Winter arrives in the northern hemisphere tomorrow night. That’s the time of the winter solstice. Tomorrow and Friday will be the shortest days of the year in the northern hemisphere.
The Sun will rise farthest south for the year as well. Over the millennia, many cultures built observatories or temples to watch that sunrise. Doors, windows, or walls were aligned to frame the rising Sun. The alignments often honored the gods, and commemorated the fact that the Sun would be headed northward, bringing longer days.
An early example is the Temple of Karnak in Egypt. It was built in Thebes, which was one of ancient Egypt’s most important cities. The temple was established about 4,000 years ago, by the pharaoh Senusret I.
On the winter solstice, the Sun rose through a narrow passage between high walls. It beamed into a sanctuary dedicated to Amun, the creator god and one of the most important gods of Egypt.
The sunrise alignment was perpendicular to the path of the nearby Nile River, giving it extra significance. Several kings added to the temple in ways that emphasized the alignment. And over the centuries, many other temples were built in the complex. Almost all of them kept that same alignment — to the rising Sun on the winter solstice.
The exact time of the solstice is 9:27 p.m. Central Standard Time tomorrow — the start of winter, which continues until the spring equinox in March.
Script by Damond Benningfield