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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.

Other scheduled readers include LinDel Sandlin, an actress, comedian, writer, and voiceover specialist, and Bernard and Diane Block, a married couple whose verses often deal with romance.

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.

Photo: Night Sky Photography

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