Science of the Winter Solstice

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Earth enjoys different seasons because the planet is tilted 23 degrees and 27 minutes off the perpendicular to the plane of orbit. This means that the earth revolves like a tilted spinning top. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of sunlight as the Sun is at its lowest arc in the sky, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.

Solstice: Standing Still

In the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice. In this way, it looks like the Sun is “standing still” from the perspective of someone standing on the Earth, until following the Winter Solstice the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter.

Solstice and the Roman Saturnalia

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Temple of Saturn, Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill

Know-it-all Facts to impress your friends and family

It is called the “shortest day of the year” or “extreme of winter” though it begins the Winter season. You cast your longest shadow at noon on this day. It has the fewest hours of sunlight and the most hours of darkness.

  • Helsinki, Finland: 5 hours, 49 minutes of sunlight
  • Barrow, Alaska: 0 minutes of sunlight — no sunrise at all, until January 22

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