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Winter Solstice 2023 - Shortest day of the year

Winter Solstice 2023 - Shortest day of the year Photo: Winter Solstice 2023 - The shortest day of the year (Unsplash)

The Winter Solstice, occurring on Dec. 21/22, 2023, marks the astronomical beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, characterized by the shortest day and longest night of the year, according to Britannica.

Meteorological seasons, in contrast to astronomical seasons, are determined by specific calendar months. For instance, meteorological winter begins on December 1, setting it three weeks ahead of astronomical winter based on Earth's position relative to the Sun and its axis.

This astronomical event occurs due to Earth's tilt away from the Sun, leading to reduced sunlight as the Sun follows a shorter path across the sky.

Winter Solstice 2023 - Shortest day of the yearThe tilt of the Earth (Photo: Space)

The solstice happens when Earth's axis is tilted farthest from the Sun, specifically at 10:27 p.m. ET on December 21 or 03:27 GMT on December 22. This phenomenon creates a distinct contrast between the short days leading up to the Winter Solstice and the progressively longer days following it, heading towards the Summer Solstice.

The occasion is significant for its physical impact and cultural and historical implications, influencing various traditions and celebrations.

Celestial conjunction

On the Winter Solstice, December 21, skywatchers can witness the waxing gibbous Moon positioned to the right of Jupiter, the brightest planet in the evening sky.

This occasion can be best viewed just after twilight, high above the southeastern horizon, with stargazing binoculars or a telescope.

In case of a missed opportunity, the celestial duo will make a second appearance on December 22, with the Moon shifting to Jupiter's left. Additionally, this date aligns with the peak of the annual Ursid meteor shower, adding to the astronomical excitement.

The alignment of the Moon and Jupiter during this period provides a unique and visually striking occurrence for astronomy enthusiasts and skygazers alike.

Astronomical significance

The concept of solstices is rooted in Earth's axial tilt of approximately 23 degrees. Without this tilt, the planet would not experience varied seasons or solstices. The Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere coincides with the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, reflecting the planet's axial dynamics.

Historically, the solstice has held great significance in various cultures, symbolizing rebirth and renewal. Celebrations like Christmas and Hanukkah have ties to solstice traditions, evolving from ancient rituals to modern festivities.

These traditions reflect humanity's long-standing fascination with the natural rhythms of our planet and the cosmos.

Also, we recently wrote that on December 14, the Sun emitted a powerful class X2.8 solar flare.