The December Solstice
December 21, 2012
This may be the most wonderful season of all, but it is not my favorite time of the year. I do not enjoy these months with less and less daylight. I always think of descending into a dark pit until we finally reach December 21st or 22nd, the winter solstice.
We’ve all heard the term winter solstice, but exactly what is it? It all has to do with the earth’s rotation about the sun and the way it spins on its axis, which is tilted. The December solstice occurs when the North Pole is tilted 23.5 degrees away from the sun. On this date, all places above a latitude of 66.5 degrees north (Arctic Polar Circle) are now in darkness, while locations below a latitude of 66.5 degrees south (Antarctic Polar Circle) receive 24 hours of daylight. On this day, the sun shines directly over the tropic of Capricorn creating the winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere and the summer solstice for the Southern Hemisphere.
The winter solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year for us here in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice. Hence, the origin of the word solstice, which comes from Latin "solstitium" (sol meaning sun and stitium meaning a stoppage). Following this day, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter. Hurrah!
Blue Springs South Branch