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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Winter Solstice: The longest night of the year is today

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MUSCAT: The Omani Astronomical Society has informed that this year’s winter solstice phenomenon will occur today, December 22, Friday, and will be the first day of winter astronomically in the northern hemisphere. The phenomenon occurs at 7:27 am Sultanate of Oman time, and will therefore be the longest night of 2023.


Ibrahim bin Mohammed al Mahrooqi, Vice-President of the Omani Astronomical Society, said: "December 22, 2023 is characterised by its short day and its longest night. The sun will rise in Muscat at 6:45 am and sets at 5:25 pm. The length of the day will reach 10 hours, 40 minutes and 46 seconds, which is the first day of winter, which will last for 88 days, 23 hours and 39 minutes."


He said in a statement to Oman News Agency that the winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon that occurs due to the tilt of the Earth’s axis and its movement in its orbit around the sun, as the Earth during its rotation around the sun is not vertical, but rather tilted by 23 and a half degrees, so the northern half and the southern half of the Earth exchange places to receive sunlight, and not the distance that separates the Earth from the sun, is the reason.


Therefore, it is wrong to say that summer and winter arise as a result of the proximity or distance of the Earth from the sun. He explained that during this phenomenon, the sun reaches the southernmost point in the sky, and the North Pole is tilted away from the sun on the time of the winter solstice.


Al Mahrooqi added: “Not all places around the Earth have sunrise and sunset on the day of the winter solstice, as is the case north of the Polar Circle. Because the sun remains below the horizon all day, while in the Antarctic Circle no sunrise or sunset will be observed either, because the sun remains above the horizon all day, a phenomenon known as the midnight sun.”


He pointed out that the sunrise from the far southeast and the low apparent path of the sun characterise the winter solstice, where it is observed that the shadows of objects are at their maximum length during the year, saying that this phenomenon comes after the phenomenon of the autumnal equinox that occurred during the month of last September, when the movement of the sun continued.


The phenomenon gradually moves towards the south after perpendicular to the Equator on the day of the Autumnal Equinox, and the length of the day gradually becomes shorter in the northern hemisphere, and this gradient will reach its peak at the shortest day and longest night on the day of the winter solstice phenomenon, while the opposite happens on the same day in the southern hemisphere.


He added that the Earth has two movements: the first is its movement around its axis from west to east approximately once every 24 hours, resulting in the alternation of day and night, and the second is its movement in its orbit around the sun approximately once every 365.25 days, resulting in the alternation of the four astronomical seasons.


He stated that the winter solstice will be observed as if the sun rises from one point in the south of the sky for a few days before it begins its apparent path towards the north again, as a result of the movement of the Earth in its orbit around the sun, and this continues for several days, then the hours of daylight begin to increase until they are equal to the night of the Vernal Equinox, which will occur on March 20, 2024.


He further added that the solstices and equinoxes are not necessarily related to temperatures, this is because the winter solstice - astronomically - means that the sun is at the southernmost point in the sky, and the North Pole is tilted away from the sun, and therefore the temperature is lower, while during the season there are cold waves, so these changes are specific to the weather and have no relation to the astronomical seasons. - ONA


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