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The 2018 winter solstice (almost) aligns with the full moon and meteor shower – here's what to know – National


The winter solstice officially takes place late Friday afternoon, marking the first winter day for the Northern Hemisphere and also the shortest day of the year.

But if you are afraid of the cold and dark nights, do not be afraid, after the winter solstice, the days slowly start to linger and the nights shorter – the beginning of a steady climb toward the summer.

4 Things You May Not Have Known About The Winter Solstice

This year of solstice also corresponds to a full moon, known as the Cold Moon, and a meteor shower. The next time a full moon line up with the winter solstice will be 2094 – then you may want to pop your head out the window and take a look.

When does the winter solstice officially begin?

The winter solstice begins at 5:23 pm. ET. Friday.

As Earth is divided into 24 time zones, people around the world observe it in 24 different times of the day.

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The solstice usually occurs every December 21, however, the time at which it happens and the day it lands can change because the solar year (the time that the sun reappears in the same place seen from Earth) does not exactly coincide with our calendar year.

A solar year is approximately 365,242,199 days, but varies from year to year because of the influence of other planets. The Gregorian calendar, which is used in most Western countries, has 365 days in a common year and 366 days in a leap year.

Why do solstices happen?

Winter and summer solstices happen simply because the Earth rotates on a sloping axis. As a result, the Earth's northern and southern hemispheres shift places by receiving direct light and heat from the sun.

Summer and winter solstice with hours of daylight and darkness in comparison.

Getty Images

What is the science behind the winter solstice?

The December solstice occurs when the sun is at its southernmost position, directly above the Tropic of Capricorn (when the North Pole is leaning further away from the sun).

The lack of exposure of the sun's rays makes the winter solstice the darkest day of the year.

How much sunlight will you have?

That depends on where you live. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it means that this will be the day with the least number of daylight hours. The further north you live from the equator, the less sunlight you will have.

For example, Fairbanks, Alaska, will have less than four hours of daylight during this period. Here is a time lapse video that shows how little sunshine the city sits during the winter solstice.

North of the Arctic Circle toward the North Pole, there is no direct sunlight during this time of year.

However, if you live in the southern hemisphere, it means it is the summer solstice and the longest day of the year.

Does the winter solstice have anything to do with Stonehenge?

The purpose of Stonehenge, which was built about 5,000 years ago, remains a mystery. However, there are theories that was designed to align with the sun, according to Salisbury Stonehenge Tours.

During the winter solstice, the structure is directly sunk towards the sunset (during the summer solstice, the sun rises on the heel stone of the structure and reaches the Alter Stone in the center).

That's why every year, thousands of people migrate to the prehistoric site to watch the sun rise and set.

Druids, pagans and revelers gather in the center of Stonehenge in the hope of seeing the sunrise as they attend a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient Neolithic monument of Stonehenge near Amesbury on December 22, 2017 in Wiltshire, England .

Is there a Christmas connection?

During Roman times, a day called "Saturnalia" was held in mid-December, and was an old pagan feast in honor of the agricultural god Saturn, according to And many of the celebrations that took place during this period are now used as Christmas traditions.

The celebration of the holiday Saturnalia came from older rituals related to the agriculture of the winter solstice and the winter solstice, especially the practice of offering gifts or sacrifices to the gods during the sowing season in the winter.

Saturnalia Romana, an old party celebrated on December 17-24, which consisted of wild revelry and people having fun to the fullest.

Getty Images

According to the BBC, during Saturlina, houses were decorated, parties were played and slaves did not have to work and were allowed to attend the festivities – it was a season of good will.

"The Christian Church has appropriated some pagan festivals and pagan activities," Sam Moorhead of the British Museum told the BBC.

There are other winter solstice traditions that correspond to Christmas celebrations.

The Scandinavians once celebrated Jól or Yule, a feast of several days marking the return of the sun god. In Britain, the Druids (part of ancient Celtic culture) celebrated the winter solstice by cutting the mistletoe of a tree with a gold scythe.

Druids Cutting the Mistletoe on the sixth day of the moon engraving of "Nos Gloires Nationales – Images et recits."

Stefano Bianchetti / Corbis via Getty Images

And the Cold Moon and the meteor shower this year?

The full December moon is known as Cold Moon and takes place on December 22 at 12:49 p.m. ET, according to NASA. (It is also known as the Long Night Moon because it usually happens near the winter solstice).

The last time the full moon aligned with the winter solstice was in 2010 and the next time that will happen will be in 2094.

TO SEE: & Quot; Cold Moon & quot; observers around the world in 2017

This also falls during the peak of the Ursid Meteor Shower, which occurs in the heights of December 21 and December 22. According to AccuWeather, it's just a "minor" meteor shower, and you may be able to see up to 10 "shooting stars" per hour.

The In the Sky website has a feature that helps you figure out where to watch and how many meteors you can see.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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