Friday’s Winter Solstice Marks Shortest Day of the Year

By Anna Breuer on 21 December 2018
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Today, Friday, December 21, marks the winter solstice, the day of the year with longest night and fewest hours of daylight. The solstice is an astronomical phenomenon where the northern portion of the Earth’s axis is tilted furthest away from the sun, and takes place at the same time everywhere on earth.

In 2018, the solstice will occur at 5:23 p.m. EST, hence 4:23 p.m. CST, 2:23 p.m. MST, and 1:23 p.m. PST. At that instant, the sun will be directly overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn, or 23.5° south latitude.

As a result, the winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight although not the day with the earliest sunset.

In the United States and many other countries in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice marks the first day of winter. However, meteorological winter began on December 1, as, in accordance with the meteorological definition, the seasons begin on the first day of the months that include the equinoxes and solstice.

In the Southern Hemisphere, Friday is the summer solstice; the winter solstice takes place on June 21.

It’s important to note that, just because December 21 is the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere, it doesn’t translate into the day on which most of the Northern Hemisphere experiences its earliest sunset or latest sunrise. For those living in New York City, for example, the earliest sunset took place on December 8 at 4:28 p.m. The sunset on December 21 will take place at 4:30 p.m. At nine hours and 15 minutes, the day will be five hours and 50 minutes shorter than on June 21, the summer solstice.

The farther north one travels, the amount of daylight will diminish precipitously. The city of Rovaniemi, the capital of Finland’s northern-most province, Lapland, will only have two hours and 14 minutes of daylight on Friday, while Reykjavik in Iceland will see a generous four hours and seven minutes.

Meanwhile, many people will gather at Stonehenge in southern England, believed to have been erected to celebrate celestial events such as solstices and equinoxes, and elsewhere across the globe to celebrate the day, which was also Brumalia, a winter festival in ancient Rome; Koliada, a pre-Christian Slavic winter festival; and Yule, a festival observed by the historical Germanic people.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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