Monday, 21 December 2015

Midwinter Solstice at Stonehenge

Oh, well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow,
Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow. 

This Year's Event
This year the precise moment of the Midwinter solstice occurs on Tuesday 22nd December at 04:48 (Universal Time) but  sunrise at Stonehenge in Wiltshire does not occur until 08:04.

Entrance to the stone circle at Stonehenge is free on 22nd December from about 7.45am until 10am for celebration of the first sunrise following solstice.

Midwinter sunset
After the shortest day has passed we would expect the mornings to start getting lighter earlier, but the latest sunrise doesn't fall on the solstice, in fact the mornings continue darkening until early in the new year. The winter solstice does not mark the earliest sunset either as this occurs a couple of weeks sooner in early December.

The exact dates vary, but the sequence is always the same at mid-northern latitudes: earliest sunset in early December, shortest day on the solstice around 21-22 December, latest sunrise in early January. It is only at latitudes close to the Arctic Circle that the earliest sunset and the December solstice occur on or near the same day.

So check your diary; it is a common myth the solstice occurs on 21st December ever year. In 2009 about 300 people turned up a day early!

After damage to the stones with chewing gum and graffiti was revealed at Stonehenge during last year's solstice celebrations conservationists have called for a ban to be put in place preventing people from walking among stones on longest and shortest days of year.

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