Winter Solstice

At 00:22 GMT on December 22nd, the world will celebrate once more its free annual trip around the sun. This equates to 18:22 (6:22 PM EDT) 19:22 (7:22 PM EST) December 21st for those of us sitting on the east coast of the United States.

To commemorate this occasion, and its companion solstice during the summer, I usually provide my office mates with a few dozen Dunkin Donuts. This both let’s them know that the zenith of the sun will be rising again, and that I disdain their too-sweet Krispy Kremes.

Perhaps I will stand eggs on their ends inside the donuts to round out the occasion.

Whatever you do, even if it is a pale shadow of the Christmas and New Year’s holiday celebrations, make sure you remember the significance of this event. We are whizzing through space at a speed that is literally mindblowing, following a path ~942 million kilometers long every year. Standing on this big ball of rock coated in a skin of air, most of us have difficulty comprehending that it is a ball, and not a plane. Wrapping your mind around that is difficult, but doable with images from planes and spacecraft. Imagining the distances invovled within the solar system becomes much more abstract, and trying to encompass galactic or intergalactic scales is nearly impossible. The solstices (and equinoxes) are a good time to remember where we stand in the great scheme of things, “Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy…”* But despite our cosmic insignificance, we are here and equipped to wonder why we are so insignificant, and that’s something.

*Douglas Adams, The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy.

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