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This Is The Precise Moment The Solstice Will Take Place Today

December 21 marks the solstice, but the astronomical event happens at a specific time.

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Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

author

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

Alfredo (he/him) has a PhD in Astrophysics on galaxy evolution and a Master's in Quantum Fields and Fundamental Forces.

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

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The setting sun is visible between the stones of stonehenge

Stonehenge during sunset at the winter solstice. Image credit: Chuta Kooanantkul/Shutterstock.com

No matter where you are on the globe today, the Sun will reach its southernmost apparent position with respect to our planet. This is due to the tilt of the Earth that, as the planet orbits the Sun, makes our star look like it goes up and down between the two tropics. And today, December 21, it will reach the Tropic of Capricorn.

This event happens at a very specific time: 4:48 pm EST (9:48 pm UTC). This marks the astronomical changing of the season. In the Northern Hemisphere, it will be the beginning of winter, and in the Southern, they are entering summer. In Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, people will get fewer than seven hours of light, with the Sun setting at 3:40 pm local time. The North Pole has not seen a sunrise since October, and won’t for a few more months.

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The term solstice comes from Latin and is translated as "the Sun is still" or "the Sun has stopped". Given that the Sun appears to reach the highest or lowest point in the sky, astronomers have likened that to the motion of a ball thrown in the air, which appears to no longer move when it reaches its maximum altitude and then to start again. 

analemma pattern in the sky
A figure of eight analemma made of images of the Sun at 9 am from the same place every few days for a whole year. Image credit: jailbird (CC BY-SA 2.0 DE)


As the Sun moves across the sky over a full year, it creates a special figure of eight shape known as an analemma.


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natureNature
  • tag
  • seasons,

  • sun,

  • winter,

  • season,

  • solstice,

  • seasonal,

  • daylight

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