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Best Science-Themed Home Holiday Decoration of 2011

Early this morning we passed the winter solstice. Now our half of the planet will start to get more sun. This lovely winter solstice decoration adorns a lawn in Riverton, NJ

It's again that time when the Earth's northern half tilts away from the sun, giving all the southern extremities a chance to warm up. The day of the longest noontime shadows marks the winter solstice, which falls today or yesterday depending on your time zone.

At the same moment around the world – about 12:30 am for us in Eastern Standard Time – we passed the turning point when Tierra del Fuego officially had its time in the sun, and the earth's axis slowly began angling back to warm our side.  It will take a while, and it will get colder before it gets warmer, but the days will lengthen until late June.

My friend Bruce Rawlings of Riverton, NJ created this lovely winter solstice lawn decoration a few years ago. The solstice is an astronomical event, so it can be enjoyed by all people. It looks like he got the date wrong, but it's correct for three out of four of the country's time zones. Read more about solstices here at EarthSky.