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Winter Solstice

12-21-18 winter solstice IMG_1706The tilt of the Earth’s axis of rotation gives different parts of the planet exposure to the Sun at different times of the year, providing seasons.  In December, the Earth’s North Pole turns away from the Sun, giving the Southern Hemisphere the most sunlight.

The annual winter solstice brings us the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The date and time of the solstice vary each year, though it typically falls between Dec. 20 and Dec. 23.  This year’s winter solstice is at 5:23 p.m. Eastern Time today. At that moment, the sun appears directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, at 23.5 degrees south latitude. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun takes its lowest and shortest path through the southern sky. The day will feature just 8 hours and 49 minutes of daylight — compared to our typical 12 hours or so.

This year’s winter solstice won’t be quite as dark as usual (weather permitting). On Saturday, the first full day of winter, a full moon will brighten the long, dark night. The December full moon, also known as the Cold Moon or Long Night’s Moon, arrives less than a day after the solstice, at 12:49 p.m. on Dec. 22. The last time the full moon and the winter solstice occurred less than a day apart was in 2010, and it won’t happen again until 2029.

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11 responses

  1. Alice Pratt

    Happy Winter Solstice! Happy Full Moon!

    December 21, 2018 at 8:35 am

  2. Val Cunningham

    Happy Solstice to you, Mary! And I have a question: I know day length varies a bit as one moves from north to south in the U.S., but I wonder about this discrepancy: I live in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the newspaper reports that yesterday (and presumably today) was 8 hours and 47 minutes long, quite different from the 9 hours and 53 day length stated in your column. Could our two areas really be experiencing more than an hour’s difference? All the best,
    Val Cunningham

    December 21, 2018 at 8:50 am

    • Hi Val,
      You are correct about the discrepancy! I used a central New England latitude, and should have stuck to central Vermont where our daylight is just 8 hours and 49 minutes today!

      December 21, 2018 at 3:12 pm

  3. Wendy Weiger

    Warm Winter Solstice greetings! Up here in the icy north (Greenville, Maine), we don’t have anywhere near 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight — just 8 hours and 42 minutes today!

    December 21, 2018 at 8:50 am

    • You’re right, Wendy! That was not correct for Vermont, either! We have only 8 hours and 49 minutes of daylight today – you have us beat!

      December 21, 2018 at 9:15 am

  4. The upside of the shortest daylight hours of the year is that the days will only get lighter from here!! The sun is already setting later in the day.

    December 21, 2018 at 9:04 am

  5. Pat Nelson

    I see others also commented on the length of the day. Here in SW NH, today is just 9 hours, and in summer it is 15.

    December 21, 2018 at 11:53 am

    • Yes, the day length I quoted for for further south than central Vermont, where I am, Pat. Hoped it was a middle of the road latitude for New England, but should have stuck to central Vermont’s 8 hours and 49 minutes!

      December 21, 2018 at 3:10 pm

  6. Kathy Schillemat

    Tomorrow night will be a lovely night for a moonlight hike!

    December 21, 2018 at 1:02 pm

  7. Kathie Fiveash

    The length of day today in Isafjordur Iceland, where I spent a month in perpetual daylight last spring around the summer solstice, is 2hours 43 minutes.

    December 21, 2018 at 4:08 pm

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