Let There Be Night
The year’s shortest day puts the sun in your eyes
Saturday, December 22, one hour and eight minutes after midnight, the sun reaches its farthest point south in its arc through our skies, marking the beginning of winter for us in the Northern Hemisphere and the start of summer for those below the equator.
Solstice literally means sun standing still, and on this day, like a pendulum pausing at the end of its swing in one direction, the sun hovers in place directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 231⁄2 degrees latitude. After solstice, the sun again climbs northward in its daily arch through our skies.
With a mere 9 hours 27 minutes and a few odd seconds of sunlight, winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year. These short days are a result of the sun’s low, shallow path across our skies, a far shorter journey from east to west than during summer, when the sun climbs high overhead and takes another five and a half hours from sunrise to sunset.
You’ve likely experienced this firsthand recently when squinting at the glare of the sun. On its low path, the sun spends much of the day in our line of vision, be it direct or peripheral. In contrast, even on a bright summer day, the sun spends much of the day high overhead, so that unless you crane your neck its light isn’t such a bother.
Saturday also marks the full Yule Moon, which hovers between the red-giant Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus the bull, and golden Capella, of Auriga the charioteer. Friday the moon is just east of the Pleiades star cluster; Sunday it is little more than a degree from Mars, which is now at its most brilliant and won’t be closer to earth or brighter until 2016.
Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2007 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.