Find out more. What is a solstice? But we today see the solstice differently. We can picture it from the vantage point of space. The tilt of the Earth — not our distance from the sun — is what causes winter and summer.
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At the December solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is leaning most away from the sun for the year. At the December solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that the sun stays below the North Pole horizon. This is as far south as the sun ever gets. All locations south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours at the December solstice. Meanwhile, all locations north of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours.
For us on the northern part of Earth, the shortest day comes at the solstice.
After the winter solstice, the days get longer, and the nights shorter. Earth has seasons because our world is tilted on its axis with respect to our orbit around the sun. Image via NASA. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of all light and warmth on Earth. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you can notice the late dawns and early sunsets, and the low arc of the sun across the sky each day.
You might notice how low the sun appears in the sky at local noon. And be sure to look at your noontime shadow. Dawn comes early, and dusk comes late. The sun is high. Around the time of the winter solstice, watch for late dawns, early sunsets, and the low arc of the sun across the sky each day.
Notice your noontime shadow, the longest of the year. Photo via Serge Arsenie on Flickr.
Meanwhile, at the summer solstice, noontime shadows are short. The December solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and longest day in the Southern Hemisphere.
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