MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Winter officially begins Friday, December 21 at 4:23 p.m. for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. This means December 21 is officially the shortest day of the year.
While the solstice marks the beginning of astronomical winter for us north of the equator, for those in the Southern Hemisphere it’s the start of summer. It occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere.
The days have been getting shorter and shorter, and we will reach the shortest day on Friday but after the solstice on Friday, the daylight will gradually begin to lengthen again as we move closer to spring.
That means in Memphis, the 21st will deliver only 9 hours, 47 minutes, and 21 seconds of daylight, by the time the summer solstice rolls around in June, we will be back up to 14 hours, 31 minutes, and 34 seconds of daylight. Not that we’re counting or anything.
The word solstice comes from Latin word for sol “sun” and sistere “to stand still.” On the 21st of December, the sun’s path reaches its southernmost position. While it starts to return north, it gives the appearance of standing still.
In addition to the winter solstice taking place, our moon will appear full both Friday and Saturday nights. The cold moon gains its name from the Native Americans, who marked December’s full moon as the beginning of the coldest part of the year. The Long Night Moon is named after the longest night of the year on the winter solstice.
The final piece of the trio is the Ursid meteor showers. The American Meteor Society says the Ursids should be visible in the mid-Northern Hemisphere. During its peak, there should be around 11 sporadic meteors per hour just before dawn.
The name for this meteor shower comes from its appearance, as they originate from Ursa Minor, also known as the Little Dipper. The only downfall of having the meteor shower during a full moon, is the meteors will be difficult to see in the night sky.
This unique trio, will have many people looking to the sky, as we welcome the start of Winter with a full moon and a meteor shower.