When we think of winter solstice images of cold, dark, early evenings come to mind. It is the shortest day of the year, the longest night. The start of winter. At noon on December 21 the sun reaches its southernmost point, the Tropic of Capricorn. Six months later, earth’s orbit allows the Tropic of Cancer to take centre stage for summer solstice.
It is the shortest day of the year, the longest night. The start of winter.
The word solstice is derived from Latin solstitium, from sol, “sun” and –stitium, “a stoppage.” At solstice the sun seemingly stops and changes direction. This change in direction is the reason for the different seasons at opposite ends of the world at the same time. While the earth orbits the sun, it also spins on its axis, which is tilted 23.5 degrees towards the plane of its rotation. Because of the tilt, during winter solstice the northern hemisphere receives less direct sunlight (winter) while the southern hemisphere receives more direct sunlight (summer).