Days to get longer

2015-06-17 06:00

THE winter solstice in the southern hemisphere is on 21 June - it also marks the half-way mark for winter. In terms of sunlight it is the shortest day of the year and the longest night.

There are two solstices in the year. On the summer solstice on 21 December the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere.

The term solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning “the sun stands still”. This is because on this day, the sun reaches its southern-most position as seen from the Earth (or northern-most during the June solstice).

The sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn (Tropic of Cancer during the June solstice) and then reverses its direction. It’s also common to call it the day the sun turns around.

During the northern hemisphere winter the Earth actually makes its closest approach to the sun. Seasons have little to do with the Earthand#039;s distance to the sun but with how it spins around its own axis.

As the Earth revolves around the sun, it also rotates around its axis, which is tilted at 23.5 degrees.

The direction of the tilt of the Earth does not change as the Earth moves around the sun - the two hemispheres point towards the same position in space at all times. What changes as the Earth orbits around the sun is the position of the hemispheres in relation to the sun - the northern hemisphere faces away from the sun during the December solstice, while the southern hemisphere tilts towards the sun.

The opposite happens around the June solstice, when the southern hemisphere faces away from the sun during the December solstice, while the northern hemisphere tilts towards the sun.

There are just two solstices in a year - winter and summer - but four equinox - summer, winter, autumn and spring. and#034;Equinoxand#034; means and#034;equal nightand#034; in Latin. But even if the name suggests it and it is widely accepted, it is not entirely true that day and night are exactly the same - 12 hours day and 12 hours night - on the equinox all over the world - only nearly.

Earth spins around its own axis approximately every 24 hours (a sidereal day is 23 hours, 56 minutes, four seconds). It orbits the sun in around 365 days ( And, like a spinning top, it wobbles around on its axis, making a complete rotation every 26 000 years (precession of the equinoxes).

Earth is actually tilted at an angle of around 23.4 degrees toward the celestial pole, which is a a certain point in the sky.

As the Earth makes its yearly orbit, one hemisphere faces the sun more than the other, the side that has summer.

On any other day of the year, the Earthand#039;s axis also tilts a little away from or towards the sun. However, the equinoxes marks the exact moment twice a year when the Earthand#039;s axis is not tilted toward or away from the sun at all. However, the axis tilt of around 23.4 degrees toward the celestial pole, remains the same

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