When Exactly is Australia’s Winter Solstice This Year?

When Exactly is Australia’s Winter Solstice This Year?

The mercury is dropping, which means the words ‘winter is coming’ have never been truer. And as winter approaches, so does the 2024 winter solstice, or what some people may know as the “shortest day of the year” in Australia.

The winter solstice is one of those events that comes around every year, but maybe you’re not fully aware of what it actually means. Let’s break it down.

What is the winter solstice?

winter solstice australia

The solstices and equinoxes are used to signal the change in seasons and are all based on the tilt of the Earth as it travels around the sun.

Basically, when the Earth rotates around the sun, it does so while it’s slightly off-centre. That’s why we get different seasons. Here’s how Encyclopaedia Britannica explains it:

The seasons on Earth change because the planet is slightly tilted on its axis as it travels around the Sun. This means different points on Earth receive more or less sunlight at different times of year. If Earth were not tilted, the Sun would always appear to be directly above the Equator, the amount of light a given location receives would be fixed, and there would be no seasons.

So when it comes to the solstices and equinoxes, these mark the occasions the Earth’s poles are at their maximum tilt either towards or away from the sun. The summer and winter solstices also occur at opposite times depending on which hemisphere you’re in.

So, when we in experience the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere, those in the northern hemisphere will enjoy the summer solstice.

Is it really the shortest day of the year?

winter solstice australia
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The winter solstice technically does mark the shortest day of the year, but this doesn’t mean there are fewer hours or minutes that make up the day. It also doesn’t mean this is the day when the sun rises at its latest or sets at its earliest.

As Geoscience Australia explains:

Because the path of the Earth around the Sun is an ellipse, not a circle, and because the Earth is off-centre on its axis, these combined phenomena can create up to several minutes difference between solar and mean time. Around the date of summer solstice, these effects make the Sun appear to move slightly slower than expected when measured by a watch or clock.

As a result, the earliest sunrise occurs before the date of the summer solstice, and the latest sunset happens after the summer solstice. For the same reasons, around the winter solstice, the time of sunrise continues to get later in the days after the solstice.

When we refer to the shortest day of the year, we’re actually talking about the number of daylight hours. The winter solstice is the day where we’ll see the least amount of daylight in 24 hours, due to the tilt of the Earth.

When is the 2024 winter solstice in Australia?

winter solstice australia
Image: iStock

The winter solstice is taking place on Friday, June 21, 2024.

As it’s the shortest day of the year, we’ll experience roughly 9 hours and 53 minutes of daylight in Sydney, although this varies depending on how far north or south you are. Hobart will have the lowest number of daylight hours around the country, with just 9 hours of light.

You can check out your city’s daylight hours over at Time and Date.

This is roughly 4 hours and 31 minutes less than the longest day of the year, which occurs on the summer solstice in December.

There’s not really much to do on the winter solstice except pack some extra layers and prepare to head to and from work in the dark.

This article has been updated since its original publish date.

Lead Image Credit: HBO

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