[This article, which was originally published for 2017’s winter solstice, has been updated for 2023. Sign up for The Times Space Calendar here.]
On Dec. 21, or Thursday this year, the sun will hug the horizon. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it will seem to barely rise — hardly peeking above a city’s skyline or a forest’s snow-covered evergreens — before it swiftly sets.
For months, the orb’s arc across the sky has been slumping, shortening each day.
In New York City, for example, the sun will be in the sky for just over nine hours — roughly six hours less than in June at the summer solstice. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, before the sun reverses course and climbs higher into the sky. (At the same time, places like Australia in the Southern Hemisphere mark the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.)
This is a good opportunity to imagine what such a day might look like if we had evolved on another planet where the sun would take a different dance across the sky. You might want to feel thankful for the solstices and seasons we do have, or we might not be here to witness them at all.
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