Celebrate the Winter Solstice!

Winter sun at Gifford Woods State Park
--Rebecca Roy, Conservation Education Coordinator 

Thursday December 21 is the shortest day of 2017, the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. There is optimism in knowing we will are gaining more sunlight in our days after this darkest day. This is reason to celebrate even if you are not a big fan of wintertime.

The seasons we experience are caused by the tilt of the Earth and not by the proximity of the Earth to the sun. We are closer to the sun during our winter months, but the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the sun during winter and that is why our days are shorter and our temperatures are lower.

The tilt of the Earth was caused by the planet colliding with huge space junk billions of years ago when it was forming. The tilt causes us to get less direct sunlight from September to March, and more sunlight than the Southern Hemisphere from April to August. On our Winter Solstice, our neighbors in the Southern Hemisphere are celebrating their Summer Solstice and their longest day of the year.

The Winter Solstice marks the astronomical beginning of winter, but meteorologists determine winter begins December 1, because that is the reliable start of wintery weather. Either side you take on the start date of the winter season, we can all agree it is definitely winter in Vermont.

Winter Solstice is determined by the exact time the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, or 23.5° South Latitude. This happens at 11:28am on Thursday December 21st. If you cannot make it to Stonehenge this year with other revelers, there are some other excellent places to welcome more sunlight into your days. Take a hike up Mt. Olga in Molly Stark State Park, Owl’s Head in Groton State Forest, or along the shores in Button Bay State Park. Or go to your favorite outdoor place and greet the Solstice in the great outdoors with a thermos of hot chocolate and warm thoughts knowing more sunlight is headed your way.

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