Winter Solstice 2017: Thursday Will Be The Shortest Day Of The Year

Winter Solstice 2017: Thursday Will Be The Shortest Day Of The Year

Hundreds of people are expected to gather at Newgrange on Thursday morning at sunrise to celebrate the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The axis is the line through the planet that Earth spins around, connecting the north and south poles.

The site was created to capture the rising sun during the winter solstice, and if skies are clear, and project a narrow beam of light on to the inner chamber's floor. Then, the day will keep growing by one minute until the spring equinox, when day and night are equal. But the axis isn't quite perpendicular to the path of its orbit, instead it is tilted on its side about 23 degrees, with the axis always pointing the same way into space. And more to the point, when does it end?

It would make sense that the shortest day of the year would also be the coldest, but that's actually a bit of a misnomer. During the other half of the year, between September and March, the south pole is pointing toward the sun, with the solstice marking the midway point of this journey.

Derived from the Latin term "solstitium", the astronomical phenomenon occurs when the Northern Hemisphere has tilted the farthest away from the sun.

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"As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated", the Newgrange website states.

This phenomenon would have happened every year for the past 5,000, if Newgrange hadn't been buried for 4,000 years or so, only being uncovered by Scottish landowner Charles Campbell in 1699. While it's a noticeable change for astronomers, the difference isn't the sort of thing you could pick up on just by living on Earth's surface.

For the first time ever, the famous winter solstice at Newgrange will be available to watch live as the event will be streamed online.