Winter Solstice

Midwinter, the winter solstice, doesn’t mean as much here in the tropics as it does further from the Equator but it’s still a significant turning point.

The winter solstice is always close to June 21 – 22, and this year’s was yesterday, June 21, according to this lovely site. (I chose it partly in memory of a warung (restaurant/cafe/bar) owner’s patient explanation of an amazingly detailed Hindu astrological calendar to me in Bali a year ago.)

According to this site, the solstice was not just generally “June 21” but specifically at 20:06:39. Sunrise was at 06:45:29 and Sunset at 17:43:38, for a Day Duration of 10 Hours 58 Mins 09 Secs. The previous day was 1 second longer and today was the same length as the solstice day.

The same site gave me similar statistics for the Summer Solstice, 22nd
December 2018:

Summer Solstice Time = 08:21:42
Sunrise = 05:32:26
Sunset = 18:50:14Day Duration = 13 Hours 17 Mins 47 Secs
Previous Day Duration = 13 Hours 17 Mins 47 Secs
Next Day Duration = 13 Hours 17 Mins 46 Secs

So our day is 2 hrs 20 minutes shorter now than at midsummer. Most of us do notice the slow changes (just under 1 minute per day) but I was surprised and mildly amused to find that some Townsville eight-year-olds were completely unaware of it; as a child in Victoria, I couldn’t have remained unaware of it no matter how hard I tried. There, of course, the difference is far greater – 5 hours 15 minutes – and is exaggerated by the contrast between gloomy skies in winter and clear skies in summer.

timeanddate.com is a more conventional Western site offering similar statistics; it’s not as much fun to explore as drikpanchang.com but does note that “the Winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight but does not have the latest sunrise nor the earliest sunset of the year,” and that our earliest sunset was on 5 or 6 June.

Why? Because of “a discrepancy between our modern-day timekeeping methods and how time is measured using the Sun known as the equation of time.” Their full explanation is here and it’s quite complicated.

Perhaps the science is as much fun as the Hindu calendar after all. Nearly.

baby Ganesha playing the veena

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