The Winter Solstice was today, Friday December 21, at 5:11 am CST. This marked the beginning of astronomical winter in the northern hemisphere, and is the date with the shortest day and longest night. This also is when the direct rays of the sun are at their farthest extent south on the earth. After this date, the sun begins its slow climb higher in the sky across the northern hemisphere, peaking at the Summer Solstice in June. See more about "The Dark Days of Winter."