The winter solstice is upon us, as of 5:44am EST, and as Wednesday is officially the shortest day of the year for everyone north of the equator, there's not much time to ruminate on an astronomical phenomenon we haven't seen since … well, last December. Here, the need-to-know (and fun-to-know) facts about the day, and its accompanying long night:
- Vox offers a handy map of how much sunlight North America can expect on Wednesday, depending on location. Most of the Sun Belt states can bask in their 9.5 to 10.5 hours of rays, while parts of Alaska will receive anywhere from seven hours to … none.
- A mesmerizing time-lapse video shows the somewhat freaky occurrence of the winter solstice in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the sun glides along the horizon for a grand total of three hours or so before once more dipping into oblivion.
- An explainer for the mechanics behind the solstice (including tilting angles and degrees) comes courtesy of Live Science.
- National Geographic explains why 2016's earliest sunset doesn't take place Wednesday, but actually earlier in December for most of us. It all comes down to how our clocks don't quite sync up with the Earth's.
- A walk back through winter solstices past is offered by the Huffington Post, which looks at pagan rituals of yesteryear and how they've morphed into modern-day ceremonies at places like Stonehenge.
- Don't forget to check out Wednesday's Google Doodle created just for the occasion.
(Six years ago, a rare event in the sky
coincided with the winter solstice.)