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Mystery & Drama

The Winter Solstice at Cape Newagen

Sunrise between the stones at Stonehenge on th...

Sunrise between the stones at Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice in the mid 1980s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Winter Solstice officially arrived a little after six this morning.  I was awake but I didn’t see the sunrise. Our house is positioned so that as you look out the windows towards the ocean, you are looking generally southwest. This evening, I’ll be able to view the sunset if there is no fog.

English: Highworth cemetery at the winter sols...

English: Highworth cemetery at the winter solstice The shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere falls between the 20th and 23rd December depending on the year. In 2007 the solstice occurred on the 22nd with the period between sunrise and sunset being 7 hours 49 minutes and 40 seconds. The sun set in London at 15.54 today, 22 minutes after this picture was taken. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the great pleasures of living on the coast is being able to gaze out at an expanse of water at islands in the distance,  and at vessels moving about.  We have a lot of lobstermen who ply these water all year long, often coming in within a couple of hundred feet of our shoreline.  In summer, some pretty spectacular sailboats move across the vista with the wind.

Fresnel lens

Fresnel lens (Photo credit: R.B. Boyer)

We have Seguin Island directly to our front across seven miles of sea water. Seguin provides perspective and wonder, especially a little before nightfall, when the Fresnel light comes on.  The light house is one of the highest along the eastern seaboard.

With such an expanse of open water, we can also appreciate as never before (We’re both from the Midwest, and lived a long time in New Jersey before moving here to Maine.)  the physical phenomena of seasons.  It’s one thing to read about these things, and another altogether to observe exactly where on the horizon the sun sets.  And of course, today’s sunset will mark an end point on the horizon, the point at which the sun drops out of view on the shortest day of the year. From now until the Summer Solstice, the sunset point will shift slightly day by day going left to right as we see it.

English: Castle Hill summer solstice sunset Ca...

English: Castle Hill summer solstice sunset Castle Hill’s Victoria Tower silhouetted against the setting sun at the summer solstice on 21 June 1990. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve thought about marking the end points somehow on our shore.  There’s a very large rock I could use as the observation point. Then I would need to position another semi large rock further out front to mark the end points of the Winter and Summer Solstices. But, even if I could move rocks around so easily, there would be nothing permanent about the arrangement, since storms on the coast regularly rearrange everything. A better idea is to simply pick out points on the horizon where the solstice sunset drops out of view.  Not a good solution either, alas.  It would be impossible to do, and it would have zero precision. The important thing is to simply know that it happens, I guess.

The Winter Solstice is the best of all the celestial points, seems to me. It marks the point at which days start getting longer again here. Celebrate!

Watch an Irish Winter Solstice (bridgetwhelan.com)

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