The Longest Nights

The December solstice occurred yesterday at about 8:30 am EST. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, that means we are experiencing the longest nights of the year. For the next six months, the amount of daylight will increase every day until the next solstice on June 21. So, if you’re in the northern hemisphere and you’ve already had enough cold weather, take heart knowing that the amount of daylight is now getting longer each day!

You may know that the December solstice is the day when the sun rises and sets at the southernmost points on the horizon. Between now and June 21, the sunset and sunrise occur at progressively more northern points on the horizon. You may also know that sun doesn’t get very high in the sky in the winter. Check it out sometime over the next several days. Look at where the sun is in the sky at about noon. Then do the same near the June solstice, making sure to note the sun’s position at the same time of day (you may need to set a reminder in your calendar so you don’t forget). You’ll see that the sun is dramatically higher at the same time of day in June than it is in December. Of course, the opposite will be true in the southern hemisphere. Cool, huh?

Solstices used to play an important role in the affairs of humans. Some cultures even built structures and devices that seem to have been constructed with an awareness of solstices and may have even been used to predict them. One of the best-known examples is Stonehenge, which took many generations to build and which is aligned in a way that marks the location of the southernmost sunrise on the day of the December solstice. Imagine something so important today that we would spend generations building it! I don’t think so.

The solstice doesn’t mean as much today. Nonetheless, I wanted to celebrate this December solstice by offering a gift to you. Back in August, we experienced a total eclipse of the sun. Remember? You may have heard a thing or two about it from me and others. Well, back then, I promised my Facebook community that I would share a high-resolution version of one of my eclipse images. I had not done that yet, so I figured the solstice would be a good opportunity. The image I selected for my gift is entitled “Precious Totality.” In it, you can see the solar corona stretching out from the blackened disk of the moon. This link will take you to a Dropbox folder where you can download the file, which is large enough to make a print that is 11” x 14” or to use as a desktop on your computer display. By now, I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of eclipse pictures, but I hope the high-resolution version of “Precious Totality” has details that you may not have seen in low-resolution images that are common on the internet. Trust me, this image took a lot of work to create, so enjoy it, and feel free to share it with your friends. Yes, it’s free. My only condition is that you don’t sell it or make money on it (if you have some ideas, let me know and we’ll work out a commission deal!). One final note about the image: it’s monochrome, so it should display and print without any color casts. If not, then your printer or display may be the problem. If this is the case for you, feel free to contact me for advice.

Let me know if you have any questions about the download.

Wherever you are and whatever season it is for you on this solstice, I wish you all the best!

Precious Totality

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