As we approach the end of the year the days get cold because the Sun does not rise very high in the sky and days are short. The Earths’ spin axis is tilted relative to the Sun, pointing towards Polaris, but as Earth orbits the Sun different latitudes become closer to the Sun and at this part of the orbit for us has us in the Northern Hemisphere not getting direct sunlight. That same tilt in summer puts the Sun high in sky.
There is a special day in the month of December and that is the Winter Solstice. Noted by the Ancients as the day that is shortest, and night the longest. The Winter Solstice is one of the four cardinal points in the Earths’ orbit which also include the Summer Solstice, and two Equinox’s one in Spring and the other in Autumn. Many cultures have celebrated this time of year because soon the days would get longer, and more importantly, warmer! Enjoy your celebrations, and see if you can personally determine the sunrise and sunsets around December 21st.
Steven Aggas is the Director at Apache-Sitgreaves Observatory, in Overgaard, AZ, using the largest public viewing telescope in Arizona. Visit Apache-Sitgreaves.org for information on events and tickets.