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The Winter Solstice

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Greenwich, London, is famous for the Prime Meridian, 0 degrees of longitude. But how are our lives affected by latitude? In the Northern Hemisphere many of us find our lives governed by the length of days and nights.

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

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, the winter solstice is also applied to the shortest day.

In 2015, the exact moment was on 22 December, at 04.38 GMT. At 51º the longest night is about 16 hours long: but we are lucky, closer to the poles the midwinter night lasts for months.

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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