Winter Solstice, Daylight Relief in Sight

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What does the sun do on the winter solstice? This means that our seasons are not defined by the distance between the sun and earth, but rather the amount of sunlight reaching each hemisphere due to the tilt of the earth's axis. And if you happen to live north of the Arctic Circle, you'll get none. However, that's not the case for everyone.

When does the winter solstice occur?

Each year, the OPW runs a Winter Solstice Lottery - in 2017, it says, over 33,000 people applied from as far afield as Austria, Italy and the US. In fact, Earth is closer to the sun during winter than it is in summer months.

Today, the winter solstice, marks the first day of astronomical winter.

You can check the precise times in your area using this sunset calendar. Northerners spend most of the longest solar day of the year facing away from the Sun in the cold of a winter's night.

To celebrate the astronomical phenomenon of the solstices Google has created two of its famous Doodles. There is a bit of a lag between the shortest day of the year and the coldest average temperatures for most spots in the USA. Our coldest time of the year is nearly a month later, around January 14 each year.

The short day length is created as the earth orbits the sun.

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Noontime shadows on Thursday will be longest for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere because the sun doesn't rise as high in the sky.

From a timing point of view, if you go by your clock or watch then every day is a standard 24 hours long (give or take the odd leap second).

The sun will be up for just about 9 hours and 24 minutes on Thursday, and in the days immediately before and after the solstice, too.

Exactly How Short Will The Day Be?

The exact date of the earliest sunset depends on your latitude, so it's not the same for everyone.

What does all of this have to do with Stonehenge?

For thousands of years, people have taken part in rituals to mark the occasion.