The Winter Solstice arrives on Wednesday at 5:44 am. It marks the northern hemisphere’s greatest axial tilt away from the sun, producing the fewest number of hours of daylight. We gain 3 minutes at sunset this week but that’s offset by the 3 minutes we lose with later sunrises. So all in all, Wednesday is officially the shortest day with just 9h 20m 2s of daylight; beating out Tuesday by 1 second!
The end of the year brings several Solstice celebrations. Hannukah, Saturnalia, Christmas, Kwanzaa: All use candles as part of ceremonies to encourage the return of sunlight at this darkest portion of the year for northern cultures.
Venus and Mars are still bright in the southwest at dusk. Venus is almost exactly 100 times brighter than Mars. The Moon, Jupiter and the bright star Spica line up in the pre-dawn sky at 6 a.m. Thursday morning.