February 18, 2020

Astro Event of the Week: December 15th-21st: The Winter Solstice.

Take heart, those based in chilly northern climes; the Winter Solstice is on the way. This is the point at which the Sun reaches its most southerly declination as seen from the tilted Earth and begins its long migration northward.

For the northern hemisphere, it means a low angle sun with sloping rays and chilly temps; the build-up towards spring and the vernal equinox is so shallow that the two main reasons that everyone doesn’t live in Alaska are still ahead; January and February. But take heart; if it’s a clear day this Sunday and you live south of the Arctic Circle, take a stroll in the solstice Sun. Hey, it’s important to us pasty northerners that we get some occasional melatonin juices flowing! The exact timing of the Winter Solstice this year is Sunday, December 21st, 2008 at 7:04 AM, EST.

This week’s astro-word of the week is precession. In astronomy, this is the slow, 25,700 year wobble the Earth does on its axis, caused primarily by the tug of the Moon. This wobble causes a slow change in the orientation of the Earths’ poles; for instance, the pole star to the ancient Egyptians wasn’t Polaris, but the star Thuban in the constellation Draco! It also causes the positions of the solstices and equinoxes to move through the Zodiac. The Winter Solstice currently occurs in the constellation Sagittarius, but due to precession will begin to occur in Ophiuchus (the 13th unknown member of the zodiac) in about 61 years!

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