It's time for the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the first day of "astronomical winter"!

Winter Solstice: "The Darkest Day"

Solstices are the longest and shortest days of the year on a planet, marking the beginning of the next season. The longest day of the year marks the beginning of summer and is called the summer solstice. The shortest day marks the beginning of winter and is therefore called the winter solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs in June, when the North Pole tilts directly towards the Sun. In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs in December, when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the Sun, meaning that the Northern Hemisphere is as far away from the Sun as possible. The winter solstice is therefore the shortest day of the year with the least amount of sunlight.

  • Why do we experience solstices?
  • Do you know the impact of axis tilt on life on our planet?
  • Brief information on the solstice
  • Are there solstices on other planets?
  • How to see your shadow at the winter solstice?
  • How does daylight affect life?

Known as the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice is the day of the year with the least amount of daylight because less sunlight reaches the Earth. The good news is that each day after the winter solstice will start to last a little longer until the summer solstice in June, when there is the most daylight.

Why do we experience solstices?

The reason we experience solstices every year is that our planet's axis of rotation is tilted at an angle of 23.4 degrees. This means that the Earth's orbit around the Sun is not perpendicular and causes the seasons to form.

Thanks axial tilt...

Effects of Axial Tilt

Let’s consider the impact of this tilt in the Earth's axis on the potential for life on our planet. At this tilt, the Earth's orbit has enough influence to cause dramatic temperature changes between summer and winter. However, this effect is neither extreme nor long enough to render the planet uninhabitable for long periods. This moderate variability, which is the result of the tilt of the axis, has allowed life to develop slowly over the ages, allowing living things to survive.

The winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere occurs on December 21 or 22 each year, at exactly the same time worldwide. This year, the winter solstice will take place on December 22nd at 00:47 (GMT+3).

The English word "solstice" is a combination of the Latin word "sol", meaning "Sun", and "stare", meaning "to stand still". As the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west (due to the Earth's rotation from west to east), its position in the sky changes throughout the year, depending on the season. During the solstice, the Sun reaches its highest and lowest point in the sky. These correspond to mid-summer and mid-winter, respectively, which are turning points in the Sun's journey. When the Sun reaches its zenith on the summer solstice, it begins its journey towards the horizon, and on the winter solstice it reaches its lowest point on the horizon. In the weeks before these turning points, the Sun appears to move very little. This is called a "solar standstill".

Earth is not the Only Planet with Solstice!

The solstice is also observed on any planet with an oblique axis of rotation. It is also worth noting that the seasons on other planets are not climatologically similar to those on Earth for several reasons. First, planets vary in their axial tilt. For example, Venus' axis of rotation is tilted by only three degrees. Because of this almost vertical tilt, there is much less seasonal difference between the summer and winter solstices on Venus than on Earth.

In addition, planets like Mars have less circular orbits than Earth. This means that their distance from the Sun varies more dramatically than on Earth, and therefore has a greater impact on seasonal temperature.

The Earth's axial tilt plays a much greater role in the formation of the seasons than its near-circular orbit. The Earth is closest to the Sun during the Northern Hemisphere winter, about two weeks after the solstice on December 21. The Earth is farthest from the Sun during the summer months of the Northern Hemisphere, about two weeks after the solstice on June 21.

Is it possible to see the solstice?

Yes!

It may be possible to see the effects of the solstice by noting what is happening in the sky and the changes in sunlight over time.

What will happen to your shadow length on December 22nd?

On the winter solstice, when you stand outside at noon and look at your shadow, you can see the longest shadow you will see all year. The reason for this can be explained as follows: Every day, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, drawing a virtual arc across the sky on its journey.

The height of this arc changes during the Earth's annual orbital motion around the Sun. As our planet orbits around the Sun, one pole tilts towards the Sun while the other pole tilts away from it. During the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is tilted away from the Sun, so the "height of the arc" - the angular distance of the Sun from the horizon - is low and therefore your shadow appears long.

For many people, the winter solstice marks the turning of autumn into winter. But there is a difference between the winter solstice, the "astronomical first day of winter", and the first day of winter, the "meteorological first day of winter". Meteorologists determine the first day of winter each year based on temperature records.

Life According to Changes in Daylight

Some plants and animals organize their lives according to changes in daylight. For example, when the days get shorter, leaves lose their green color due to less daylight and lower temperatures. Since ancient times, people all over the world have also paid attention to this annual rhythm. In cultures around the world, the winter solstice is celebrated. Fire and light are traditional symbols of celebrations on this darkest day of the year.

However, there are some benefits of long nights, especially for stargazers who don't mind cold winter conditions. Cold winter days reward observers with clear skies and lower humidity compared to the summer months.

May you have a happy winter solstice and a clear sky...

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