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Shortest day of year arrives

Posted 22 December 2011
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Shortest day of year arrives
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Today (December 22nd) is the shortest day of the year and those out on a pre-Christmas walk may be facing some of the biggest challenges of their navigational skills.

While some might be awaiting a sunrise around a stone circle in Wiltshire, walkers enjoying a chance to get away from the business of shopping and presents may be aware that the sun will set before 16:00 GMT in most of Britain.

And with the length of day varying by its least around the times of the solstice (which comes from the Latin 'sun still') the return of lighter days will be a slow and gradual one.

It means that as well as wearing warm winter jackets, torches will be needed in case of being caught out on the hills when the sun sets.

The shortest day is normally 21st December, but the extra quarter of a day per year in the Earth's orbit of the sun means it is the 22nd on the final solstice before a leap year.

Outdoor lovers looking forward to the light days of summer may note that while there is nowhere in England that the sun set after 22:00 BST, it does in most of Scotland, including after 22:30 BST in midsummer in extreme northern and westerly areas.