Winter Solstice Fun Facts
What is the Winter Solstice?
We have the solstices in winter and summer because of the way the Earth spins on a tilted axis. This is also the reason for changing daylight hours and seasons--the tilt gives more direct sunlight for more time, and therefore heat, during half the year in one hemisphere and then in the other hemisphere in the second half of the year. The summer and winter solstices happen at about the same day every year--for 2020, the Winter Solstice is on December 21.
Here's a time-lapse video of the Earth from space showing the changing angle of sunlight over an entire year.
How many hours of daylight will I get?
How much sun you'll have today depends on where you live. The further north you are from the equator, the shorter the days. Here's a picture of "high" noon in Fairbanks, Alaska where they'll get less than four hours of sunlight today. Meanwhile, our friends in Texas are basking in over 10 hours of sunlight. In comparison, during the Summer Solstice,
Solstice celebrations in the ancient world
It's believed that the Maya in Central America (2000 BCE) and the Druids in Europe (3000 BCE) recognized and celebrated the solstices and equinoxes. Mayan buildings and ballcourts and Stonehenge were aligned with incredible mathematical precision to mark the position of the Sun on these dates and to form the basis of their calendars.
If you find yourself in southern England during the solstices, you can join the party.