The Winter Solstice: When is the Longest Night of the Year?
We talked in detail about the Summer Solstice and answered the question "when is the longest day of the year?" for northern and southern hemispheres of the Earth. We will now talk about the Winter Solstice and see when the longest night occurs.
As you know, our world, the Earth, rotates around the Sun non-stop. Even as you are reading this post, the Earth is floating in the empty space with a huge speed of about 30 kilometers per second. Since we are attached to the Earth's surface with a strong level of gravity, we don't feel that speed at all. Theoretically speaking, if you could jump from the surface of the Earth for a moment, the Earth would have moved 30 kilometers away from you in just 1 second!
The Earth has a planetary elliptic orbit around the Sun, that it completes a full circle in one year, which is 12 months or 365 days (plus 6 hours - which is responsible for February 29ths per 4 years). While the Sun itself also follows its own orbit around the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, its relative position towards Earth does not change. What changes is the Earth's relative position towards the Sun. But it is not the only thing that changes while the Earth is circling around the Sun.
(Photo by Unsplash)
The Earth has an axial tilt of an average of 23.5 degrees, which means that its face is a little bit tilted towards or away from the Sun depending on its location, and the areas where the sunlight hits on the Earth continuously change during the year. As a result, the angle of sunlight that hits the ground changes at every point on the Earth surface every single day throughout the year. This axial tilt and the resulting tilted sunlights are what contribute to the formation of the seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) and the ever-changing length of days and nights.
At the longest night of the year, while the pole (North or South depending on which hemisphere) point is totally covered by night, there are some cities such as Rovaniemi in Finland, where the night lasts as long as about 22 hours.
Now, we will see how and when does the longest night occur in Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
When is the Longest Night of the Year in Northern Hemisphere?
The longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere occurs when the angle between the Earth's axis and the vertical plane of day-night border is at its maximum (about 23.5 degrees), facing away from the Sun, as shown in the image below.
During this period, the sunlight illuminates more of the Southern Hemisphere and less of the Northern Hemisphere. The Northern Hemisphere is entering Winter and the Southern Hemisphere is entering Summer as you can see from the illumination of the Earth surface.
The date for the longest night of the year for the Northern Hemisphere is an unchanging date and it is December 21, every year. The longest night in the NH occurs at the night of 21st of December.
Northern Hemisphere Longest Night
December 21 - 22
When is the Longest Night of the Year in Southern Hemisphere?
The longest night of the year in the Southern Hemisphere occurs when the angle between the Earth's axis and the vertical plane of day-night border is exactly 23.5 degrees, facing towards the Sun, as shown in the image below.
This is a period where the Northern Hemisphere receives more of the light of the Sun, whereas, the Southern Hemisphere receives a smaller amount of sunlight. At that time, NH is living the Summer, and the SH is living the Winter.
The date for the longest night of the year for the Southern Hemisphere is an unchanging date and it is June 21, every year. The longest night in the SH occurs at the night of 20th of June.
Southern Hemisphere Longest Night
June 20 - 21
What to Do During the Longest Nights of the Year?
There are many activities that you can do outside depending on where you are living in the world, a small village, a crowded city or a metropol. But if you are not the type of outgoing person and prefer to be at your cozy home during a long winter night and spend some leisure time in front of your screen, here are a couple of ideas that you can do:
- You can write something; an article, a story or a poem about the night.
- You can finish that office work you had been postponing.
- You can take photos of the night and share with your friends.
- You can decorate your web browser with a beautiful night theme.
- You can watch interesting videos on YouTube or on its alternatives.
- You can check some interesting websites to cure your boredom.
- You can try finding friends on Facebook.
- You can listen to fresh music on free music listening sites.
- You can find some good deals for the new year shopping.
- You can check what's popular on Instagram.
- You can try new apps on your phone.
Whatever you do, enjoy your longest night of the year and try making it a memorable time by doing something interesting that you have never done before.
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