“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. In fact, the sun will halt its orbit and change paths, eventually moving northward and inching toward 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 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, leading to less light and colder temperatures in the north. In the Southern Hemisphere, it was the longest day of the year.
So then what happens?
The sun begins moving northward in the sky each day, slowly leading to more sun north of the equator and ushering in a darker, colder season in the Southern Hemisphere.
Just how short is the day?
North America will only see nine hours and 32 minutes of daylight during the solstice, and 14 hours and 28 minutes of nighttime. But the winter solstice doesn’t always happen at the same time. Next year northern dwellers can brace for the solstice at 11:03 p.m. In 2015 it will occur on Dec. 22.
What are other important dates for the sun?
The summer solstice occurs on June 21, the longest day of the year in the north. On March 21 and Sept. 21, Earth’s equator passes the center of the sun, which are known as “equinoxes.” These two dates mark the point at which hours of day and night are nearly equal.”