lights out

Winter Solstice 2021 date, sunset time, and more for the beginning of astronomical winter

The winter solstice marks the beginning of the cold season.

sunny winter day in a park
Kristina Strasunske/Moment/Getty Images

You may already be feeling chilly, but the winter season has not officially been hailed in just yet.

The winter solstice will take place on December 21, marking the shortest day of the year across the Northern Hemisphere and the welcoming of winter. During that day, the Sun travels its shortest path through our skies, resulting in only eight hours and 46 minutes of daylight.

Here’s how the Sun reaches this point in the horizon and why we have a change of seasons on Earth.

What happens in the winter solstice?

The word solstice is Latin for “Sun stands still,” as the Sun appears to stop moving once it reaches its position in the southern or northernmost part from the equator, and the angle between the Sun's rays and Earth's plane appears to stand still.

In December, the Sun reaches its southernmost position in the sky from anywhere you are on Earth. When the solstice takes place in the Northern Hemisphere in December, the South Pole is tilted towards the Sun, while the North Pole is tilted away from the Sun.

Earth’s tilt causes one side of the planet to receive more sunlight than the other, resulting in the change of seasons.

NASA/Genna Duberstein

This marks the beginning of winter for the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of summer for the Southern Hemisphere.

To understand the change of the seasons, you must first understand Earth’s tilted axis.

The Earth’s axis is an imaginary line that runs through the center of the planet from top to bottom and is always tilted 23.5˚ with respect to the Sun. The northern and southern hemispheres trade places every six months: one side receives more direct sunlight and warmth, with either side being a little bit more tilted towards the Sun during those six months.

During the Winter Solstice, the North Pole is tilted 23.4 degrees away from the Sun.

Is the Winter Solstice the same day every year?

The Winter Solstice takes place each year on December 21 or 22.

This year, the Winter Solstice will take place on December 21 for the northern hemisphere. Although on the southern hemisphere, that day will make the Summer Solstice. Similarly, on June 21, the northern hemisphere experienced its Summer Solstice, and vice versa for the southern hemisphere.

In 2022, the winter solstice will take place on Wednesday, December 21. On that day, the Sun will set at 4:47 p.m. Eastern.

What time will sunset be on Winter Solstice 2021?

The Winter Solstice marks the shortest day of the year, with the least amount of sunlight.

During Winter Solstice, the Sun will set at 4:32 p.m. Eastern.

Why is the winter solstice so important?

For many in the northern hemisphere, signs of winter have already long begun with dropping temperatures and snow. But the winter solstice is the official beginning of the astronomical winter season, which is more related to Earth’s spin on its axis and its respective position around the Sun.

Related Tags