Winter Solstice, December 21, 2012
Longest Night of the Year
The winter solstice will occur Friday, December 21, 2012. The winter solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year, and is the first official day of winter. The sun appears at its lowest point in the sky, and its noontime elevation appears to be the same for several days before and after the solstice. Following the winter solstice, the days begin to grow longer and the nights shorter.
Reason for the Seasons
The reason for the different seasons at opposite times of the year in the two hemispheres is because as the earth rotates about the sun, it also spins on its axis, which is tilted 23.5 degrees towards the plane of its rotation. Because of this tilt, the Northern Hemisphere receives less direct sunlight (creating winter) while the Southern Hemisphere receives more direct sunlight (creating summer). As the Earth continues its orbit the hemisphere that is angled closest to the sun changes and the seasons are reversed.
The winter solstices usually comes and goes with minimal fanfare, but this year interest in the winter solstice has reached epic proportions. The 2012 winter solstice has been prominently mentioned in all of the media, including movies, books, TV series and most importantly the Internet. Hundreds of thousands of websites have been posted on the coming 2012 winter solstice. Hollywood even gave us a preview of the end of the world in the movie “2012.”
According to NASA, “Dec. 21, 2012, won’t be the end of the world as we know, however, it will be another winter solstice.”
Below, NASA Scientists answer questions on the following 2012 topics: