Winter solstice: Why is it the shortest day of the year?

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The moon will help enliven the long night, and, as the US National Weather Service points out, we can now look forward to daylight increasing for the next six months.

Crowds gathered at Newgrange in Co Meath this morning for the Winter Solstice - the astronomical phenomenon that marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year.

That precise instant in time - in 2018, at 5:23 p.m. EST on December 21 - is the solstice.

In the southern hemisphere it's exactly the opposite story - the South Pole is pointing towards the Sun, making it summertime "down-under".

The solstice, which marks the start of winter, is actually a single moment in the Earth's orbit when the northern hemisphere is most inclined away from the sun. We will also see our final meteor shower of the year.

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The winter solstice in 2018 will occur at 10.23pm in London, at this time the sun will be directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere. But that doesn't mean temperatures will increase immediately.

There will be a winter trifecta the next few days with the winter solstice, a full moon and a meteor shower.

In addition, even as the days get longer, the oceans, which moderate temperatures on land, need a vast amount of energy from the sun to heat up.

How is the Winter Solstice observed throughout the world?

The most famous is in Stonehenge in England.

Elsewhere, a number of people opted to celebrate the shortest day of the year with a swim in the waters at Helen's Bay, Northern Ireland. Seattle Effective Altruists are holding a secular solstice celebration at The Factory Luxe in the historic Rainier Brewery building.