Winter solstice, the 'shortest' day of the year, arrives Thursday

Winter solstice, the 'shortest' day of the year, arrives Thursday

The winter solstice is arriving on December 21, which has been announced by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to be among 2017's longest solar days, with the shortest period of sunlight and longest period of night. Yes, temperatures get colder while the days get longer.

This year, the winter solstice is occurring at the same moment in all countries around the world.

That means that for half the year, the north pole is tilted a bit toward the sun (and experiences summer) and that for the other half of the year, the south pole is tilted a bit toward the sun, giving the northern hemisphere winter. The Southern Hemisphere, on the other hand, will see the beginning of the astronomical summer. In the United States, that time will be 11:28 a.m ET.

The most famous solstice celebration is associated with Stonehenge, a giant stone circle constructed in England around 2500 BC at a site that had been symbolically important for about 500 years before then.

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The solstices, and the seasons they mark, are the result of a celestial coincidence.

This Thursday, on December 21, we celebrate the winter solstice. Because of the odd date of December 21 for the solstice, it makes more sense practically to have a more easily-remembered date for the beginning of the coldest months of the year. In most areas, that occurs either weeks before or after the upcoming event this Thursday.

During the period, northern parts of the USA are to experience zero to six hours of sunlight daily, while states that lie south will have nine to 10.5 hours. If skies are clear during sunrises from December 19th to 23rd, a narrow beam of light penetrates its "roof-box", reaches the chamber floor and extends gradually to illuminate the entire chamber over 1 7-minute period - marking new life at the turn of the year when the days slowly begin to get longer. We'll likely see the coldest day of the year in early to mid-January.

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