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Friday 17 August 2018

Today is the Winter Solstice... and here's what it actually means

Today marks the shortest day of the year before the days slowly begin to draw out again

Sunrise on the winter solstice at the Newgrange passage tomb in Meath
Sunrise on the winter solstice at the Newgrange passage tomb in Meath
Rebecca Smyth with an Irish Wolfhound at Newgrange in Co Meath in 2016 Photo: Mark Condren
People gather at the entrance to the Newgrange Passage Tomb in Co Meath for the winter solstice in 2016 Photo: Mark Condren
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The Winter solstice is upon us.

The day - today, Thursday - marks the shortest day of the year before the days slowly begin to draw out again.

It occurs because this is when the North Pole is tilted furthest away from the Sun – specifically -23.5 degrees outwards.

While the entire day is typically considered solstice, scientists can actually measure the precise moment it occurs. When the sun is directly over the line marking the Tropic of Capricorn – the latitude stretching across the southern hemisphere – solstice occurs.

Rebecca Smyth with an Irish Wolfhound at Newgrange in Co Meath in 2016 Photo: Mark Condren
Rebecca Smyth with an Irish Wolfhound at Newgrange in Co Meath in 2016 Photo: Mark Condren

The sun will set at 16.28 in Ireland.

Daylight on Thursday will last just seven hours, 49 minutes and 41 seconds – almost nine hours less than the year’s longest day in the summer.

Another view of the crowds gathering at the entrance of the monument Photo: Mark Condren
Another view of the crowds gathering at the entrance of the monument Photo: Mark Condren

However, in regions to the north of the Arctic Circle, the winter days have no sunlight at all.

Usually, the solstice falls on the 21st, but the time can vary each year, due to the slight discrepancy between the time that we use and the solar time - a variation which is rectified every four years, when a leap year occurs and we get an extra day on the calendar.

This is the reason Winter solstice in 2015 took place on 22 December.

Ancient civilisations in Ireland, the UK and abroad have marked the solstices as significant events throughout history, and these ancient traditions will be brought back to life at Newgrange during the solstice, when people attend to see the light phenomenon in the tunnel.

In the words of Arthur Pendragon, chief of the British druids and self-proclaimed reincarnation of King Arthur, the solstice is the most important day of the year, as it welcomes in the new sun.

Independent News Service

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