Poster credit: Azhy Hasan (Download print version)


This year AWB’s Solstice Celebration, Seasons Without Borders 4, will occur on 21 December, 2010, officially at 23:38 UTC.  As if by magic, the yin and yang of the seasons will happen simultaneously as the Northern Hemisphere experiences its shortest day while the Southern Hemisphere celebrates its longest day of the year.  This date is also called the first day of Winter in the north and the first day of Summer in the south.

The name “Solstice” comes from the Latin words “sol,” meaning “sun,” and “sistere,” meaning “to cause to stand still.”  Thus, on the December solstice the sun appears to stand still in its day-by-day progress southward.  As we approach solstice, the Sun sets earlier and earlier in the north, and later and later in the Southern Hemisphere.  In reality, the Sun reaches its southernmost declination of -23.5 degrees on 21 December, so that it appears at its lowest above the southern horizon in the Northern Hemisphere and highest above the northern horizon in the Southern Hemisphere.

That’s life on a spinning, orbiting sphere.  This cycle reminds us that “To everything there is a season.”  People in the North will experience the coldest season of the year, with darker skies and colder temperatures.  For them, it is the Winter Solstice—the part of the year’s cycle that ushers in the dormancy required by many species in order to survive from year to year (just as night is needed so that people and animals can have the healing hours of sleep astronomers can see the stars).

The Southern Hemisphere, though, is at the same time coming out of the cooler temperatures of its Spring and experiencing warmer, longer days of sunshine.  Snow-covered areas may be melting and the ground will become dryer.  Harvests and growing seasons will continue to prevail until the onset of their autumn—in March or April.

So, wherever you are on 21 December 2010, celebrate your season in the cycle of life with Astronomers Without Borders.  Enjoy your unique Solstice this year (perhaps combined with a view of the Total Lunar Eclipse earlier on the same day)…and why not tell others about the experience?  Being mindfully aware of your place on this moving Earth may bring out the storyteller and poet in you.  We welcome you to share your event reports and poems at the AWB Members' Blog and AWB Astropoetry Blog.