Winter solstice: Met Office explains what happens
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Winter’s solstice, also known as December’s solstice, is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Whereas the exact opposite is the case in the southern hemisphere. The solstice also marks the start of the astronomical winter. Below is a guide to explain when the solstice takes place in the UK and how you can celebrate its passing.
When is the winter solstice in 2021?
The winter solstice happens at the same moment for everyone around the world.
Whilst the solstice usually falls on December 21 or 22 the precise timing of it varies each year.
In the UK this year the solstice will occur on December 21, at 3.59pm GMT.
The winter solstice marks the start of the astronomical winter which finishes on March 20 next year.
Why does the winter solstice happen?
The term solstice comes from the Latin word ‘solstitium’ which translates to ‘sun standing still’.
On the day of the solstice, the sun seemingly stands still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction as it reaches its most southern point as seen from Earth.
December’s solstice occurs thanks to the Earth’s tilted axis.
It’s when the sun reaches its most southerly point or when the north pole is tilted farthest away from the sun.
This then delivers the fewest number of hours of sunlight in the year and thus the shortest day.
How can you celebrate the solstice in the UK?
Looking to celebrate this year’s winter solstice? Here’s how you can do just that in the UK.
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Large numbers of people regularly mark the winter solstice by visiting the prehistoric landmark, in Wiltshire.
Thought to have been constructed between 3000BC to 2000BC, Stonehenge is carefully aligned on a line of sight that points to the winter solstice sunset.
Traditionally, the winter solstice was a time when cattle were slaughtered (so no animals would need to be fed during winter) and most wine and beer was fermented.
Stonehenge is particularly important to the pagan and druid communities, who gather at the site to celebrate the first sunrise after the solstice.
It’s only one of three megalithic sites in the British Isles which clearly align with the sun.
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