Winter Solstice: What and When Is It?

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While meteorologists usually view December 1st as the beginning of winter, the solstice is technically the astronomical beginning of the season. Now every year on the winter solstice people flock from across the globe to Newgrange in County Meath, to feel closer to their ancestors and catch a glimpse of their ancient Ireland's engineering expertise.

Dr O'Kelly is believed to have been the first human to witness the winter solstice from inside Newgrange in millennia.

This coming Thursday marks the shortest day of the year. The coldest day of the year usually lags behind a bit, because even though the amount of daylight increases as we move past the winter solstice, the Earth continues to shed more heat than it actually receives from the Sun. Afterwards, it will continue until it reaches the summer solstice and the longest day of the year. Precisely how short that is varies with how far north or south you are-around the solstice, the sun never truly rises at the north pole.

The solstices, and the seasons they mark, are the result of a celestial coincidence.

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Technically, the solstice can happen any day between December 20 and December 23 because the calendars we use aren't the same length as a solar year. During the other half of the year, between September and March, the south pole is pointing toward the sun, with the solstice marking the midway point of this journey.

What's a solstice and why is my day going to drag on? We'll definitely be setting the alarms to get up for this, not the worst way to begin the shortest day of the year.

The solstice always falls between the 19th and 22nd of December. A few moments of magic...5,000 years in the making. One day after the solstice, the day will be one minute longer, and it will keep growing.