(KTXL) — Wednesday the Winter Solstice will mark the official start to winter and have the shortest daylight time of the year, but what is a solstice and what makes it different from an equinox?
The earth revolves around the sun in an elliptical pattern at a distance from the sun of about 93 million miles and with the earth having a tilt of 23.5 degrees. It is the Earth’s tilt at its northern hemisphere that plays an important part in this celestial relationship.
The winter solstice occurs on December 21 to December 22.
As we get into the month of December, the 23.5 degree tilt places the earths northern hemisphere farthest from the sun it will be all year. This results in the suns position to be over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere and runs through Australia, Chile, southern Brazil and northern South Africa.
With the sun being positioned in the southern portion of the planet it results in the northern hemisphere experiencing much shorter daylight hours and longer darkness hours.
Conversely the Summer Solstice occurs when the northern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun and the sun is positioned over the Tropic of Cancer. Those north of the tropic will see the sun at its highest position and have their longest day of the year.
The Summer Solstice occurs on June 20 to June 22
The solstices also coincide with seasonal changes as during the winter solstice the northern hemisphere is positioned its furthest away from the sun and experiences a drop in temperatures, while the southern hemisphere will increase in temperatures.
During the summer solstice the northern hemisphere will be warmer as it is closer to the sun and the southern hemisphere will be colder.
Equinoxes are a bit more straightforward as it is the point in the earths rotation where the planet’s tilt is at a right-angle to the sun. Resulting in the planet getting a near equal amount of daylight and darkness across all latitudes.
The Autumnal Equinox happens on September 22 or 23 and the Vernal “Spring” Equinox happens on March 20 or 21.