Winter Solstice

2013-12-19T00:00:00Z Winter SolsticeBy Tim Hunter Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The winter solstice is at 10:11 a.m. Saturday. That very moment is the official beginning of winter.

Solstice means a turning point or a farthest point. At the winter solstice, the sun reaches its southern most point in the sky and starts moving north until it reaches its northern most point in the sky at the summer solstice around June 21.

Technically, a solstice is a brief moment in time, but the term solstice is often applied to the solstice day. The winter solstice is the official beginning of winter, and it marks the shortest day of the year, though the lengths of daylight a few days before and a few days after the winter solstice are about the same.

On Saturday the sun rises at 7:21 a.m. and sets at 5:23 p.m. giving us a total of 10 hours and 2 minutes when the sun will be at least partially above the horizon.

If you are tough enough to view the pre-dawn sky an hour before sunrise on Saturday morning, you will see Saturn 25 degrees above the southeastern horizon and Bootes the Herdsman with its bright star Arcturus nearly 60 degrees above the eastern horizon.

In the northeast, Vega in Lyra the Lyre will be 14 degrees above the horizon.

In the western sky the bright moon will be high in the sky just above the head of Hydra the Water Snake. Gemini the Twins will be low with bright Jupiter in the middle of Gemini. The Big Dipper will be almost as high above the northern horizon as it can get, and Leo the Lion will be overhead.

What a great way to start winter.

Contact Tim Hunter at skyspy@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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