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Winter Solstice: Facts on the Shortest Day of the Year
Date:2013-09-10 17:49 From:Internet 【Print】 【Closed】 【Collection
Today is the winter solstice and the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It's all due to Earth's tilt, which ensures that the shortest day of every year falls around December 21.
 
Some predicted that today would also mark Earth's doomsday, thanks to a longstanding rumor that the Maya calendar ends on December 21, 2012. But earlier this year, National Geographic grantee William Saturno found evidence that the Maya calculated dates thousands of years past 2012.
 
"We keep looking for endings," Saturno said in a statement. "The Maya were looking for a guarantee that nothing would change. It's an entirely different mindset."
 
(Read more about the Maya apocalypse myth.)
 
Even without an apocalypse, the solstice has been an auspicious day since ancient times. Countless cultural and religious traditions mark the winter solstice; it's no coincidence that so many holidays surround the first day of winter.
Winter Solstice: Facts on the Shortest Day of the Year - Learn Chinese in shanghaiSolstice in Space: Astronomy of the First Day of Winter
 
During the winter solstice the sun hugs closer to the horizon than at any other time during the year, yielding the least amount of daylight annually. On the bright side, the day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days leading up to the summer solstice.
 
"Solstice" is derived from the Latin phrase for "sun stands still." That's because—after months of growing shorter and lower since the summer solstice—the sun's arc through the sky appears to stabilize, with the sun seeming to rise and set in the same two places for several days. Then the arc begins growing longer and higher in the sky, reaching its peak at the summer solstice.
 
(Related sun pictures: See a full year in a single frame.)
 
The solstices occur twice a year (around December 21 and June 21) because Earth is tilted by an average of 23.5 degrees as it orbits the sun—the same phenomenon that drives the seasons.
 
During the warmer half of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole is tilted toward the sun. The northern winter solstice occurs when the "top" half of Earth is tilted away from the sun at its most extreme angle of the year.
 
Being the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice is essentially the year's darkest day, but it's not the coldest. Because the oceans are slow to heat and cool, in December the seas still retain some warmth from summer, delaying the coldest of winter days for another month and a half. Similarly, summer doesn't hit its heat peak until August, a month or two after the summer solstice.
 
Winter Solstice Marked Since Ancient Times
 
Throughout history, humans have celebrated the winter solstice, often with an appreciative eye toward the return of summer sunlight.
 
Massive prehistoric monuments such as Ireland's mysterious Newgrange tomb (video) are aligned to capture the light at the moment of the winter solstice sunrise.
 
Germanic peoples of Northern Europe honored the winter solstice with Yule festivals—the origin of the still-standing tradition of the long-burning Yule log.
 
The Roman feast of Saturnalia, honoring the God Saturn, was a weeklong December feast that included the observance of the winter solstice. Romans also celebrated the lengthening of days following the solstice by paying homage to Mithra, an ancient Persian god of light. 上一篇:2013 Winter Solstice, December Solstice 下一篇:Winter solstice in 2013 is on Friday 21 June
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