The Winter Solstice Approaches

By , December 18, 2010

Our family’s Christmas celebration is a complicated affair, pulling in days, events, and moments to celebrate from many different traditions. At the moment, the current holiday “sub-phase” is Solstice week. The Winter Solstice, falling on the 21st this year, has a lot of meaning for us on a lot of different levels. Living in and as a part of Nature, the annual decrease and subsequent increase in daylight probably affects more than most Americans. Depending on solar panels as well as the wind generator for our electricity, the amount of daylight we receive on a given day can have quite an impact. Further, we’re archaeology fans, so ancient Solstice observatories such as Stonehenge and Newgrange fascinate us. Further, most of the traditions of Christmas stem from Solstice celebrations—almost every seasonal custom can be traced to it.

This year, there’s a lunar event occurring close to the Winter Solstice that adds to the festivity, if one chooses to pay attention: there will be a full lunar eclipse visible in our part of the world the night before the Winter Solstice. That means, on one of the darkest nights of the year, it’ll be even darker for a while as the full moon is temporarily blotted out.

According to my information, the moon will rise locally on the 20th at 2:26 p.m., very close to sunset that day (3:03 p.m.). It’ll rise over the left shoulder of The Mountain With No Name in a huge, luminous ball heading southward as it climbs the sky. The occlusion will begin around 8:27 p.m. The total eclipse will come at 10:40 p.m. Note that these are all Alaska times, Universal Time -9 hours.

Hopefully, we’ll have clear skies for the event. We’ve had a long stretch of clear, cold weather along with the usual solstice storms. Right now they’re calling for partly cloudy skies, but the forecast that far forward is almost useless in this region, especially at this time of year.

We’ll anticipate the return of the moon that night, then the return of the sun the next. I like that!

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