Winter Solstice 2016 - Australia - New Zealand

Winter Solstice 2016 - Australia - New ZealandWinter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere this is the December solstice and in the Southern Hemisphere this is the June solstice. The axial tilt of Earth and gyroscopic effects of its daily rotation mean that the two opposite points in the sky to which the Earth's axis of rotation points (axial precession) change very slowly (making a complete circle approximately every 26,000 years). As the Earth follows its orbit around the Sun, the polar hemisphere that faced away from the Sun, experiencing winter, will, in half a year, face towards the Sun and experience summer. This is because the two hemispheres face opposite directions along Earth's axis, and so as one polar hemisphere experiences winter, the other experiences summer.

More evident from high latitudes, a hemisphere's winter solstice occurs on the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest. The winter solstice itself lasts only a moment in time, so other terms are used for the day on which it occurs, such as "midwinter", or the "shortest day". It is often considered the "extreme of winter" (Dongzhi in the Chinese calendar). In meteorology, winter in the Northern Hemisphere spans the entire period of December through February. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. The earliest sunset and latest sunrise dates differ from winter solstice, however, and these depend on latitude, due to the variation in the solar day throughout the year caused by the Earth's elliptical orbit (see earliest and latest sunrise and sunset).

Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied across cultures, but many have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time. Thousands of people have braved the cold in Melbourne's Dandenong Ranges to celebrate the winter solstice. A crowd of around 10,000 was expected to attend the parade at the 10th Belgrave Lantern Festival, held annually on the weekend closest to the southern hemisphere's longest night. "Even though it's a cold night, to have people filling up the main street ... it's just a really heart-warming event," Marina Scott from the Belgrave Traders Association told 774 ABC Melbourne's Red Symons. The event provided the perfect opportunity for young families from the local area to venture out at night. Lanterns in the shape of a TARDIS and a Dalek from the television show Doctor Who were among the creations paraded in celebration of Australia being halfway out of the dark. Other lanterns represented fauna common to the Dandenong Ranges, including a cockatoo and a dragonfly.

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