By Harley Nefe and Nathan Ham
The Winter Solstice will officially happen at 5:02 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday morning, which marks the official start of winter. This is the day where areas in the Northern Hemisphere have the shortest day and longest night of the year in terms of daylight.
Monday will have 9 hours, 41 minutes and 38 seconds of sunshine, making it the shortest day of the year. After the Winter Solstice, days will get longer with sunsets happening at later times. On Monday, the sun will rise at 7:34 a.m. and will set at 5:15 p.m.
The term “solstice” comes from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) because, during the solstice, the angle between the sun’s rays and the plane of the Earth’s equator appears to stand still.
Upon the Winter Solstice, the sun appears at its lowest in the sky, and its noontime elevation seems to stay the same for several days before and after this day. The sun’s gradual decrease in the sky reverses upon the Winter Solstice, marking what many cultures believe to be a “rebirth” of the sun as the hours of daylight become longer.
Essentially, the hours of daylight — the period of time each day between sunrise and sunset — have been growing slightly shorter each day since the summer solstice last June, which is the longest day of the year (at least in terms of light). After December 21, the days will begin to grow longer and will continue to do so until we reach the summer solstice again, and begin the whole cycle anew.
Due to the Winter Solstice being a time associated with rebirth, it is one of the most spiritually significant days of the year.
What makes this year’s Winter Solstice even more special is that it falls on the same day as one of the decade’s most important and rare astrological events — the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, which happens on Monday at 1:20:30 p.m., about 8 hours after the Winter Solstice.
During this great conjunction, Jupiter and Saturn will come together and be the closest they’ve appeared in nearly 800 years. Astronomically speaking, a conjunction occurs when two planets appear to meet each other in the sky, as seen from Earth. Jupiter and Saturn meet every 20 years or so, but they rarely get so close. This event will be visible to the naked eye and will look like one planet.
This conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is taking place in the Aquarius, which is the sign of innovation, humanitarianism and independence. The 1969 hit song Aquarius by The 5th Dimension similarly portrayed the independence of a new youth cultural revolution and an age of peace and love.
During December when a conjunction of planets takes place, it is often referred to as the Christmas Star. This year, it just so happens to be that Jupiter and Saturn are the two planets.
To spot the Christmas Star in the High Country, have a look toward the southwestern skies each night after sunset.
Some astrologers believe that this same conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter took place on the night of Jesus Christ’s birth and it is an omen that points to the second coming of Christ.