Shortest Day of the Year

Welcome to Winter Solstice 2018! You may be asking … what does this have to do with the “metal industry?” Really nothing at all, but sometimes in life it’s good to simply pause or “stand still.” The word, solstice, translates roughly to “sun stands still,” so in honor of the shortest day of the year, we pause from the norm.

There are some fascinating facts about the winter solstice. This year is especially auspicious in that the full moon will rise one day after the winter solstice. Apparently the two won’t be back to back like this until 2094!

Solstice derives from the Latin scientific term solstitium, containing sol, which means “sun,” and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning “to make stand.” This comes from the fact that the sun’s position in the sky relative to the horizon at noon, which increases and decreases throughout the year, appears to pause in the days surrounding the solstice.

Historically, the date of the winter solstice varies from year to year, and can fall anywhere between December 20 and December 23, with the 21st or 22nd being the most common dates. Not only does the solstice occur on a specific day, but it also occurs at a specific time of day, corresponding to the instant the North Pole is aimed furthest away from the sun on the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis. This is also the time when the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. 

For those of us on Eastern Standard Time, the solstice will occur at 11:28 this morning. And regardless of where you live, the solstice happens at the same moment for everyone on the planet. 

It’s no wonder that the day of the solstice is referred to in some cultures as the “shortest day” or “extreme of winter.” New York City will experience only 9 hours and 15 minutes of sunlight. Helsinki, Finland, will get only 5 hours and 49 minutes of light and Barrow, Alaska, will not have a sunrise at all (and hasn’t since mid-November; its next sunrise will be on January 22). The North Pole hasn’t had a sunrise since October and in contrast, the South Pole is basking in the glow of the midnight sun, which won’t set until March.

There are so many interesting facts about the winter solstice including ancient cultures viewing it as a time of death and rebirth, some traditions believing dark spirits will walk the earth on the day of the solstice and some even believed that the world was going to end on the winter solstice in 2012. And how about the belief that the famous Stonehenge in England is aligned to the sunset on the winter solstice?

ISTOCK.COM/JESSICAPHOTO

The day also marks the discovery of new and strange worlds including the Pilgrims arriving at Plymouth on December 21, 1620, to found a society that would allow them to worship freely. On the same day in 1898, Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium, ushering in an atomic age. And on December 21, 1968, the Apollo 8 spacecraft launched, becoming the first manned moon mission.

Fascinating winter solstice traditions happen around the world but closer to home, there are lots of ways to celebrate the solstice with family and friends. For example, many people choose to not use electricity on the night of the solstice and instead enjoy the darkest night of the year by candlelight.

However you observe or celebrate the Winter Solstice, take a moment to “stand still” and pause today, and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds us all. From all of your friends here at METALCON, we wish you and your family a happy solstice and to the official start of winter!

For more interesting facts about the winter solstice, READ MORE.

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