Winter solstice 2016 in Northern Hemisphere was at 5:44 AM on Wednesday, December 21.
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. The Sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction.
During winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth is actually closest to the Sun. Different seasons are not defined by how far the Earth is from the Sun. Seasons occur because Earth orbits the Sun on a slant, with an axial tilt of around 23.4 degrees. Therefore different amounts of sunlight reaches the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, causing variation in temperatures and weather patterns throughout the year.
For more information check out this informative video on the summer and winter solstice:
Late dawn. Early sunset. Short day. Long night. For us folks in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year. Meanwhile, on the same day of the December solstice, the Southern Hemisphere has its longest day and shortest night.
The winter solstice happens every year when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight to the Northern Hemisphere during the year.
This year the solstice is occurred this morning, Tuesday December 22nd at 04:49 GMT (Universal time) with the sun rising over Stonehenge in Wiltshire at 08:04.
The solstice can happen on December 20, 21, 22 or 23, though December 20 or 23 solstices are rare.
The last December 23 solstice was in 1903 and will not happen again until 2303!