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December 21, 2011

Winter solstice

Winter and summer solstice imagesBecause of its design, updating this website keeps me in tune with the changing seasons.

Even if you're a regular visitor you may not have noticed that the height of the images on the home page changes throughout the year. While the width stays constant, the height varies based on the length of the day.

Tonight (actually 12:30 a.m. on the 22nd) marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The longest day is a similar date in June.

At right you see the homepage images from the 2010 summer and winter solstice, along with the actual length of each day. If you're one of those techy types, the ratio is 3 pixels = 1 minute.

Slowly changing

The good news is that from now until June 22nd the days will get longer and longer. Right around the solstice the change is slow, only a few seconds per day. By March the rate of change will peak at nearly 3 minutes per day, only to begin slowing again as we near the summer solstice.

This is the sort of thing we'd all notice if we were hunter-gatherers, depending on the rhythm of nature for survival. Not much need for that as we sit in front of our computers, but I for one still find it fascinating.

The simple act of keeping track of this pattern of the universe makes me feel more a part of it, somehow both magical and comforting.

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