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The Shortest Day

It all gets better from here…. it can still get colder, of course – I think that in many places in the northern hemisphere late January is generally colder than late December – but at least from now on the days are getting lighter, and tells me that winter will end.

Not that we see much sun here in winter, even on good days. I live in Sheffield, in the county of South Yorkshire in England, at a latitude of approximately 53 degrees and maybe 20 minutes north. What this means is that on the winter solstice sunrise is at 8:22 and sunset at 15:46 – that’s just under seven and a half hours of daylight. And the sun only rises between 14 and 15 degrees above the horizon today. (See below for the formula to work out how high the sun rises where you live on both of the solstices!) So not much sunshine.

But at least today we’ve got some sunshine. For the last several days it has just been grey and cold, and you wouldn’t really say that it got light at all. But today is bright and sunny for the first time for a week or more, and I think everybody enjoys that.

That formula? – it’s 90 minus your latitude, then for the summer solstice add 22.5, while for the winter solstice subtract 22.5. So today, for me here in Sheffield, the sum is:

(90 – 53.3) – 22.5 = 14.2

The answer is in degrees above the horizon. That’s in the northern hemisphere, of course – in the southern hemisphere the signs for the 22.5 adjustment (which is the angle of the earth’s inclination) should be reversed.

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