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If you stand outside the next couple of days at local noon — the time the Sun appears highest in the sky — and face away from the Sun, you might notice that your shadow is especially long. In fact, it’s the longest noontime shadow of the entire year.
That’s because tomorrow marks the winter solstice — at 9:59 a.m. Central Standard Time. It’s the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, and it marks the beginning of winter. The Sun scoots lowest across the sky on the solstice, which is why you cast an especially long shadow.
The solstice is set up by Earth’s tilt on its axis. At this time of year, the north pole tilts away from the Sun. That brings those of us north of the equator especially short days.
And the farther north you go, the shorter the days. Miami, for example, will see about 10 and a half hours of sunshine. For Dallas and Los Angeles, which are a little farther north, it’s about a half hour less. For Seattle, it’s just seven and a half hours. And for Anchorage, it’s a meager five and a half hours of sunshine.
The numbers stay about the same for several days. That’s because the Sun appears to “stand still” now — it rises and sets at the same point along the horizon. In fact, “solstice” means “the Sun stands still.”
Before long, though, it’ll begin to move more quickly. Its rising and setting points will shift, and it’ll pass a little higher across the sky — bringing longer days, but shorter shadows.
Script by Damond Benningfield