Hundreds expected at Stonehenge for Winter Solstice
Wednesday 22 December 2010
Hundreds of people are expected at Stonehenge in Wiltshire to see the sun rise on the winter solstice.
The solstice annually attracts an eclectic mix - Druids, hippies, sun worshippers and those who are curious to experience the ancient festival.
Members of the public will also visit the site, near Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, hoping to see the sun rise through the ancient stones.
The shortest day of the year often falls on December 21, but this year the druid and pagan community will mark the first day of winter on Wednesday because the modern calendar of 365 days a year - with an extra day every four years - does not correspond exactly to the solar year of 365.2422 days.
Peter Carson of English Heritage said: "We are delighted to offer people a warm welcome to Stonehenge this Winter Solstice.
"Over the years, the event has grown from a handful of people to a celebration enjoyed by a couple of thousand of people. We work very closely with the Druid and Pagan community to ensure that the event is a success."
The word solstice comes from the Latin phrase for "sun stands still". During the winter solstice the sun is closer to the horizon than at any other time during the year, meaning shorter days and longer nights.
The day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days leading up to the summer solstice in June. The sun's passage through the sky appears to become stationary, with the sun seeming to rise and set in the same two places for several days.
Then the arc begins growing longer and higher in the sky, reaching its peak at the summer solstice. The solstices happen twice a year because the Earth is tilted by 23.5 degrees as it orbits the sun. Since ancient times people have marked the winter and summer solstices. The stones at Stonehenge are aligned with the sunlight on both the summer and winter solstice.
These times told prehistoric farmers that harvest was coming or that the shortest day of winter had past. Recent excavations of animal bones at the site suggest that huge midwinter feasts were held at Stonehenge with cattle moved there to be slaughtered for the solstice celebrations.
South Korea ferry passengers who were told to stay put 'got trapped' aboard sinking ship
Undertaker dead hoax: WWE legend not 'found dead in home' as Facebook and Twitter reports
Are beards attractive? Ryan Gosling says yes, but science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge and find out who's right
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness 'unqualified' to testify
Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper Andre Johnson severed his penis and jumped from LA building
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for auction...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Big Bang Theory to get special Star Wars episode with help from Lucasfilm
- 3 Babies cry at night to stop mothers procreating, scientists claim
- 4 Pharrell Williams 'Happy': British Muslims dance to song in video
- 5 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...
£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...