Understanding the Big Impact of the Winter Solstice : Chasing the Sun

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On Thursday, December 21, 2023, at 10:27 p.m. EST, a significant worldwide moment occurs as the sun rises over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere.

The formal start of a new season is marked by the winter solstice north of the equator and the summer solstice south of it.

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Bewildered? You ought not to be. All of it is a straightforward account of life on a planet with an axis tilt, offering an opportunity to reflect on the seasons, how the sun’s strength changes throughout the year, and how celestial mechanics determine the conditions for life on Earth.

Here is all the information you want on this week’s solstice and its significance.

Summer/ Winter Solstice explained

According to astronomy, it marks the start of summer in the southern hemisphere and winter in the northern. The longest day and the shortest night of the year occur in the south, while the shortest day and longest night occur in the north.

All of this is only an account of the rotation of our globe. Because Earth’s rotational axis is slanted by 23.5 degrees, various portions of the planet get sunlight for varying periods of time throughout our yearly journey around the sun. Most likely, an event from billions of years ago caused it.

The northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun on this week’s solstice, causing the sun to hang lowest in the sky. As this is going on, the sun in the southern hemisphere is shining full and remaining in the sky for a longer period of time since it is above the Tropic of Capricorn, an imaginary line located 23.5 degrees south of the equator.

Crucial Period

The sun’s apparent movement reaches a turning point around the solstice. “The phenomena of the sun’s course appearing to halt and shift direction on this specific day is the source of the name “solstice.”,” stated Dr. Minjae Kim, Research Fellow at the Department of Physics, University of Warwick, U.K., in an email. “Solstitium” is the Latin root of the term, which means “sun stands still.” According to Kim, “this seeming pause happens as the sun reaches its southernmost point against the backdrop of stars.”

The northern hemisphere’s days will now become longer until the March equinox, or equal night, when there will be 12 hours of sunshine and 12 hours of darkness. The Earth’s axis faces the sun sideways at the equinox.

The sun is positioned above the Tropic of Cancer, 23.5 degrees north of the equator, by the June solstice, when the roles are reversed. It brings about winter in the southern hemisphere and summer in the northern.

The Impact of summer/ Winter Solstice

According to Kim, “the fundamental cause of these seasonal variations is the Earth’s axial tilt.” “It affects not just seasonal variations in temperature but also variations in day and night length throughout the year.”

Throughout the year, the sun rises and sets at various locations on the horizon. While most of us do not, those who observe sunrises and sunsets naturally understand this. The extreme points are symbolized by the solstices. On the winter solstice, for instance, the sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest in the northern hemisphere.

These are the locations where you may view the dawn and sunset during the course of a year. When the summer solstice arrives in June, six months from now, the Sun will rise in the northeast and set in the north-west in the northern hemisphere. You guessed it—the equinox, which happens in both March and September—marks the midway point. The sun rises and sets in the exact east during the equinox.

How the Summer/ Winter Solstice is observed

The solstice is a significant landmark in the Earth’s orbit around the sun, but not many people observe it, especially in the winter when it falls so near to other holidays.

There are various ways to observe the solstice besides simply seeing the sun rise or set, which is something that historic sites like Stonehenge seem to connect with. One option is to just stroll outdoors after midnight and engage in some stargazing. This year, there will be a brilliant Jupiter visible high in the southeast night sky. Plus, it will be seen right after sundown.

Equinoxes and Summer / Winter Solstices By 2024

The following are the 2024 equinox and solstice dates, along with the cross-quarter days (the calendar milestones that occur in between these events), some of which might surprise you:

Groundhog Day on February 2 is the cross-quarter day.

2024 March equinox: March 19

May Day is the cross-quarter day on May 1.

June 20, 2024 is June’s solstice.

Cross-quarter day: Lammas, August 1.

September 22, 2024 is the September equinox.

Cross-quarter Day: Halloween, October 31

December 21, 2024 is the December solstice.

I’m wishing you broad eyes and clear skies.

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