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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

When Does Winter Begin?

Tomorrow marks the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. The early Romans called the event “solstitium” or “sun stoppage.” At the winter solstice, the sun is at its lowest point in the sky in our hemisphere and actually appears to stand still for several days.

In astronomy, the winter solstice occurs when one of the Earth’s hemispheres is tilted farthest away from the sun -- December 21/22 in the northern hemisphere and June 21/22 in the southern. It is the longest night and the shortest day of the year.

Many refer to our solstice as the beginning of winter; others debate whether astronomy or weather should determine winter and insist the solstice actually marks the middle of the season ( After all, Shakespeare did write “A Midsummer Night’s Tale” to commemorate the summer solstice -- the mirror event six months hence when we’re tilted the opposite way -- closest to the sun.

Here are a few library programs that might cheer you up during the dark winter days:

Tuesday, December 20, 2:00 PM
Golden Oldies. Movies from Hollywood's golden era. Ask for film title. Sponsored by the Friends of the George Mason Regional Library. Adults. George Mason Regional Library, 7001 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA, 703-256-3800.
Wednesday, December 21, 1:00 PM
Silver Screen Series for Seniors. Monthly movies. Watch and discuss a video classic. Adults. Centreville Regional Library, 4000 Stringfellow Rd, Chantilly, VA, 703-502-3883.
Wednesday, December 21, 7:15 PM
Ho Ho Holidays! Stories and activities for the whole family. All ages. Reston Regional Library, 11925 Bowman Towne Dr.,Reston, VA, 703-689-2700.

By the way, what’s your opinion? Does winter begin tomorrow? If not, how should we determine when the season officially starts?

1 comment:

Phil Plait said...


Thanks for the link to my Bad Astronomy page. I'll note that I used to use the FPPL when I was a kid growing up in Springfield. makes me feel good to get a mention here. ;-)

-Phil Plait,
aka The Bad Astronomer