Science

What You Need To Know About The Winter Solstice

Winter is here, and so is the winter solstice. The Winter Solstice, which occurs today, marks the shortest day of the year, and the longest night of the year. However, if you are eager for longer days, it will get better from tomorrow on. In the meantime, here is what you need to know about the winter solstice.

What does it really mean?

This astronomical phenomena, also known as midwinter, is the exact moment when the sun’s most direct rays get to their southernmost point south of the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice is in December, while in the Southern Hemisphere, midwinter occurs in June. The time and date for the winter solstice changes all the time. However, this particular year’s solstice happens at 11:28 a.m. EST today.

The solstice and seasons generally occur because our planet is tilted on its axis of rotation by about 23.5 degrees. That means that each hemisphere receives different amounts of sunlight during the year. From the Northern Hemisphere, the sun is seen as taking the shortest and lowest path across the southern sky. During the local noon, you will see your shadow to be the longest of the year.

The word “solstice” originates from the Latin word sol sister, which stands for “sun standing still”.

What You Need To Know About The Winter Solstice: How much daylight?

People receive the amount of daylight based on their latitude, which is the distance from the equator. If you take a look at the picture below, you’ll see a map made by Alaska-based climatologist Brian Brettschneider, which reveals how much daylight different parts of North America will receive during the shortest day of the year. As you can see, Florida and southern Texas will receive up to 10 hours and 26 minutes of sunlight as they are closest to the equator, while in Alaska the sun barely peaks for three to four hours and some parts get none at all.

The Winter Solstice
Image Source: Brian Brettschneider / Twitter

What You Need To Know About The Winter Solstice : Sunrise and sunset

The times of sunrise and sunset are tied to your latitude and geographical location within the time zone you reside in. Two maps from the same author show the time of sunrise and sunset in North America. Both maps include different time zones and latitudes, which are marked in different colors.

The first map shows the time of the sunrise in North America. In most of the countries the sunrise starts after 7 a.m. local time. The areas which are highlighted in gold don’t get the sunrise until 7:30 a.m. and later. The areas that are marked as green don’t receive the sunlight until after 8 a.m.

The Winter Solstice
Image Source: Brian Brettschneider / Twitter

The second map shows the times of the sunset. Parts of the lower 48 will see the sunset before 5 p.m. on the winter solstice. The areas that are marked as bright green, the sun sets before 4:30 p.m. Some parts of Maine will even see the sunset as early as 3:30 p.m. However, states like Florida and Texas will see the sunset after 5:30 p.m. during the winter solstice day.

The Winter Solstice
Image Source: Brian Brettschneider / Twitter