Tracking the Homestead’s Individual Winter Solstice

By , December 21, 2009

This year’s Winter Solstice, like last year’s, arrived on a bright, clear day! That’s always so gratifying. Just as we did last year, we tracked our solar input through the “local” Solstice.

The view down canal at local “astronomical” Winter Solstice, 8:47 a.m. Alaska Standard Time (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

Because of our specific location, our “zenith” or high point of the sun, comes at about 10:15 a.m. local time. That would not be the point at which the sun is highest in our sky, but the maximum incoming solar power for the day, coming between the moment the sun first rises above the ridge of the Coast Range opposite us, to the moment the sun becomes shaded by the bluff south of our property. It will not rise high enough in the sky to crest that bluff on this shortest day of the year.

We track it with the control panel of the solar array.

We started with .1 amp at 9:35 a.m. It reached .5 amps at 9:55; .7 amps at 10:00, and a maximum of .9 amps at 10:15 a.m. When the sun hit the south bluff at 10:18 it fell sharply to .1 amp, after which we began to get a slight “bounce” of energy from sunlight reflecting off the mountains opposite. That’s been a steady .2 amps for the last hour.

The zenith of the Winter Solstice sun from our homestead (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

The Solstice sun begins to pass behind the south bluff (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

Darkness will come after 3:00 or so this afternoon. Tonight we’ll celebrate, marking one more event in our Christmas season. Within a few days, the sun will begin to appear for longer and longer, as the circle turns, ever so slightly, toward the coming spring. Happy Winter Solstice!

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