Monday, December 21 is a day of great events, as it marks the Winter Solstice. Also known as December solstice, hiemal solstice or hibernal solstice, the event takes place when one of the Earth’s pole is tilted away from the sun at its maximum distance. Apparently, this causes the day to have the shortest period of daylight due to being away from the sun, with the longest night of the year. This day is marked once every year on either December 21 or 22.
The month of December has hosted various celestial events, and two of them are occurring together on December 21. Apart from winter solstice, the day will also be remembered for the great conjunction, when Jupiter and Saturn will display a visual overlap in the night sky.
As we celebrate the winter solstice today, here’s a look at a few facts you should know:
-- The winter solstice is popularly said to mark the ‘birth of the sun’, as for the hemisphere away from the star, the days begin to get longer after today, while the nights will start to get shorter.
-- For the December solstice, it is the northern hemisphere that is away from the Sun, while it marks the commencement of astronomical summer in the southern hemisphere.
-- This solstice is also special because it marks the great conjunction, when the two giant planets, Saturn and Jupiter, will appear to be just 1 degree away from each other, which last happened in the 17th century.
-- The word ‘Solstice’ is derived from the Latin scientific term ‘solstitium’. While ‘sol’ stands for sun, the past participle of ‘sistere’ means "to make stand." Therefore, the loose translation of solstice means ‘sun standing still’.
-- Since time immemorial, there are various traditions and rituals associated with the day. In Iran, people celebrate the festival of Yalda, while it marked the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, in the pre-Islamic times.