All it is advisable to know: 2021’s December solstice


Check this out … the Breathing Earth. It’s a 12 months of seasonal transformations on our planet, together with the December solstice. John Nelson created this animation, utilizing photos from the NASA Visible Earth group. Read extra in regards to the animation by way of John Nelson.

For us within the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest nights and shortest days of the 12 months. Meanwhile, the Southern Hemisphere is having brief nights and lengthy days. The 2021 December solstice second – when the sun reaches its southernmost level within the sky – will occur on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, at 15:59 UTC (9:59 a.m. CST; translate UTC to your time).

This solstice is when the sun reaches its most southerly level on the sky’s dome for the 12 months. At this solstice, the Northern Hemisphere has its shortest day and longest evening of the 12 months. The Southern Hemisphere has its longest day and shortest evening.

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No matter the place you reside on Earth’s globe – it doesn’t matter what time the solstice occurs for you – it’s your sign to have fun seasonal change.

Sweeping white parallel arcs in the sky from close to the ground to high in the sky.
View larger. | Ian Hennes in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, created this solargraph between a June solstice and a December solstice. It reveals the trail of the sun throughout that point interval. Thank you, Ian!
Animation of rotating Earth with light and shadow passing over it.
Animation with Earth stopping briefly at solstices and equinoxes, and text annotations.
An animation of Earth because it orbits, with factors marking each equinoxes and solstices together with related data. Image by way of James O’Donoghue/ Business Insider.

What is a solstice?

The earliest individuals on Earth knew that the sun’s path throughout the sky, the size of daylight, and the placement of the dawn and sundown all shifted in a daily manner all year long. They constructed monuments such as Stonehenge in England and at Machu Picchu in Peru to comply with the sun’s yearly progress.

But right this moment, we see the solstice in another way. We can image it from the vantage level of space, and we all know that the solstice is an astronomical occasion. It’s attributable to the lean of Earth’s axis and by its orbital movement across the sun.

Earth doesn’t orbit upright. Instead, it’s tilted on its axis by 23 1/2 levels. Through the 12 months, this tilt causes Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres commerce locations in receiving the sun’s mild and heat most straight. It’s this tilt, not our distance from the sun – that causes winter and summer season. In reality, we’re closest to – not farthest from – the sun on the flip of each new 12 months. But we within the Northern Hemisphere are transferring into winter. That’s as a result of the Northern Hemisphere leans farthest away from the sun for the 12 months round this time.

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The December solstice

At the December solstice, Earth is positioned so the sun stays beneath the North Pole’s horizon. As seen from the latitude 23 1/2 levels south of the equator, on the imaginary line encircling the globe referred to as the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun shines straight overhead at midday. This is as far south because the sun ever will get, and all places south of the equator have day lengths higher than 12 hours.

Meanwhile, all places north of the equator have day lengths shorter than 12 hours.

For us on the northern a part of Earth, the shortest day comes on the solstice. After the winter solstice, the times will get longer, and the nights shorter.

It’s a seasonal shift that just about everybody notices.

Tilted Earth in four positions around sun showing light falling differently on different latitudes. Notice the position at the December solstice.
Earth has seasons as a result of our world is tilted on its axis with respect to our orbit across the sun. Image by way of NASA/

Where ought to I look to see indicators of the December solstice in nature?


For all of Earth’s creatures, nothing is so basic because the size of daylight. After all, the sun is the final word supply of all mild and heat on Earth.

In the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll discover late dawns and early sunsets, the low arc of the sun throughout the sky every day, and the way low the sun seems within the sky at native midday. Look at your noontime shadow, too. Around the time of the December solstice, it’s your longest noontime shadow of the 12 months.

In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s reverse. Dawn comes early, nightfall comes late, the sun is excessive, and it’s your shortest noontime shadow of the 12 months.

Six bare trees with long shadows on a snowy hillside near the December solstice in the northern hemisphere
Around the time of the winter solstice, look ahead to late dawns, early sunsets, and the low arc of the sun throughout the sky every day. Notice your noontime shadow, the longest of the 12 months. Photo by way of Serge Arsenie/ Flickr.
People with short shadows playing volleyball in a sandy court in the southern hemisphere near the December solstice..
Meanwhile, on the summer season solstice, noontime shadows are brief. Photo by way of the Slam Summer Beach Volleyball festival in Australia.

Why doesn’t the earliest sundown come on the shortest day?

The December solstice marks the shortest day of the 12 months within the Northern Hemisphere and longest day within the Southern Hemisphere. But the earliest sundown – or earliest dawn if you happen to’re south of the equator – occurs earlier than the December solstice.

Instead of specializing in the time of sundown or dawn, the bottom line is in what is known as true solar midday, which is the time of day that the sun reaches its highest level in its journey throughout your sky.

In early December, true solar midday comes practically 10 minutes earlier by the clock than it does on the solstice round December 21. With true midday coming afterward the solstice, so will the dawn and sundown instances.

It’s this discrepancy between clock time and sun time that causes the Northern Hemisphere’s earliest sundown and the Southern Hemisphere’s earliest dawn to precede the December solstice.

This occurs primarily due to the lean of the Earth’s axis. A secondary however one other contributing issue to this discrepancy between clock midday and sun midday comes from the Earth’s elliptical – rectangular – orbit across the sun. Earth’s orbit will not be an ideal circle, and the nearer we’re to the sun, the sooner we transfer in our orbit.

Our closest level to the sun – or perihelion – is available in early January. So we’re transferring quickest in orbit round now, barely sooner than our common velocity of about 19 miles per second (30 km per second). The discrepancy between sun time and clock time is bigger across the December solstice than the June solstice as a result of we’re nearer the sun at the moment of 12 months.

Two images of sunset, with sun at different positons relative to a rocky horizon. The sun takes a low path across the sky at the December solstice.
Solstice sunsets, exhibiting the sun’s place on the native horizon at December 2015 (left) and June 2016 (proper) solstices from Mutare, Zimbabwe, by way of Peter Lowenstein.

Does latitude have an effect on the earliest sundown?

Yes! The exact date of the earliest sundown will depend on your latitude. At mid-northern latitudes, it is available in early December annually. At northern temperate latitudes farther north – similar to in Canada and Alaska – the 12 months’s earliest sundown comes round mid-December. Close to the Arctic Circle, the earliest sundown and the December solstice happen on or close to the identical day.

By the way in which, the newest dawn doesn’t come on the solstice both. From mid-northern latitudes, the newest dawn is available in early January.

The precise dates differ, however the sequence is at all times the identical: earliest sundown in early December, shortest day on the solstice round December 22, newest dawn in early January.

And so the cycle continues.

Four people silhouetted against blazing sun near the December solstice
Solstice Pyrotechnics II by groovehouse/ Flickr.

Bottom line: The 2021 December solstice takes place on Tuesday, December 21 at 15:59 UTC (9:59 a.m. CST; translate UTC to your time). It marks the Northern Hemisphere’s shortest day (first day of winter) and Southern Hemisphere’s longest day (first day of summer season). Happy solstice to all!

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