Analemma Christmas Card

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If you were to note the position of the sun at the same time every day over the course of a year, you’d end up with the distinctive figure-eight pattern shown on this card – known today as an analemma.

For thousands of years the analemma frustrated attempts to tell the time: sundials would cheerfully go out of sync with hourglasses or burning candles. The difference was a challenge to anyone putting together a theory of astronomy, and inspired much scientific inquiry.

Today we know the peculiar shape of the analemma is caused by the tilt of the Earth on its axis, and our orbit being elliptical rather than circular. And it rotates: if you’re at the poles, it’s vertical; if you’re at the equator, it’s horizontal.

At the winter solstice (in the northern hemisphere), the sun is at the lower tip. We think the analemma is a lovely symbol to mark the passing of the year and the progress of humanity.