And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look
Behind from where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
The Circle Game- Joni Mitchell
Just under a week to go until the shortest day of the year (see winter solstice countdown calendar here), and the end of what we here in Vancouver call 2015.
While our cultural beliefs and practices may differ, we all experience winter solstice together.
Come OUTside and get Involved in the 22nd Annual Winter Solstice Lantern Festival on Monday December 21, 2015 throughout Vancouver.
Meaning of Solstice
‘Solstice’ (Latin: ‘solstitium’) means ‘sun-stopping’. The point on the horizon where the sun appears to rise and set, stops and reverses direction after this day. On the solstice, the sun does not rise precisely in the east, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west, meaning it’s visible in the sky for a longer period of time.
Although the June solstice marks the first day of astronomical summer, it’s more common to use meteorological definitions of seasons, making the solstice midsummer or midwinter. From: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/june-solstice.html
December solstice and seasons
It is important to note that Earth does not move at a constant speed in its elliptical orbit. Therefore the seasons are not of equal length: the times taken for the sun to move from the vernal equinox to the summer solstice, to the autumnal equinox, to the winter solstice, and back to the vernal equinox are roughly 92.8, 93.6, 89.8 and 89.0 days respectively. The consolation in the northern hemisphere is that spring and summer last longer than autumn and winter (when the December solstice occurs).
The relative position of the Earth’s axis to the sun changes during the cycle of seasons. This phenomenon is the reason why the sun’s height above the horizon changes throughout the year. It is also responsible for the seasons through controlling the intensity and duration of sunlight received at various locations around the planet. From: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/winter-solstice.html
mid-13c., from Old French solstice (13c.), from Latin solstitium “point at which the sun seems to stand still,” especially the summer solstice, from sol “sun” (see sol) + past participle stem of sistere “to come to a stop, make stand still” (see assist (v.)). In early use, Englished as sunstead (late Old English sunstede). From: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=solstice&allowed_in_frame=0
“the sun personified,” mid-15c. (also in Old English), from Latin sol “the sun, sunlight,” from PIE *s(e)wol-, variant of root *saewel- “the sun” (cognates: Sanskrit suryah, Avestan hvar “sun, light, heavens;” Greek helios; Lithuanian saule; Old Church Slavonic slunice; Gothic sauil, Old English sol “sun,” swegl “sky, heavens, the sun;” Welsh haul, Old Cornish heuul, Breton heol “sun;” Old Irish suil “eye”).
The PIE element -*el- in the root originally was a suffix and had an alternative form -*en-, yielding *s(u)wen-, source of English sun (n.). French soleil (10c.) is from Vulgar Latin *soliculus, diminutive of sol; in Vulgar Latin diminutives had the full meaning of their principal words. From: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=sol&allowed_in_frame=0
early 15c., from Middle French assister “to stand by, help, put, place, assist” (14c.), from Latin assistere “stand by, take a stand near, attend,” from ad- “to” (see ad-) + sistere “stand still, take a stand; to set, place, cause to stand,” from PIE *si-st-, reduplicated form of root *stā- “to stand” (see stet). Related: Assisted; assisting. Medical assisted suicide attested from 1884. From: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=assist&allowed_in_frame=0
direction to printer to disregard correction made to text, 1755, from Latin stet “let it stand,” third person singular present subjunctive of stare “to stand, stand upright, be stiff,” from PIE root *stā- “to stand, set down, make or be firm,” with derivatives meaning “place or thing that is standing” (cognates: Sanskrit tisthati “stands;” Avestan histaiti “to stand;” Persian -stan “country,” literally “where one stands;” Greek histemi “put, place, cause to stand; weigh,” stasis “a standing still,” statos “placed,” stater “a weight, coin,” stylos “pillar;” Latin sistere “stand still, stop, make stand, place, produce in court,” status “manner, position, condition, attitude,” stare “to stand,” statio “station, post;” Lithuanian stojus “place myself,” statau “place;” Old Church Slavonic staja “place myself,” stanu “position;” Gothic standan, Old English standan “to stand,” stede “place,” steall “place where cattle are kept;” Old Norse steði “anvil,” stallr “pedestal for idols, altar;” German Stall “a stable;” Old Irish sessam “the act of standing”). From: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=stet&allowed_in_frame=0
PIE Proto-Indo-European, the hypothetical reconstructed ancestral language of the Indo-European family. The time scale is much debated, but the most recent date proposed for it is about 5,500 years ago. From: http://www.etymonline.com/abbr.php
Why doesn’t the earliest sunset come on the shortest day? The December solstice marks the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and longest day in the Southern Hemisphere. But the earliest sunset – or earliest sunrise if you’re south of the equator – happens before the December solstice. Many people notice this, and ask about it.
The key to understanding the earliest sunset is not to focus on the time of sunset or sunrise. The key is to focus on what is called true solar noon – the time of day that the sun reaches its highest point, in its journey across your sky.
In early December, true solar noon comes nearly 10 minutes earlier by the clock than it does at the solstice around December 22. With true noon coming later on the solstice, so will the sunrise and sunset times.
It’s this discrepancy between clock time and sun time that causes the Northern Hemisphere’s earliest sunset and the Southern Hemisphere’s earliest sunrise to precede the December solstice.
The discrepancy occurs primarily because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis. A secondary but another contributing factor to this discrepancy between clock noon and sun noon comes from the Earth’s elliptical – oblong – orbit around the sun. The Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle, and when we’re closest to the sun, our world moves fastest in orbit. Our closest point to the sun – or perihelion – comes in early January. So we are moving fastest in orbit around now, slightly faster than our average speed of about 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) per second. The discrepancy between sun time and clock time is greater around the December solstice than the June solstice because we’re nearer the sun at this time of year.
The precise date of the earliest sunset depends on your latitude. At mid-northern latitudes, it comes in early December each year. At northern temperate latitudes farther north – such as in Canada and Alaska – the year’s earliest sunset comes around mid-December. Close to the Arctic Circle, the earliest sunset and the December solstice occur on or near the same day.
By the way, the latest sunrise doesn’t come on the solstice either. From mid-northern latitudes, the latest sunrise comes in early January.The exact dates vary, but the sequence is always the same: earliest sunset in early December, shortest day on the solstice around December 22, latest sunrise in early January.
Bottom line: In 2015, the December solstice comes on December 21 at 10:03 p.m. CST. That’s December 22 at 4:48 UT. It marks the Northern Hemisphere’s shortest day (first day of winter) and Southern Hemisphere’s longest day (first day of summer). Happy solstice, everyone! From: http://earthsky.org/?p=2951#why