At 2:24pm AEST on 21 June the winter solstice (midwinter) officially occurs, marking Australia’s shortest day with just nine hours and 34 minutes of daylight for Kinglake (at Latitude=-37°32’00” Longitude=+145°20’00”).
The sun will rise in Kinglake at 7:33am and sets at 5:07pm precisely. The days then slowly get longer by eight seconds at first before gradually increasing each day until reaching the spring equinox on 22 September when day and night are equal.
We then head towards (in the southern hemisphere) the longest day, the summer solstice which occurs on 21 December this year. The sun will rise in Kinglake at 5:54am and set at 7:39pm standard time with 13 hours and 45 minutes between sunrise and sunset.
Following the summer solstice the days then slowly get shorter again until the autumn equinox on 20 March 2018, with night slowly getting longer than day again.
It is three months on either side (March-September) of the winter solstice when Antarctica is on the side of Earth tilted away from the sun causing the continent to be dark for six months.
The sun can’t even be seen on the horizon in Antarctica for a couple of weeks on either side of June 21.
In the northern hemisphere, the solstices and equinoxes mark the beginning of the seasons with summer beginning 21 June; autumn 20 March, 2018; winter 21 December and spring 22 September.
The word solstice is two Latin words, sol (sun) and sistere (stand still) as the sun stands still in declination as the seasonal movement of the sun comes to a stop before reversing its direction.
Whilst the solstices aren’t celebrated in Australian culture the solstices are often celebrated in the northern hemisphere by various cultures and religions.
Many Christmas carols and festivities are derived from or based on the northern hemispheres’ winter solstice (21 December this year).
First published Kinglake Ranges News, 19 June, 2017.