“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” –Albert Camus

This Sunday marks the Winter Solstice: the darkest, longest evening of the year for all the Earth’s northern hemisphere denizens.

Image credit: Ken Tape, of the Winter Solstice at Fairbanks, Alaska.

Image credit: Ken Tape, of the Winter Solstice at Fairbanks, Alaska.

Sure, you probably know all about Earth’s axial tilt and how the southern hemisphere experiences the summer solstice at the same time, but here are a few solstice facts that you might not know, including what it means for the Moon, for new year’s celebrations, and for our history of venturing beyond Earth.

Image credit: NASA / Bill Anders / Apollo 8.

Image credit: NASA / Bill Anders / Apollo 8.

Go enjoy these top six solstice facts, and if you knew even one, pat yourself on the back!


  1. #1 maritza garcia
    Puerto Rico
    December 18, 2014

    I found the diagram of the different positions of the Solstice fascinating. As far as I could understand your explanation this is due to the fact that the orbit precesses. Is this independent from the so called “wobbling of the Earth’s axis? Does the orbit also undergo changes in ellipticity significant enough to affect the position of the Solstice/ Equinox? Thanks in advance for your enlightment!

  2. #2 Andrew H
    Western Australia
    December 18, 2014

    You are not wrong about the Southern Hemisphere. We are just starting Summer and the temperature reached 40.5 near us just north of Perth, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Centigrade that is. Looking forward to a long hot summer.

  3. #3 Wow
    December 19, 2014

    re #1, yes, the effects can be seen if you check up “Milankovich cycles” on Wikipedia, where the various orbital effects have a direct utility.

  4. #4 Jan Freed
    December 21, 2014

    No, the wobble is not the cause. It is simply the angle of the earth (around 23 degrees tilt) that, in the winter causes the Northern Hemisphere to lean away from the sun and the Southern hemisphere to lean towards the sun. The wobble occurs over thousands of years and slightly increases or decreases the ‘lean’.

  5. #5 Jan Freed
    December 21, 2014

    Here is a link to my above comment, with diagrams.

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