Saturday is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year (kinda) | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Saturday is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year (kinda)

Obsesrvers will gather on Munson Mountain in Penticton on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, to mark the shortest day of the year as the sun sets with a ceremony on top of the mountain starting around 2:45 to 3 p.m.
December 18, 2019 - 6:00 AM

Saturday, Dec. 21 marks the winter solstice in Kamloops and the Okanagan. At 11:19 Eastern Standard Time, or 8:19 Pacific Time, the Sun reaches its farthest southern point in the sky, marking the official beginning of winter.

December 21 is also the longest night of the year, although in northern latitudes such as here in Southern B.C., the earliest sunset actually occurred around Dec.11, and the latest sunrise won’t happen until early January.

That’s because the exact time of solar noon shifts in a seasonal way, according to

While a clock ticks off 24 hours from one noon to the next, the actual day, as measured by the spin of the Earth, is rarely exactly 24 hours long.

The result is the sun reaches its solar noon position at different times than the clock noon position.

At the approach of winter solstice, the sun reaches its noontime position several minutes earlier than clock noon. At the winter solstice, the sun will reach its noontime positions several minutes later.

The result is a later clock time for sunrise and sunset.

There is a unique opportunity in the South Okanagan to witness the beginning of winter as observers gather on Munson Mountain where an annual winter solstice ceremony takes place on Dec. 21.

Small stones, nicknamed “Pen Henge” and known as “sunset markers” are aligned to show the position of the sun setting over the west horizon during the winter and summer solstices and spring and fall equinox.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada says this year’s gathering will take place on Munson Mountain around 2:45 to 3 p.m. to mark the Saturday, Dec. 21 sunset at 3:27 p.m.

If the sun is shining, the sun’s shadow will extend from the winter solstice stone to the heel stone in the Pen Henge display.

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