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The Solstice

What is the difference between the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere

Solstice in the UK

Greenwich, London, is famous for the Prime Meridian, 0 degrees of longitude. But how are our lives affected by latitude? Many of us find our lives governed by the length of days and nights. We call the longest and shortest days the summer and winter solstices.

The word solstice comes from the Latin for midsummer, expressing the idea that the sun is stopped in its ascent of the sky. In English, solstice is also applied to the shortest day.

The length of day depends on the journey the Earth makes round the Sun and the fact that our planet's axis is tilted by almost 24 degrees. As illustrated in this excellent article on the Royal Museums Greenwich website, it is a one-year journey marked by the two solstice moments.

If you think of the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere as the two halves of a coin and the Equator as the diameter or the line dividing it, the solstice dates are the same, but it is a different season. What is Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is the Summer Solstice in the Southern one and the other way round. Encyclopaedia Britannica has a comprehensive article on the topic of the solstice .

In the tropics daylight has a variation of a couple of hours, in London for instance the difference between midsummer and midwinter is nearly nine hours (sunrise to sunset). This means winter nights are very long.

At 51º the longest night is about 16 hours long. Closer to the poles the midwinter night lasts for months.

What is the length of days and nights where you are? How does this impact your commmunication across time zones?

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Time 'investigators' may want to check the exact moment of the solstice, throughout the years .

Across the UK, there are several sites associated with the winter solstice moment. One of them is off the north coast of Scotland, an ancient place that the midwinter sun has been lighting up for thousands of years. Learn more here .

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