December 22nd is the Winter Solstice which marks the beginning of winter and the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemsiphere. The Winter Solstice took place at 12:30 a.m. EST today. What is actually taking place is that the Earth as it turns on its axis as it circles the sun, is tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees relative to its orbit. Whatever the season, the axis points the same way, with Polaris, the North Star, hovering over the North Pole.
So December 22 will experience the shortest amount of daylight hours and the longest night. In the U.S. for example, Chicago in the midwest, will get just 9.1 hours of daylight tomorrow, while in the south and far west, Atlanta and Los Angeles will get 9.9 hours (they're closer to the equator). Everything north of the Arctic Circle will experience 24 hours of darkness.
Going forward, the days will gradually lengthen as the sun climbs higher in the sky over the next six months. Despite the lengthening of sunlight though, the temperature will continue to drop for the next couple of months. Happy Winter Solstice and the official first day of Winter!
Below is a selection of pictures of Winter Solstice. Enjoy
Tyrrhenian Sea and Solstice Sky Credit & Copyright: Danilo Pivato
December Sunrise, Cape Sounion Credit & Copyright: Anthony Ayiomamitis
Tutulemma: Solar Eclipse Analemma Credit & Copyright: Cenk E. Tezel and Tunç TezelIf you went outside at exactly the same time every day and took a picture that included the Sun, how would the Sun appear to move? With great planning and effort, such a series of images can be taken.
Sunrise by Season Credit & Copyright: Anthony Ayiomamitis
Explanation: Does the Sun always rise in the same direction? No. As the seasons change, the direction toward the rising Sun will change, too. The Sun will always rise and set furthest to the south during the day of Winter Solstice, and furthest to the north during Summer Solstice. Today is Winter Solstice, the day of least sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere and of most sunlight in the Southern Hemisphere. In many countries, the Winter Solstice brings a change in season, as it is the first day of winter in the North. The solar heating and stored energy in the Earth's surface and atmosphere is near its lowest during winter, making it usually the coldest months of the year. On the brighter side in the north, daylight hours will increase every day from now until June. Pictured above are the different directions of the rising sun throughout the year above a small town in Greece.
Sun Halo at Winter Solstice Credit & Copyright: Philip Appleton (SIRTF Science Center), Caltech
Explanation: Sometimes it looks like the Sun is being viewed through a large lens. In the above case, however, there are actually millions of lenses: ice crystals. As water freezes in the upper atmosphere, small, flat, six-sided, ice crystals might be formed.