Celestial Darkness Begins to Recede as Human Darkness Surges

Celestial Darkness Begins to Recede as Human Darkness Surges
Photo: Johannes Simon, Getty Images

You’d be forgiven for feeling blue today, what with Omicron ruining Christmas and Joe Manchin ruining everything else. But I say, rejoice! For today is the first day in six months when we can say, geophysically at least, that brighter days are ahead.

Tuesday, December 21, is the winter solstice, the official start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, yes, but also the end of the Sun increasingly betraying humanity’s inherent desire for light. From today through June 21, the number of hours of daylight will increase. That also means it’s the shortest day of the year for us Northern Hemispherers — and, thus, tomorrow promises a sliver more sunlight than today.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs when the North Pole tilts approximately 23.5 degrees away from the Sun, a figure that changes extremely slightly over a period of about 41 millennia thanks to Earth’s wobble. The winter solstice is also when the Sun is right-smack above the Tropic of Capricorn.

The exact times of the winter and summer solstices vary slightly each year (because the length of an Earth year is 365.24 days, which gives us leap years with an extra day; the next leap year is 2024). This year, the winter solstice occurred at exactly 10:59 am EST, according to the National Weather Service.

While the days will now begin to get longer for everyone above the Tropic of Capricorn, the rate at which the minutes of sunlight will expand remains frustratingly sluggish and depends on where, latitudinally, your home is on Earth. But have patience!

Soon, “the evening” will once again mean a time of day when it should be dark and not an hour before you’re finished working when it decidedly should not be dark. (The period of darkness through which we all just suffered remains the fault of Congress, which refuses to allow the many states that wisely wish to remain on Daylight Saving Time year-round to do so.) You may once again log off and emerge from your lonely hovel into the crisp winter sunlight to walk your dog on glistening, frost-covered grass, grab a bite to eat under a propane heat lamp set up over a picnic table in a bus lane, or perhaps take a nice solo stroll through the forest in furtherance of your mission to avoid human contact at all cost or risk nothing short of death. No flashlight required!