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Winter Solstice: Google Doodle Celebrates the Shortest Day of the Year Today

Even though the winter solstice takes place once a year in each hemisphere, the solstice this year, is particularly special as the much anticipated December full moon, named the Cold Moon will be visible in the night sky along with the Ursid meteor shower.

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Updated:December 21, 2018, 8:37 AM IST
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Winter Solstice: Google Doodle Celebrates the Shortest Day of the Year Today
The Google doodle is on the Winter solstice of this season.
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New Delhi: The Google doodle today, celebrates the Winter Solstice. On Friday, Dec. 21, nations in the Northern Hemisphere will mark the winter solstice – the shortest day and longest night of the year.

Even though the winter solstice takes place once a year in each hemisphere, the solstice this year, is particularly special as the much anticipated December full moon, named the Cold Moon will be visible in the night sky along with the Ursid meteor shower.

Technically, the solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, or 23.5° south latitude. At this time, the Earth nears its closest point to the sun in its elliptical orbit, and so, each day is about 24 hours, 30 seconds long.

The word "solstice" comes from the Latin solstitium meaning "sun stands still", when the 'movement of sun's path' stops briefly. The day and time of the solstice vary each year.

While we in India don’t see a drastic difference in the lengths of day and night, some of the Nordic countries around the North Pole experience stark differences in the day and night cycles.

Why winter solstice 2018 is unique:

1) December full moon

the moon will appear full both Friday and Saturday nights. The names of the moon originate from the Native Americans, who marked December’s full moon as the beginning of the coldest part of the year. The Long Night Moon is named after the longest night of the year on the winter solstice.

2) Ursid meteor shower

The American Meteor Society says the Ursids should be visible in the mid-Northern Hemisphere. At the peak there should be about 11 sporadic meteors per hour just before dawn. The shower gets its name because its meteors appear to emanate from Ursa Minor, also known as the Little Dipper.

3) Mercury/Jupiter conjunction

In the southeast before sunrise Friday, you can see Mercury and Jupiter appearing as if they’re about to collide in space, despite being hundreds of millions of miles apart. They will be 0.9 degrees apart, which is about two moon-diameters. They will only be visible in a sky illuminated by bright twilight.

At Stonehenge, people come together to celebrate and capture the moment when the sun directly aligns with the famous stones, making it seem as if the sun is balancing itself on the stones.

And in Ireland, people gather days before the solstice at Newgrange - a massive gravesite that's more than 5,000 years old. The crowds await chance to see the sunrise light up the ancient passage tomb.

In India, Makar Sankranti, which is one of the most important festivals of the country is the celebration of the sun’s journey towards the Northern Hemisphere, bringing longer days and the end of winter, which is the possible sign of a good harvest.

Different regions have different names for the festival and celebrate in a diversity of ways, usually involving bonfire pyres, feasting, singing and prayer. Another popular event associated with Makar Sankranti are kite festivals.

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