On the winter solstice, the sun is at its southernmost point in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere.
Credit: elod pali | Shutterstock.com
Winter officially kicks off Wednesday (Dec. 21), which marks the December solstice — the day with the fewest hours of sunlight of 2016.
Although the solstice gets an entire day of recognition, it happens in an instant: at 5:44 a.m. EST (10:44 GMT), when the North Pole is at its farthest tilt of 23.5 degrees away from the sun. This position leaves the North Pole beyond the sun's reach, and plunges it into total darkness, according to EarthSky.org.
At this moment, the sun will shine directly overhead at Noon at exactly 23.5 degrees south of the equator, along the imaginary latitude line known as the Tropic of Capricorn — a line that runs through Australia, Chile, southern Brazil and northern South Africa. This is the farthest south the sun will shine the entire year, which is why the Southern Hemisphere has its longest day of the year, and the Northern Hemisphere has its shortest day of the year on the winter solstice, according to EarthSky.