Solstice Questions

On Dec 20, 2005, at 11:22 AM,CM wrote:

Hey Andrew…

I have a  question you may have and easy answer for. So, I have always celebrated Solstice on the day of…in this case wednesday the 21st. However, if the actual hour of the solstice is in the morning of the 21st does that mean the night of the 20th is the longest night or the night of the 21st? Hmmm?

–C

Dear C,

I didn’t know the answer to your question, but it intrigued me.

I checked out the answer from a variety of sources, including Accuweather.com, Wikipedia.org, and the US Naval Observatory, and I can state with some seriousness that the Winter Solstice occurs locally at 1:35pm TOMORROW.  This is the hour at which the sun will reach its highest point on the shortest day of the year, which means that both TONIGHT and TOMORROW NIGHT will be the longest nights of the year.  

This seemed silly.  So, I consulted the Orrery, a program on my computer that gives local times for sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset, for any entered day. Officially, there are nine hours and five minutes of daylight today, meaning that there are fourteen hours and fifty-five minutes of darkness tonight.  Tomorrow there are nine hours and eight minutes of daylight, meaning that there are nine hours and eight minutes of daylight, so there are fourteen hours and fifty-two minutes of darkness tomorrow night.

So TONIGHT is the longest night of the year, TOMORROW is the Solstice, and TOMORROW NIGHT is what fiction writer Ursula K. LeGuin called the Night of Sunreturn, the first night that is shorter than the night before.

I hope this answers your question.  

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6 comments

  1. Actually, turns out this is NOT the right answer.

    Wednesday, and Thursday, are the same length. The night between them — Wednesday sundown to Thursday sunrise is the longest night of the year. Friday is Sunreturn, which is a full minute longer than either Wednesday or Thursday.

  2. In true Pagan fashion, Solstice and Equinox dates are generally thought of as to have a 3-day range (ie, December 20, 21, 22). So speaking from a celebratory point of view, there is some flexibility. From an absolute scientifically-correct view, well, you answered that. We’re celebrating Friday, cuz that’s Tribe night.

  3. In true Pagan fashion, Solstice and Equinox dates are generally thought of as to have a 3-day range (ie, December 20, 21, 22). So speaking from a celebratory point of view, there is some flexibility. From an absolute scientifically-correct view, well, you answered that. We’re celebrating Friday, cuz that’s Tribe night.

    • Actually, turns out this is NOT the right answer.

      Wednesday, and Thursday, are the same length. The night between them — Wednesday sundown to Thursday sunrise is the longest night of the year. Friday is Sunreturn, which is a full minute longer than either Wednesday or Thursday.

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