“The Winter Solstice is the time of ending and beginning, a powerful time — a time to contemplate your immortality. A time to forgive, to be forgiven, and to make a fresh start. A time to awaken.” -Frederick Lenz
Monday, December 21st is going to be a great day. Not only is it the Winter Solstice but about an hour after sunset you will be able to witness the "Christmas Star". The Winter Solstice will be the shortest day of 2020 and the longest night. It is also the first day of winter. Mankind has always celebrated the Winter and Summer Solstice. Think of Stonehenge and numerous places in North America where Native Americans would mark and celebrate the solstices. It is winter, but it is natures birth of a new year.
The Christmas Star is the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn. It is said to be the bright star that led the three wisemen to the newly born Jesus 2,000 years ago. The last time we had a winter star as bright as this was 800 years ago.
We live in an era of digital time, and there never seems to be enough of it. But we should not overlook nature's time and fail to celebrate the Winter Solstice. For many years now, I have found someplace quiet to celebrate, to forgive, to be forgiven, to think about my mortality, the past and consider the future. Sometimes it’s cold; sometimes it’s overcast, but the sun will set and I know after the longest night, the sun will rise again. The days will get longer and it will be a time to awaken.
Happy Winter Solstice.
To read more about viewing and photographing the Winter Solstice and the Christmas Star click here.
If you live in the St Louis region we may be in luck for witnessing and photographing a Winter Solstice Sunset and the Christmas Star. According to the Weather Channel Forecasts the evening skies will be clear. It will be cool, probably about 30 degrees after sunset. I've been told the Christmas Star should be seen about an hour after sunset. I suggest you find a flat place such as a field or park where you can view a low horizon for both events. Hills to the west could block both the sunset and Christmas Star. In the St Louis area two of my favorite locations are the Columbia Bottoms Conservation Area (just north of St Louis where the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers meet and the Busch Wildlife Conservations Area (St Charles County south of St Charles off highway 94). One of the benefits of both these locations is you can find numerous places where you can park you car and set up your photo equipment close by. It's always nice to have a warm car as you wait.
If you want to take photos a tripod is needed, especially for the Christmas Star. I like wide angle photos for the sunset and telephotos shots for the Christmas Star. I also like to have a lake or an interesting foreground feature in the sunset photos. Set your camera to AUTO ISO and the cameras exposure system will get you in the ball park. You will probably still need to make some cameras adjustments to the exposure. You may want to read up on exposure compensation in your cameras user manual if you are not familiar with it..
I hope you take a few minutes this Winter Solstice to find a quiet place to celebrate nature's years end. Let's let go of this year with a fresh start. Don’t live the same year over and over and call it a life. Starting with this Winter Solstice, awaken to a new life growing with hope and promise.