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The Winter Sun

by Steve Beyer on


Winter officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere, and summer south of the equator, at 5:44 a.m. EST the morning of Wednesday December 21. At that moment, the December solstice, the Sun is directly over a point in the Kalahari Desert at the Tropic of Capricorn, latitude 23° 26' South, longitude 18° 34' East.

Center-to-center distance between Earth and Sun then will be 91,442,528 miles. During the following two weeks our planet, progressing along its orbit, will move 38,197 miles closer to the Sun. When perihelion, the minimum separation, is reached on January 4, 2017, the Earth-Sun span will be just 91,404,331 miles. After that time, we move further apart until aphelion is reached on July 3.

Thursday December 22, a wide waning crescent Moon is in the constellation Virgo, about four degrees of arc from Jupiter. That planet shines vividly with reflected sunlight on that date from a distance of 530,126,000 miles.

The next night the lunar crescent will have moved east of Jupiter, marking the corner of a triangle also including Spica, brightest star in Virgo.

On that last day of 2016 the Sun will be in the constellation Sagittarius, with sunrise happening at 7:20 a.m. At solar noon, time of its maximum daily elevation, the Sun’s altitude above the New York City horizon is just 26° of arc.

Sunset arrives at 4:38 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Time between sunrise and sunset on that final day of the year will be nine hours and 18 minutes.