Winter solstice brings shortest day of year

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iol scitech june 21 winter solstice

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File photo: You probably didnt notice the exact moment when the Sun halted its southwards march and started its northwards journey again.

Yes, you did deserve a few moments longer under the duvet yesterday because it was the official winter solstice – but actually, you deserved it more this morning because today is in fact shorter, at least in terms of daylight hours.

You probably didn’t notice the exact moment when the Sun halted its southwards march and started its northwards journey again.

Why? Because that occurred at 1.08am (or 1.09am, if you prefer your information from Wikipedia instead of the local Sky Guide to SA) on Wednesday.

No, of course the Sun doesn’t really move – the changing seasons are the result of Earth’s axis being tilted from perpendicular by 23.45° as it journeys around the Sun every year.

According to the tables on the SA Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) website, produced on software from the US Naval Observatory, sunrise in Cape Town on the solstice yesterday was at 7.51am and sunset was at 5.45pm.

This gave nine hours and 54 minutes of daylight.

These tables are rounded off to the nearest minute.

Therefore, they are not astronomically accurate, but they give the latest sunrise of the year as occurring one minute later at 7.52am, and that happens at the same time each day from today until July 7.

Today has the least amount of daylight – nine hours and 53 minutes, or one minute less than yesterday – with sunrise at 7.52am and sunset at 5.45pm. - Cape Argus

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