Clouds block sunlight entering Newgrange chamber ahead of Winter solstice

Winter solstice falls on December 22nd this year

Ireland’s shortest day of the year will not fall on December 21st this year. Photograph: John Lalor/NMS

Ireland’s shortest day of the year will not fall on December 21st this year. Photograph: John Lalor/NMS

 

A group of competition winners arrived in Newgrange on Saturday morning hoping to see the chamber fill with light for the winter solstice, which this year falls on Sunday. 

Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works (OPW) welcomed the winners of the winter solstice lottery to Newgrange.

Groups enter the chamber on different days every year from December 18th to the 23rd.

Bridget O’Brien, Ballinagore, Co. Westmeath,leads a group gathered outside the burial chamber at Newgrange in Co, Meath for the winter solstice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Bridget O’Brien, Ballinagore, Co. Westmeath,leads a group gathered outside the burial chamber at Newgrange in Co, Meath for the winter solstice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
The exact date of the shortest day in this part of the world varies every year. Photograph: John Lalor/NMS
The exact date of the shortest day in this part of the world varies every year. Photograph: John Lalor/NMS
The winter solstice is an astronomical event which marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Photograph: John Lalor/NMS
The winter solstice is an astronomical event which marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Photograph: John Lalor/NMS

December 21st is often considered to be the shortest day of the year and usually the date of winter solstice celebrations. However, the exact date of the shortest day in this part of the world varies every year.

The winners were from as far away as Canada, Norway, Italy and Britain.

In addition to Saturday’s group’s prize being a day early, clouds blocked the sun which prevented light making its way into Newgrange’s chamber.

Crowds gather outside the burial chamber at Newgrange in Co, Meath for the winter solstice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Crowds gather outside the burial chamber at Newgrange in Co, Meath for the winter solstice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Normally, during the winter solstice the dawn sun’s rays shine through a deliberately built roof box above the entrance to the passage tomb. Over the course of approximately 15 minutes the beam of light gradually work its way up the floor of the passage to light the burial chamber.

From left; Karen Ward, Ellen Shilling Dylan Ferguson and Leona Lea, all from Dublin gather outside the burial chamber at Newgrange in Co, Meath for the winter solstice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
From left; Karen Ward, Ellen Shilling Dylan Ferguson and Leona Lea, all from Dublin gather outside the burial chamber at Newgrange in Co, Meath for the winter solstice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Paul and Niamh Dolan, with Irish Wolfhounds Padfoot and Maeve, outside the burial chamber at Newgrange in Co, Meath for the winter solstice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
Paul and Niamh Dolan, with Irish Wolfhounds Padfoot and Maeve, outside the burial chamber at Newgrange in Co, Meath for the winter solstice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
David Pepper and Virginia Apicella, from Lurgan with twins Elsa and Lavinia, outside the burial chamber at Newgrange in Co, Meath for the winter solstice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
David Pepper and Virginia Apicella, from Lurgan with twins Elsa and Lavinia, outside the burial chamber at Newgrange in Co, Meath for the winter solstice. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times
In 2019, the shortest day will be on Sunday, December 22nd, when we will have less than eight hours of sunlight. Photograph: John Lalor/NMS
In 2019, the shortest day will be on Sunday, December 22nd, when we will have less than eight hours of sunlight. Photograph: John Lalor/NMS

New images of light entering the Neolithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange have been captured by John Lalor, National Monuments Service (NMS) senior photographer.

He took some of the images over three mornings leading up to the December 21st.

In 2019, the shortest day will be on Sunday, December 22nd, when we will have less than eight hours of sunlight.