Panoramic View of Etna and the Winter Solstice

March 28, 2022


Photographer: Rosario Catania

Summary Author: Rosario Catania

Long ago, ancient civilizations observed the path of the Sun through the sky varied depending on the time of year. Instead of remaining uniform across the year, the Sun’s daily solar angle for a given location on the Earth correlates with the seasons. This solar trend occurs annually while the Sun’s angle above the horizon gradually increases throughout the spring before reaching its maximum point in summer when its ascent appears to stop. The reverse trend is true as the Sun’s path decreases throughout autumn before reaching an annual minimum daily angle in winter when its decent again appears to stop.

This stopping in Latin is called "sol sister" meaning "stopping of the sun", hence the name solstice. Over the course of the year, this difference in daily solar angle horizon also affects the length of the day, which results in shorter days and longer nights in winter and vice versa in summer. Therefore, the day of the winter solstice will correspond to the minimum duration of the day and the maximum duration of the night. The solstice occurs at a very precise moment and in 2021 that moment was December 21st at 4:59 PM local time, with a day length of 9 hours and 35 minutes. At 8:58 AM on December 21, the panoramic image shown above was taken with a 180° view. The photo shows the view from Nicolosi, featuring the snow-capped volcano Etna with the Sun to the east (to the right of the image), and the Moon just below the horizon to the west, in a diametrically opposite position. Solstice day is an opportunity to shoot both celestial bodies in the sky, either with a panoramic photo or with a fisheye lens.


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