Centuries ago, before the Julian calendar was brought up to date, Scandinavians regarded Dec. 13 as the longest night of the year -- and that may be one reason why the night during Yule season was celebrated with candlelit ceremonies. The festivals also had a religious flavor, commemorating the feast day of St. Lucy ("Sankta Lucia" in Swedish). Never mind that the saint herself was Sicilian: The festival has survived to this day as a particularly Scandinavian holiday, featuring processions led by young women wearing crowns of candles.
In honor of St. Lucy's Day, here's a picture of the Scandinavian peninsula, as seen by NASA's Terra satellite in February 2003 from a height of more than 400 miles. The land mass of Norway and Sweden curves downward from upper right to lower left, with Finland lying to the east. Jagged inlets known as fjords cut into the coast of Norway on the left side of the peninsula. The dusting of snow makes the whole peninsula look like a Yule log cake covered with powdered sugar. "Trevlig Lucia Dag!"
Check in with Photoblog and Cosmic Log every day until Christmas for a new view of Earth sent from outer space. And feel free to click on the links below to see the previous pictures in our Advent calendar, as well as three other online calendars with space themes:
- The Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar so far
- Door 1 for Dec. 1: Shuttle in spotlight
- Door 2 for Dec. 2: 'Alien' lake seen from space
- Door 3 for Dec. 3: Egypt's river of light
- Door 4 for Dec. 4: Tallest building reaches for the sky
- Door 5 for Dec. 5: Russia's dazzling delta
- Door 6 for Dec. 6: Space skipper vs. the world
- Door 7 for Dec. 7: Pearl Harbor from the heavens
- Door 8 for Dec. 8: Listening for E.T.
- Door 9 for Dec. 9: Blast from the past
- Door 10 for Dec. 10: Volcano caught in the act
- Door 11 for Dec. 11: Chronicling climate change
- The Big Picture at Boston.com: Hubble Advent calendar
- Planetary Society: Solar system Advent calendar
- Zooniverse Advent calendar
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