The darkest day of the year actually has two bright spots in Queens in 2016.
The Voelker Orth Museum will host a poetry- and music-heavy Festival of Lights in Flushing on Saturday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. And a bit later on the same day, astronomer Mark Freilich will facilitate a Winter Solstice Star Celebration at the Alley Pond Environmental Center in Douglaston at 7 p.m.
The sky has the brightest stars during this week, and Freilich, an adjunct astronomy professor at Queens College, will discuss them all while providing 10-inch-long telescopes and maps. A Crescent moon and Jupiter should be prominent on Saturday, and attendees might even get to see the Ursid meteor shower and the Little Dipper.
Voelker Orth Museum, whose property includes a Victorian garden and bird sanctuary, will mark the solstice with an inspiring program of words. Barbara Ann Branca will be part of a poetry slam. As a science author and jazz singer, many of her poems are based on her passion for music, history, and the environment.
The night at Alley Pond costs $18. The afternoon at Voelker Orth is $5.
Editor’s note: Admittedly, the Winter Solstice – when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination and the North Pole is tilted furthest away from it — will take place four days later on Dec. 21. With seven hours and 49 minutes of sunshine, it’s the shortest day of the year.