Vikki Zsohar of the Yukon Astronomical Society sits for a photo at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in Whitehorse on Dec. 16. Zsohar will be giving a presentation at the centre about the winter solstice on Dec. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

The sun’s time to shine

Beringia Centre gets set to host Dec. 22 presentation about the solstice

The days will be getting longer and at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre that’s cause for celebration.

On Dec. 22, the centre will welcome Vikki Zsohar of the Yukon Astronomical Society for a presentation about the winter solstice, showing what the sun looks like on one of the shortest days of the year. Those coming out to the event will have a chance to view the sun for the short time its visible that day through a solar telescope.

“It’ll be a short day for solar viewing,” Zsohar said in a Dec. 16 interview, highlighting the 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. timeframe as being specifically planned to take advantage of the brief appearance the sun makes at this time of year.

After the solstice on Dec. 21, the days start getting longer by only a few minutes each day until the summer solstice rolls around and darkness begins creeping in again.

Ideally, Zsohar is hoping to share her knowledge with an audience of about 50 who come out to take in the solstice sun, but the amateur astronomer also said even if it’s just one family with one child who gains an interest and excitement in learning about the sun or astronomy in general, it will be worth it.

She explained one of the goals of the Yukon Astronomical Society is to make astronomy accessible to everybody and increase interest in it.

Throughout the warmer months, the society held a number of solar viewing opportunities at its observatory near Takhini Hot Springs. The Dec. 22 presentation is an extension of that, she said.

As long as the weather cooperates, Zsohar will provide a firsthand opportunity to see the sun with the solar telescope on hand for viewing. A slide show will also be held inside the Beringia Centre’s theatre where all things solar will be featured — solar flares, the solstice, what’s happening inside the sun, and more.

For those feeling a little crafty, there will also be an opportunity to celebrate the increased light that comes each day by making your own craft lantern.

The event is aimed at families and school-aged children, though all are welcome to attend.

With an anticipated audience that includes both children and adults, Zsohar said her presentation will focus largely on the basics and some interesting, fun facts about the sun along with the important viewing opportunity.

Without any tools like the telescope, people are advised not to look directly at the sun because of the damage it can do to one’s eyes.

This marks the first such presentation the Beringia Centre has offered focused on the solstice.

“We do mini programs every Sunday, with the fourth Sunday of every month being a science-based program,” Beringia manager Christie Grekul wrote in an email. “Seeing that Dec. 22 fell very close to the solstice, it was a natural segue.”

Grekul said it was Chris Wheeler, one of the centre’s guides, who came up with the idea of working with the Yukon Astronomical Society and reached out to Zsohar who was happy to share her knowledge.

“It’s a program designed to acknowledge this significant Yukon moment — when the days start getting longer again. We are looking forward to seeing the source of the solstice, our sun, in a whole new light, (around) the year’s shortest day,” she said.

She encouraged all to come out and learn about how the earth’s position in space changes over time, and how that affects our seasons. “It is a great way for people to share their enthusiasm for science, and learning, while having a little creative fun on an otherwise short, cold, and dark day.”

Perhaps for some younger ones there it will spark a life-long interest in astronomy as stargazing did for Zsohar more than 30 years ago.

Zsohar was about 14 when she and her family moved from a city to a smaller community in her home country of Hungary and her interest was born.

“I saw so many stars,” she said, recalling just how many more stars in the night sky she viewed the first time she looked through a telescope.

“I was hooked.”

Zsohar hasn’t looked back, going on to build her own telescopes and pursue her interest over the years.

Asked what has kept her interested, the answer is simple: “How beautiful the universe is; how endless it is.”

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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