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The winter solstice occurs each year during the month of December in the northern hemisphere. In 2022, the winter solstice will take place on Dec. 21 at 4:48 p.m. EST.
Solstices are significant events that occur twice per year. One occurs in the winter and one in the summer. The winter solstice also is known as the first day of winter and occurs when the Earth’s pole reaches its maximum tilt away from the sun. During the winter solstice, people will experience the shortest period of daylight and the longest period of nighttime of the year.
Here are 14 fascinating facts about the winter solstice.
1. Depending on the hemisphere, the north or south pole will experience continuous darkness or twilight around its winter solstice.
2. The winter solstice sometimes is referred to by the term midwinter.
3. Even though the solstice is marked by a whole day on the calendar, it actually is just the brief moment of time when the sun is exactly over the Tropic of Capricorn.
4. The word “solstice” can be translated from Latin and means “sun stand still.”
5. The Tropic of Capricorn is located at 23.5 degrees south of the equator.
6. Tourists flock to Stonehenge to track the movement of the sun. The stones will frame the sunset on the winter solstice and the sunrise on the summer solstice.
7. Ancient cultures viewed the winter solstice as a time of death and rebirth.
8. Important events in history have taken place on winter solstices. The Apollo 8 spacecraft launched on the solstice in 1968. Pilgrims also arrived at Plymouth on the winter solstice in 1620.
9. Each planet in the Earth’s solar system has its own solstices and equinoxes.
10. The southern hemisphere experiences the winter solstice in June each year.
11. A full moon on a solstice is even more rare than a blue moon. The last full moon to occur on the winter solstice was in 2010 and the next one won’t happen until 2094.
12. Earth is closer to the sun around the winter solstice in December. However, the northern hemisphere receives less sunlight and has cooler temperatures because it is tilted away from the sun during winter.
13. Even though the winter solstice features the shortest amount of daylight of any day during the year, it does not have the earliest sunset. That takes place roughly two weeks prior. In 2021 in New York, the winter solstice took place on Dec. 21, but the earliest sunset occurred on Dec. 7 at 4:28 p.m.
14. Meteorological winter begins on Dec. 1 rather than Dec. 21.