Winter Solstice being livestreamed from Newgrange this morning

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Today's Winter Solstice 2017 Google doodle brings back the animated mouse that has made an appearance on Google's homepage for each of the equinox and now both solstice dates. Central Time on December 21st.

It's December 21 - that means winter is here and it will be the shortest day of the year.

You probably know that the earth orbits the sun on a tilted axis and that in the Northern Hemisphere peak sunlight happens between June 20 and 22, on the summer solstice, while in the Southern Hemisphere peak sunlight occurs between December 20 and 22, for their summer solstice. The event is thought to be even more important than the summer solstice in the pagan calendar because it marks the "re-birth" of the sun for the new year.

Stonehenge is an ancient monument in England that is often mentioned in the same breath as the winter solstice.

SOLSTICE SACRAMENTS A ceremony of light takes place at Newgrange for the Winter Solstice. Misty conditions blocked the solstice sunrise from entering the chamber
Winter solstice, the 'shortest' day of the year, arrives Thursday

The short day length is created as the earth orbits the sun.

The word "solstice" comes from the Latin words sol sistere, which means "sun standing still".

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it's the day with the shortest amount of daylight - less than 12 hours - and our longest night of the year. Sunrise was at 8.03am GMT and sunset is at 3.53pm.

Because the Earth is tilted on its axis at a 23.4-degree angle, the planet experiences different seasons throughout the year. As we begin to leave the time of darkness and gradually return to longer, brighter days, it's also a time to think more gratefully about darkness, the rich fecund darkness out of which all life is born. Eastern Time on Thursday, Dec. 21.

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Just to give you a few checkpoints along the way, we're under 9 hours of daylight for today, and we'll gain very little (only about a minute or so per day) until January 8th, with 9 hours and 9 minutes of daylight.

EarthSky said: "You might notice how low the sun appears in the sky at local noon".

So far we have only considered the tilt of the Earth.

Learn more about the solstice and why it's not the coldest day of the year in our scientific guide below.

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This delay in the arrival of our coldest temperatures is better known as seasonal lag.

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