Winter solstice 2018: What is it and what makes this year so unique

File photo (Pixabay)

You have probably heard of the winter solstice but if you don't know much about it, well, you may not even notice it.

The winter solstice is an astronomical event that takes place every year on the Earth's tilt away from the sun. The winter solstice is simply a moment of time, astronomically speaking. This happens when the tilt of the North Pole is positioned the farthest away from the sun which then leads to less daylight in the Northern Hemisphere.

This year, the solstice occurs at 5:23 p.m. on Friday, December 21, Eastern Time. At that time, the sun appears directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, at exactly 23.5 degrees south latitude.

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Since the Northern Hemisphere is furthest away from the sun during the winter solstice, we see the shortest day and longest night of the year. The exact opposite takes place for the Southern Hemisphere--The summer solstice starts the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere on December 21.

Meteorological winter is different than astronomical winter, which starts on December 1st. Meteorologists define winter by the three calender months that experience the lowest average temperatures. This corresponds to December, January and February in the Northern Hemisphere, and June, July and August in the Southern Hemisphere.

If you don't like the darkness, don't worry. Right after the solstice, we begin seeing more and more daylight for the next 6 months--until the Summer Solstice in late June, which is when we see the most amount of daylight hours.

Not only that, but this solstice will be a little brighter than usual. On December 22 at 12:49 pm, the first full day of winter will coincide with the December full moon, also known as the Long Night's moon or the Cold Moon. The last time we've had a full moon and the winter solstice occur less than a day apart was back in 2000. According to Earthsky, the next occurrence won't happen until 2029.

Along with the full moon, the annual Ursids meteor shower is expected to peak a day or two after the solstice. With the full moon and clouds expected to be around, it may be hard to view this event here in central Ohio.