An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

sky background image

Celebrate the Solstice! (And a Happy New Year!)

by Geoff Chester, USNO Public Affairs | 19 December 2023

by Geoff Chester, USNO Public Affairs | 19 December 2023

NGC 2244, the "Rosette Nebula" in Monoceros, imaged 2021 March 7
at Turner Mountain, Halfway, Virginia
with an Explore Scientific AR102 10.2-cm (4-inch) f/6.5 refractor
and a Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR
‘Tis the Night Before Christmas and up in the dome
We eagerly wait for the nightfall to come.
The slit has been opened, the lens cap’s been stowed
The night sky awaits like a wide-open road.

The solstice will pass on the 21st day,
The Sun’s southernmost point on his orbital way.
The year’s longest nights are upon us right now
But they start to get longer when the Yule log’s aglow.

The Moon is now waxing, climbs north in the sky
Her full phase approaches as Christmas draws nigh.
Her bright light guides Santa as he makes his way
While she sheds extra light on the year’s shortest days.

Saturn now shines in the twilight’s last glow,
With much brighter Jupiter behind him in tow.
The ringed planet soon sets in the southwestern sky
While Old Jove keeps beaming ‘til the wee hours march by.

The Great Winter Circle shines high in the night
With bright stars a-twinkling with all of their might.
Their colors add contrast to enhance the dark sky
While over our heads they waft quietly by.

Orion is rising high up in the east,
Shield raised in defiance of Taurus the beast.
The Great Winter Circle surrounds his bold shape, 
While faithful dog Canis leaps up in his wake.

The late night brings Sirius, the Dog Star on high,
By New Year’s he transits as midnight draws nigh.
The brightest of stars warm the long winter’s night,
His colorful cohorts all add to the sight.

Ten of the brightest of stars in the sky, 
Light these long nights of winter as Old Sol plays shy.
With the solstice now past us we’ll all soon be glad,
For the days getting longer than the ones we’ve just had.

Catch Venus in twilight before the sunrise
Her dazzling glimmer is a treat for the eye.
She stays low in the southeast until springtime comes near
Then brighten the evenings at Christmas next year.

So Peace to your families, neighbors, and friends,
We wish you the best that the holiday sends.
The stars mark the comings and goings of time,
So stop to enjoy them, and so ends my rhyme.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year from all of us at the U.S. Naval Observatory!

And my most sincere apologies to Clement Clark Moore.


Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command | 1100 Balch Blvd. | Stennis Space Center, Mississippi 39529

Guidance-Card-Icon Dept-Exclusive-Card-Icon