Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

The arrival of summer and winter always begin with a solstice. The winter solstice has unique characteristics that make this stage the coldest of the year in the northern hemisphere. Many people do not know what the Winter Solstice.

For this reason, we are going to dedicate this article to telling you what the winter solstice is, what its characteristics and importance are.

What is the winter solstice

winter sunset

We refer to the solstices as the two points of the annual course of the sun, in which noon coincides with two of the tropical regions of the Earth: Cancer and Capricorn, thus reaching its maximum declination with respect to the terrestrial equator. In other words, the solstice occurs when the sun reaches its highest or lowest apparent altitude in the sky, either +23° 27' (north) or -23° 27' (south) of the Earth's equator.

The solstice occurs twice a year: the summer solstice and the winter solstice, thus marking the beginning of these seasons, the hottest or the coldest depending on the hemisphere. Thus, towards the end of June, the summer solstice occurs in the northern hemisphere, while the winter solstice occurs in the southern hemisphere, and vice versa, towards the end of December. This phenomenon is related to the tilting movement of the planets.

The word solstice comes from the Latin sol Sistere ("still the sun"), because on those days the longest (summer) and shortest (winter) durations of the year occur. For this reason, the different ancient cultures of humanity paid special attention to these two days, seeing them as the greatest point or fullness of heat or cold, thus associating them with the empire of the sun and the greatest radiance, vitality and brilliance of the sun. At the winter solstice there is less light, less fertility and colder, so there is more existence of the spiritual world, as the nocturnal world is usually considered. In fact, the most popular winter solstice tradition is Christmas.

solstice and equinox

northern hemisphere winter solstice

The solstices are the points at which the sun is furthest from the equator, producing their respective summer and winter maxima, while the equinoxes are the opposite: days when the plane of the sun coincides as closely as possible with the equator. terrestrial, thus producing days and nights of approximately the same length. There are also two equinoxes throughout the year, in March (spring) and September (autumn), in the northern hemisphere (they are opposite in the south).

Many traditional human cultures see the equinox as the date of the change from one plane to another, a time of welcome transition between life (spring, greenery) or death (autumn, falling leaves).

Is the winter solstice the first day of the season?

days that shorten

The reason for the solstices and the seasons is that the earth is tilted an average of 23,5 degrees with respect to the sun. Therefore, as we orbit our star, the northern and southern hemispheres receive different amounts of sunlight throughout the year.

The part of each hemisphere that is farthest from the sun cools during the year. The winter solstice (December in the north, June in the south) occurs when this tilt is at its most extreme. This astronomical phenomenon occurs on the first day of winter on the calendar, but meteorologists are ahead of us this season. As the winter solstice approaches, climatologists have been watching winter conditions for nearly a month, according to Greg Hammer of NOAA's National Center for Environmental Information.

“Meteorological winters in the Northern Hemisphere always occur in December, January and February, as these are usually the coldest months of the year. It is based on an annual temperature cycle, not on an astronomical basis,” he explained.

Given the huge impact sunlight has on Earth's climate, why isn't the darkest time of year the coldest? Basically, in the summer, the water and land need time to cool down after all the heat has been absorbed. Therefore, the minimum temperature of the day does not occur until almost a month later.

Meteorological winters are more a reflection of the popular calendar and the way most people perceive the seasons. We believe that winter is the coldest time, summer is the hottest time, and spring and summer are transition periods. Most of us see the first sunsets a week or two before the winter solstice. That's because the sun and our human clock don't exactly match.

We have divided our days into 24-hour periods, but the Earth does not rotate on its axis with such precision. While there is always an exact 24 hours from one noon to the next, the time between solar noon, the time the sun reaches its highest point in the sky each day, varies. Over time, the time of solar noon varies with the season, as do sunrise and sunset.

In December, solar noon occurs about 30 seconds after completing the 24-hour cycle. Although we receive the least amount of daylight at the solstice, sunset on that day is a few minutes later than it was earlier in the month.

Closer to the equator, the earliest sunset of the year occurs in November. To see it coincide with the Solstice, you have to go to the North Pole. Seasonal changes in the sun's path across the sky closer to the poles cause sunsets at higher latitudes to be closer to the winter solstice.

Can you see the winter solstice?

You can understand the effects of the winter solstice by looking at what's happening in the sky and how the sunlight changes over time. For northern observers, the sun's arc across the sky has been tapering and shortening since June. At the northern winter solstice, it reaches its lowest arc, so low that it appears to rise and set in the same place for several days before and after the winter solstice.

Due to the sun's lower angle, this means that our midday shadows are the longest of the year during the winter solstice.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the winter solstice and its characteristics.

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