December 21st 2010 is the day of the Winter Solstice and officially the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. So all of us who have been complaining about the winter weather should really still have been referring to autumn! It is the shortest day of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum position in the sky at its lowest. It is the longest night of the year. From tomorrow the nights will start drawing out, at a rate of 15 minutes per week.
Of course, in the Southern Hemisphere, December 21st 2010 marks the day of the Summer Solstice and thus the longest day.
The day has also been marked by a total lunar eclipse, the first to occur on a Solstice day since 1638. It was visible as such only in North and South America. Observers in other parts of the world saw partial eclipses.
When we looked out last night it could have been a moonless night because clouds obscured the sky. Tonight the moon is full, but again we cannot see it. Never mind, tomorrow we can look forward to longer days and shorter nights!!