Happy Winter Solstice!

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Oops, I’m a day late with my “happy winter solstice” blog! I have a good excuse, though — on the day I should have been writing this blog, the 20th, I was making chocolates at a friend’s house! They turned out yummy, if melty… the milk chocolate I bought wouldn’t get very runny when melted, and once hardened and released from the mold, would start to melt in your hand as soon as you picked it up! Awesome! 🙂

Anyways, happy shortest day of the year — woo hoo! It doesn’t get any darker than this! And I am glad for that. Our day (sunrise to sunset) is only 6 hrs 17 minutes, and the maximum height the sun reaches is a measly 8.5 degrees! I have discovered that the sun does not shine in either of the kitchen windows (facing SW) until just before it goes down; the neighbour’s house casts a shadow all over ours. But that’s ok… in summer, the sun is gloriously high and the days wonderfully long… that’s what one has to remember at this time of year.

I can understand why ancient people would have had a festival shortly after the solstice — when you could start to measure that the days were getting longer. Maybe it was a distraction, a reason to party, or maybe it was just being grateful that the shortest day has come and gone and although it might not get warmer for a couple more months, it won’t get any darker. 🙂

To visualize the way the sun’s position changes, check this picture out (photo by Anthony Ayiomamitis):

This Astronomy Picture of the Day shows how the sun moves throughout the year — it is a composite of many photos taken at the same time and place, over the year. The up-and-down part you probably understand, but do you know what causes the left and right motion? Leave a comment if you know!

2 thoughts on “Happy Winter Solstice!

    Lune said:
    December 22, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    The variation in the width of the figure-8 is caused by the fact that the Earth’s orbit is an ellipse, not a circle, and the orbital velocity changes. The figure-8 is called an analemma.

    Happy Solstice!


    Teresa responded:
    December 27, 2009 at 12:57 am

    You are absolutely right, Lune! And did I forget to mention that it’s an analemma? Oops. 🙂

    Sometimes the sun is “early” and sometimes “late,” which creates the figure-8 shape in the photo. Otherwise, the sun would just retrace its path, up and down in a line. And because of our elliptical orbit, we don’t gain or lose time at sunset and sunrise equally. 🙂

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