All change

In a few minutes from when I post this (00:22 UTC) we reach the point in our orbit where the Sun will appear the furthest south in the sky (for the point where it is currently midday). This is known as the winter solstice and the result is that this will be the longest night of the year for those in the northern hemisphere and the shortest night for those in the southern hemisphere. Of course the Earth will carry on its merry way, slowly causing the Sun to get higher (or lower for southern hemispherians) for the next six months due to the tilt of our planet. Right now it also means that the winter (read summer for southern hemispherians) constellations such as Orion are pretty high in the sky.

I've just been stood in a pub car park pointing out a few constellations to some friends. It was a bit tricky because the fog kept coming and going and Auriga and Cassiopeia were painfully high causing me a bit of a sore neck. Still, it is good fun telling people some of the Greek/Roman/African stories about the constellations.

The winter solstice should not be confused with the earliest sunset (which was a week or so ago) or with the point at which the Earth is closest to the Sun - that is in another couple of weeks at 20:00 GMT on 3rd January 2007.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Friday 22nd Dec 2006 (00:13 GMT) | Permalink
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