Starwatch: Winter solstice brings the shortest day of the year

Weather Stories

This year, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21, 2020. This is the day Earth’s axis is tilted completely away from sun, making it winter in the northern hemisphere. On this day, there is 5 hours more of sunlight than on the summer solstice.


This is the shortest day of the year with 9 hours, 39 minutes, and 31 seconds of sunlight.


But, it is the longest solar day. A solar day is measured from solar noon one day to solar noon on the next. The day is about half a minute longer. This is because Earth does not orbit around the sun in a perfect circle, the path is elliptical. Because of this, during the winter, the Earth is actually closest to the sun.

The earliest sunset happens before the winter solstice, and the latest sunrise happen after the winter solstice. This is because a solar day is not exactly 24 hours. This is also because of the elliptical orbit and tilt of Earth.


Since Earth is closer to the sun in the winter, it is the shortest season at 89 days. Summer is the longest season at about 94 days. 

On the Winter Solstice, the sun is at its most southern point in the sky, so it will not be very high in the sky on this day. 

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