the June Solstice, the Sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer (latitude 23° 30′ North) in the Northern Hemisphere, while on the December Solstice, the Sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn (latitude 23° 30′ South) in the Southern Hemisphere.
The Date Varies
The December Solstice can happen on December 20, 21, 22 or 23, though December 20 or 23 solstices are rare. The last December 23 solstice was in 1903 and will not happen again until 2303.
The Sun ‘Stands Still’
The term solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning ‘the Sun stands still’. This is because on this day, the Sun reaches its southern-most position as seen from the Earth. The Sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction. It’s also common to call it the day the Sun turns around.
It’s the First Day of Astronomical Winter
In the Northern Hemisphere, astronomers and scientists use the December Solstice as the start of the winter season, which ends on the March Equinox. For meteorologists, on the other hand, winter began three weeks ago on December 1.
The Earth Isn’t Farthest From the Sun
During winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth is actually closest to the Sun. Different seasons are not defined by how far the Earth is from the Sun. Seasons occur because Earth orbits the Sun on a slant, with an axial tilt of around 23.4 degrees. Therefore different amounts of sunlight reaches the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, causing variation in temperatures and weather patterns thoughout the year. In fact, the Earth is on its Perihelion – the point on the Earth’s orbit closest to the Sun – a few weeks after the December Solstice.
Earliest Sunset Not on the Solstice
Most places in the Northern Hemisphere see their earliest sunset a few days before the Solstice and their latest sunrise a few days after the Solstice. This happens because of the difference between how we measure time using watches and the time measured by a sundial.
Daylight Hours Increase Faster in the North
If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, the increase rate of daylight hours depends on your location’s latitude – in more northern latitudes you will see a rapid increase in daylight hours compared to if you’re in the more southern latitudes.
Celebrated Around the World
Many cultures around the world hold feasts and celebrate holidays around the December Solstice.
On 12/11/17 a local resident who lives on Flat Rock Road reported a pack of coyotes may have killed a small dog or animal in the area between her neighbor’s house and HKMS. Caller wanted incident on file in the event that one of her neighbor’s calls to report their dog missing.
On 12/12/17 a local resident reported receiving multiple calls (615-789-5666) from a male speaking broken English who states her computer has an issue that needs to be fixed. No personal information given, caller just wanted incident on file as a matter of record.
On 12/13/17 a local resident reported receiving 4 phone calls on her cell phone from an automated system stating she has warrants for her arrest. They did not speak to anyone and did not call the number back. Caller wanted incident on file as a matter of record.
On 12/14/17 a report of items dumped across from 48 Far Horizons Drive. A bag of used toys/clothes, disassembled basketball hoop, lawn chair, satellite TV dish, patio umbrella & a rug dumped on the side of the road. Police Officer reports nothing identifiable found. Items removed.
On 12/14/17 Bridgeport PD served an EPD PRAWN Warrant on:
Elio Figueroa 28 Ohio Avenue
In February of 2017, Mr. Figueroa was issued a Misdemeanor Summons for:
Operating a Motor Vehicle Under Suspension
Operating an Unregistered Motor Vehicle
When he failed to appear in court, a warrant for his arrest was issued on May 5, 2017 with an additional charge of:
Failure to Appear 2nd Degree
At the time, Stratford Police Dept. held 2 warrants for his arrest as well.
Winter’s official start was December 21st at 11:28 a.m.
Solstices come two times in the year, summer and winter, and are marked by a longer day or longer night. The Winter Solstice marks the time when we have the longest night and the shortest period of daylight. The Summer Solstice marks the opposite, highlighting the longest day and the shortest night. The Winter Solstice is recognized by many cultures with the commonality of celebrating the coming of light. As with many holiday celebrations, activities are centered around agrarian roots, linking us to the seasons and natural phenomena. In German and Scandinavian cultures the winter solstice was marked by burning oak logs, greens and wood throughout the night and spreading the ash the following days to promise a successful crop for the coming year. From this the Yule log, Christmas tree, wreaths and many holiday traditions evolved. Likewise, in other cultures the celebrations of the importance of light and coming of crops shaped traditions.
The importance of the winter season is sometimes lost in the aversion to shoveling snow or dealing with ice. But we need to recognize the wonder of natural phenomenon and take some time to observe it. Without this period of time seeds could not reset for growth, water systems would not be able to recharge, wildlife would not redistribute and regroup, and the availability of maple syrup would be lost. In the course of changing conditions we are seeing less and later snowfall, warmer winter days, quicker springs and early rains and floods. Our ability to support seasonal activity is based on our ability to know how to reduce impacts. There are many ways for students and individuals to take action. Becoming involved starts with observation. Winter is a great time to take part in some citizen science opportunities honing your skills in observation and research. Enjoy the season and learn more about your natural community.