What is the Shortest Day of the Year?
This year, Monday, 21 December, is the winter solstice, often known as the shortest day of the year, at least for those in the northern hemisphere. The winter solstice in 2009 will feature nine hours and sixteen minutes of daylight in New York City, with the sun rising at 7:16 AM and setting at 4:32 PM. What is interesting to this blogger is that according to the United States Naval Observatory website, 22 December, the day after the solstice, will apparently be one minute shorter than the solstice in New York City, with the sun rising at 7:17 AM and setting at 4:32 PM (the other locations I checked have identical-length days on the 21st and 22nd). The discrepancy most likely occurs because the actual solstice is an instant in time, the moment when the earth’s axial tilt is furthest from the sun, and though that instant might be on 21 December, making that date the solstice, it is most likely very late in the day, making it possible for the winter solstice to NOT be the shortest day in the year. At least, that is as much as I can figure out; please feel free to correct me if I am wrong.
Anyway, as I did two years ago, I wanted to offer encouragement to those who think that winter, which officially starts on the winter solstice, will last forever, and that spring will never come. In mere days we will be getting more and more light with each and every revolution of the earth and it is only a matter of time before the very first spring migrants start their journey north. So, don’t despair, and enjoy these shots that should remind you that the warmth of spring is on the way!