Two solstices occur on Earth every year, around June 21st and December 21st, often called the “June Solstice” and the “December Solstice” respectively. These solstices occur when the sun reaches its northernmost or southernmost point relative to the equator. During a solstice, the Northern Hemisphere will either experience the most sunlight of the year or the least sunlight of the year, while the Southern Hemisphere will experience the opposite phenomenon. The hemisphere with the most sunlight experiences a summer solstice, while the other hemisphere experiences a winter solstice.

Canada is located in the Northern Hemisphere and this Thursday, December 21st, we will be experiencing a winter solstice. As the day with the least sunlight, this will be the shortest day of the year and consequently the longest night of the year.

Here in Canada, the sun will reach its minimum elevation during the winter solstice, and it will reach its maximum elevation during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer solstice on the same day. 

How high in the sky does the sun really get during these solstices? Check out our new Maple Learn document, Winter and Summer Solstice Sun Angles to find out. The answer depends on your latitude; for instance, with a latitude of approximately 43.51°, the document helps us find that the maximum midday elevation of the sun, which occurs during a summer solstice, will be 69.99°.

But how is the latitude of a location determined in the first place? See Maple Learn’s Calculating Latitude document to find out how the star Polaris, the center of the Earth, and the equator are all connected to latitude.

Latitude is one of two geographical coordinates that are paired together to specify a position on Earth, the other being longitude. See our Calculating Longitude document to explore how you can use your local time to approximate your longitude.

Armed with these coordinates, you can describe your position on the planet and find any number of interesting facts, such as your solstice sun angles from earlier, the time for sunrise and sunset, and the position of the Moon.

Happy Winter Solstice!

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