Happy Everything

> “Appreciation is a wonderful thing: it makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” -Voltaire

All over the world, there are celebrations going on today. Yes, it’s Christmas, but there’s a much older reason to celebrate. I’m not talking about Roman festivals, Ancient Greek celebrations, or even old Hebrew traditions, although I will give you the David Grisman Quintet’s classic,

Shalom Aleichem.

I’m talking about the sky. And not the night sky, either. If you want to see what the Sun does, day-from-day, all you need to do is construct a pinhole camera with a photographic plate on the back.

If you built one that recorded the Sun’s path for half-a-year — from Summer Solstice to Winter Solstice — what would you find?

You’d find — if you lived North of the Tropic of Cancer (or South of the Tropic of Capricorn) — that the Summer Solstice corresponded to the highest path in the sky.

(Image credits: Justin Quinell, with instructions here.)

And the lowest path is reached on the Winter Solstice. That means the fewest hours of daylight, the least amount of sunshine, and it gets worse the farther away from the equator you are! Check out this photo, on the Winter Solstice, from northern Alaska.

(Image credit: Ken Tape.)

But just when things are darkest, the next day brings with it an improvement, however slight. And the days gradually get longer. And the Sun gradually rises higher.

And — however you do it — that’s worth celebrating. So have a great holiday season, whenever and however you celebrate it, and best wishes from me to each and every one of you.

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URL: http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2010/12/weekend_diversion_happy_everyt.php

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