Starry Night This Week

Each week most PBS stations air "Jack Horkheimer: Star Gazer", the world's first and only weekly TV series on naked-eye astronomy. The Starry Night images on this page illustrate the show for the week of Monday December 8, 2008. You can view the complete show script, or watch a RealPlayer video of the show.

Why Doesn't The Shortest Day Of The Year
Feel Like The Shortest Day Of the Year?

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year because so much of the Sun's path through the sky is hidden by the Earth itself.

This image shows the Sun's path on the Winter Solstice as seen from a latitude of 43 degrees North.

The Sun rises just before eight o'clock in the morning, slightly east of the southeast compass point.

At mid-day it reaches its highest point south, a bit higher than 20 degrees, or less than the width of your splayed hand held at arm's length.

It sets at a quarter to five in the afternoon, just west of the southwest compass point.

Compare this to the Summer Solstice, when the Sun rises and sets almost as far north as the northeast and southeast points, respectively, and its highest mid-day altitude will be 66 degrees up!