The earliest people on Earth knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. They built monuments such as Newgrange in Ireland, Stonehenge in England – or, for example, at Machu Picchu in Peru – to follow the sun’s yearly progress.
People gather at Newgrange for winter solstice dawn on each of the mornings from December 18th to December 23rd inclusive. Sunrise is at 8.58am. All access to the chamber is decided by lottery. However, everyone else is welcome to stand on the outside of the monument.
Dowth is another monument in the same Brú na Bóinne complex of Megalithic monuments and World Heritage Site. It is aligned with the setting sun on the Winter Solstice.
The light of the low sun moves along the left side of the passage, then into the circular chamber, where three stones are lit up by the sun. The convex central stone reflects the sunlight in to a dark recess, lighting up the decorated stones there. The rays then recede slowly along the right side of the passage and after about two hours the sun withdraws from Dowth South.
Tune in to watch a live stream of the Winter Solstice at Newgrange: