As I detailed in last year's post, The Winter Solstice: Where Physics Meets Culture for All, the December Solstice is one of the 4 planetary seasonal events (December Solstice, March Equinox, June Solstice, September Equinox) which are based on the earth's rotation around the sun, and which are common to all of us as a physical event on which celebrations and calendars have been based since earliest human times, and which continue with diverse cultural manifestations around the globe today.
Whatever meanings humans have attached to these astronomical events, the events themselves are shared by all on earth, and help mark the seasons, particularly for those most dependent on seasonal change--agriculturalists, those at risk of being locked in by ice, or released by a thaw, etc.
Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston Texas: This picture was taken the morning of the 2000 Winter Solstice near Ames, Iowa. The halo is made by sunlight shining through millions of ice crystals.
Because of the earth's tilt, the seasons are opposite north and south so that some of us are experiencing winter, and the shortest day of the year (in terms of fewest daylight hours) and others summer, and the longest day of the year. Oh, to be in Buenos Aires for the December Solstice!
This year, the December Solstice occurs at 11:38pm UTC on December 21 in the Gregorian Calendar.
Most remarkably, this year a total eclipse of the moon will occur almost simultaneously with the December Solstice--a rare event, last occurring in 1638, and next in 2485. Depending on your time zone, you will experience these December 20-22, 2010. The partial eclipse will start December 21 at 6:33am UTC, evolving into a total eclipse beginning at 7:41am and ending at 8:53am UTC, evolving to a partial eclipse ending at 10:01am UTC.
An almost full moon, photo courtesy US Naval Observatory
The total eclipse of the moon is best seen with the naked eye, and will be most easily visible from North and South America. For instruction on how to best see the eclipse from where you are consult this article from EarthSky.
If cloud or region obscures the eclipse for you, watch it on NASA's live webcam of the event.
Happy December Solstice!
Catch the Total Lunar Eclipse!
or live another 475 years!
The Winter Solstice: Where Physics Meets Culture for All
The Vernal Equinox: Springtime in Saudi and the Equinoctial Day and Night that Join Us All
The Summer Solstice--June 21, 2010; Midsummer Celebrations: June 21-24; St John the Baptist/ Yahya ibn Zakariya يحيى بن زكريا
The Autumnal Equinox, The Harvest Moon, and The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival
Your comments, thoughts, impressions, experiences?
Did you catch the total lunar eclipse with this solstice?
Made provisions to see the next one?