Originally posted on NewsFeed:
Behold! A year has passed since the great Mayan apocalypse of 2012 — newsflash: we’re all still here — and the winter solstice is again upon us. The solstice marks the shortest day of the year for dwellers in the Northern Hemisphere, and the longest day of the year for those south of the equator. But that doesn’t just mean darkness will cast a great shadow over the Northern Hemisphere. Leading up to the solstice, the sun’s highest point appears closer to horizon each day, which means the days get shorter and the nights get longer. During the solstice, the sun’s position relative to Earth seems to pause (solstice means “stationary sun”), and from that day forward appears to inch northward, meaning more sunlight for those of us in the north. Here’s a look at why you should care about today’s astronomical event.
What is it?
The 23.5 degree tilt in Earth’s axis of rotation creates a rise and fall appearance of the sun over the course of a year. During the winter solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is pointed at its furthest distance from the sun, bringing less light and colder temperatures. The winter solstice occurs at a specific time, not just day. This year, at 12:11 p.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 21, the sun shone directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, the farthest south the sun reaches. In the Southern Hemisphere, it was the longest day of the year.
So then what happens?
After the solstice occurs, days grow longer for north of the equator, as the sun appears farther above the horizon. This movement culminates in the longest day of the year on June 21.