Get ready for the darkest day of 2016 in the literal sense, as the winter solstice is upon us Dec. 21. It’s the day that all of us above the equator get the least amount of sunlight, so here are five things to know about the winter solstice.
1. The winter solstice is the darkest day of the year.
The Dec. solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year for anyone living north of the equator. Most of the continental United States will only have eight to 10 hours of sunlight at the maximum Dec. 21, while parts of Alaska won’t see any sun at all.
2. The winter season officially begins on the solstice.
Astronomers count the Dec. solstice as the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere. But meteorologists start the first day of winter on Dec. 1 and count the two following months as the coldest of the year.
3. If you live in the Southern Hemisphere, you’ll be experiencing the sunniest day of the year.
Since the Earth rotates on an axis around the sun, everyone living in the Southern Hemisphere will be experiencing their longest day of sunlight, since they’re enjoying summer while we go through winter.
4. Why do people gather at England’s Stonehenge during solstices?
For some reason 5,000 years ago, the Druids built the stone formations most likely to align with solstices and equinoxes. During the winter solstice, the formation is aligned toward the sunset, making for an epic sight. While more people gather to see the summer solstice sunrise above Heel Stone, the winter solstice may have been more important to the Druids. It signaled when to slaughter cattle so they wouldn’t have to be fed through the coming cold months. Also, it indicated the majority of wine and beer was finally fermented. We bet THAT was good news!
5. It will be six months until the next solstice.
In 2016, the winter solstice occurs at 5:44 a.m. EST. The next solstice will occur in June 2017 — the longest day of the year. In other words a much more warm, bright and happy time! Ugh, at least from now on these dark winter days will slowly get more daylight from here on out.
HollywoodLifers, are you looking forward to the days finally getting longer?