Today is the winter solstice - the shortest day of the year

Sunset at Stonehenge just after the winter solstice

The date and time of Winter Solstice, featured in a special Google Doodle Friday, vary by the year, though it typically falls between December 19 and 22.

Winter Solstice 2018 date and time?

If we track the full moon cycle and the winter solstice for the next several years, we see we won't have the two events in such close proximity for over a decade.

Because the Earth is tilted on its rotational axis, we experience seasons here on Earth.

How fitting that on the longest night of the year, the moon will be shining brightly.

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Thousands of people gather around the landmark yearly to celebrate the winter solstice as, according to Pagan traditions, it marks the revival of the sun for the start of a new year. At that point, the Earth's North Pole is tilted farthest away from the Sun. The Sun will be directly above the Tropic of Capricorn at noon, marking the longest day in the southern hemisphere.

In Finland's northernmost municipality of Utsjoki, however, the sun has stayed below the horizon since 26 November 2018, and is not expected to show itself again until 17 January 2019 - for just over one hour. While we in Chewelah are seeing the shortest days of the year, those in the southern hemisphere are seeing the longest. Native Americans marked December's full moon as the beginning of the coldest part of the year. Starting Saturday, daylight will gradually extend each day until the summer solstice in June.

After the shortest day, the days start getting longer and the nights shorter. The December full moon is called the "cold moon". The solstice happens at the same moment around the world, though the local time depends on which of the 24 time zones.

However, when you're looking out into a clear sky on Friday night, the moon will appear full to you - and could be so bright that people with pretty good eyesight could read by it.

The Ursid meteor shower will peak on Friday night.

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