Snowy Google Doodle marks winter solstice

A brilliant full moon rises at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2017.                  NASA  Kim Shiflett

A brilliant full moon rises at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2017. NASA Kim Shiflett

The solstice marks the astronomical start of winter, whereas, in the Southern Hemisphere, December 21 marks the start of summer.

The first day of winter, Friday, Dec. 21, will not be your typical winter solstice.

Because of that tilt, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres are tilted either toward or away from the sun at different times of the year as the Earth makes its orbit around its closest star.

In the south, it's just the reverse though.

The day of the winter solstice features the least amount of possible daylight hours and the longest night in the Northern Hemisphere.

But in the United Kingdom (and rest of the northern hemisphere) it means the sun rising earlier and setting later as we journey again towards the spring equinox. So you might want to get a good look on Friday night and again on Sunday night when the skies are expected to be a bit clearer.

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The English Heritage celebrates the winter solstice at Stonehenge on the meteorologically accurate date which will this year fall on December 22.

The Ursids meteor shower will be visible tonight. The best viewing with most meteor showers happens in the hours prior to sunrise (midnight to 5 a.m.) and under a dark sky.

A full moon will occur December 22, bringing a bright light to the start of winter.

Winter Solstice has been celebrated in cultures the world over for thousands of years. Crowds selected by lottery wait for a chance to see the sunrise light up the ancient passage tomb.

In China, where they call the Winter Solstice Dongzhi Festival, people enjoy rice balls called tang yuan, which translates to "family reunion". It's really a case of "Sunny side down" for the Earth today!

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