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.
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
Irish tourist filmed fighting with shopkeepers in Turkey says they 'messed with the wrong man'
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal get peerages
Moody neurotics are more likely to be creative geniuses, study says
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...
£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...
£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...