Even though I’m still in denial that it is in fact December,
Christmas and New Year’s Day are almost upon us. People have a lot on their minds at this time of year, and one of those things might be New Year’s Resolutions. As we approach the end of our calendar year and see the clean slate of the New Year ahead, we tend to think about what changes we want to make for the coming year. While it is awesome to resolve to be a better person and have a better year than the previous one, we should do this a little bit differently. Instead of having New Year’s Resolutions, let’s have Revolution Resolutions*.
Really, nothing astronomically interesting happens to make New Year’s Day, but something astronomical does happen at the Winter Solstice, the Vernal or Spring Equinox, the Summer Solstice, and the Autumnal Equinox. These are four days in Earth’s revolution around the Sun in which the Sun appears at the northernmost point above Earth, at the equator, or at the southernmost point, and marks the start of our seasons.
The Winter Solstice is…now. (Darn it! I meant to get this post up sooner!) In 2011, the December solstice occurred on Wednesday, December 21, at 11:30 p.m. CST (Thursday, December 22 at 5:30 UTC). It is generally acknowledged as the shortest day and longest night of the year for us Northern Hemispherians. We have been watching the Sun make a southward journey along the horizon at sunrise and sunset; the Sun has now reached its southernmost point at 23 ½ degrees south of the equator to shine above the Tropic of Capricorn. From this point onward (until the June solstice, anyway), the days will start getting longer again, and the Sun will begin its northward journey along the horizon. So, this is a great time to celebrate, and a great time to do resolutions.
A benefit to doing resolutions at the solstices and equinoxes instead of at New Year’s is that we get more opportunities to resolve to make things or ourselves better. If we mess up, we only have three months till the next season, instead of a whole year. Our lists don’t have to be as long or ambitious, and therefore not as intimidating. You could also match your resolutions to the season, so you could have seasonal goals.
If you need an sample resolution for this Winter Solstice Resolution List, might I suggest, “Learn more about astronomy” or “Teach a kid more about astronomy?” Doing Revolution Resolutions with your kids might be a good way to help connect your child with the seasons.
*I first got the idea of Revolution Resolutions from my undergrad astronomy professor. Thanks, Dr. Joe!