The shortest day of the year – or longest night, if you prefer – is upon us.
Thursday, Dec. 21, is the Northern Hemisphere’s 2017 winter solstice, which is also known as the hibernal solstice, midwinter and the beginning of Yule.
The solstice occurs at 8:28 a.m. Pacific time. The National Weather Service says this happens when the sun lines up directly over Tropic of Capricorn, which has a latitude of 23.5 degrees south of the equator. Meanwhile, the Southern Hemisphere will observe the summer solstice.
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“Culturally, the solstices and equinoxes are typically used to denote either the beginnings of the seasons or the center points of the seasons,” Rick Kline of Cornell University told USA Today.
Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, and Newgrange in Ireland will have their annual celebrations, as will locations in Japan and Austria.
The winter solstice is more than a celebration or the start of the season, according to The New York Times. Without it, human life might not exist on Earth.