Stonehenge
The rising sun is seen through the prehistoric monument StonehengeGetty

The winter solstice will take place on 22 December in the northern hemisphere, marking the longest night and shortest day of the year. From this date until the summer solstice in June, there will be more daylight hours. Ahead of the December solstice, here are five things you may not know about the astronomical event.

Specific time

The winter solstice occurs at a specific time on 22 December, when the sun is shining farthest to the south directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, rather than taking place over the whole day.

Not the latest sunrise

Although the 22 December is the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight, it does not have the latest sunrise and earliest sunset of the year, because of a discrepancy between modern-day timekeeping methods and how we measure time using the Sun.

End of the world

In 2012, some claimed the winter solstice would bring about the end of the world, based on a reading of the end date of the Mayans' Mesoamerica Long Count Calendar, which corresponded to certain astronomical events.

Shortest daylight hours

In Fairbanks, Alaska, the sun rises at around 11am on the winter solstice and sets before 3pm. Leading up to the December solstice, Fairbanks loses about seven minutes of daylight a day.

Not the coldest weather

The winter solstice does not mean we will experience the coldest weather, which normally comes later. The US National Weather Services states that the "lag in temperature occurs because even though the minutes of daylight are increasing, the earth's surface continues to lose more energy than it receives from the sun".

What is a solstice?

The Winter Solstice is an astronomical event caused by Earth's tilt on its axis and orbit around the Sun. Earth doesn't orbit upright but is instead tilted on its axis, meaning Earth's Northern and Southern Hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun's light and warmth most directly.

The tilt of the Earth is what causes winter and summer. The winter solstice occurs when Earth is leaning furthest from the sun – it is positioned so the sun stays below the North Pole horizon.