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Winter Solstice events maximize light before the longest night

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In a year of uncertain planetary extremes, there may be some comfort in having a scheduled day of certain planetary extremes. The coming winter solstice occurs on Monday, December 21, when Rochester’s time on the dark side of 2020 will be at its peak. Two local events on the solstice promise to make the most of each extreme.

To maximize the light on the shortest day of the year, the Genesee Land Trust invites us to experience “Winter Solstice Sunrise,” with self-directed hikes and time spent outdoors. More than 20 of GLT’s regional nature preserves will be open from dawn until dusk, and a day can be made of traveling from one to the next. For example: Island Cottage Woods Preserve, Salmon Creek Preserve, and Manitou Beach Preserve are each in close proximity to one another in Greece, along Lake Ontario. A map of nearby preserves in all directions leads to quiet adventures in nature where you can contemplate the daylight.

When darkness falls, we’re in for our longest night. Could there be a more “aproPOE” guide through the shadowy side than the American master of the macabre? Winton Branch library’s Zoom presentation, “Once Upon a Midnight Dreary: Poe on the Solstice,” will delve into the dark themes of the works and life of Edgar Allan Poe through vivid storytelling by Poe interpreter Chris Lyn. This event is not for the faint of (the tell-tale) heart, and not recommended for kids under the age of 12. Registration for this event is required, and can be made online or by calling 428-8204.

In 2020 fashion, this year’s solstice presents another planetary rarity: the “Great Conjunction.” The solar system’s two largest planets — Jupiter and Saturn — will appear to be nearly merged over the southwest horizon after sunset on Monday. This is the closest they’ll appear in the sky since Galileo was alive (that’s four centuries ago!). Making the most of this winter solstice can start and end outdoors, a prelude to our next course of increasing light.