Watch Winter Solstice 2020 From Stonehenge Live Online

This December, you can watch a live stream of the sun setting and rising above the famous Stonehenge archaeological site in England to mark the winter solstice.

In year's past, people have celebrated the summer and winter solstices by gathering at the prehistoric monument—located in Wiltshire, southwestern England—in their thousands.

Celebrations of the solstices have been observed at the site for thousands of years, and modern-day pagans still consider such traditions spiritually important.

But due to the coronavirus pandemic, English Heritage—the charity that manages the monument—has said winter solstice celebrations will not take place in the interests of public health, following discussions with local authorities.

Instead, English Heritage will host a live stream of sunrise and sunset from Stonehenge on December 20 and 21. Similar streams of this year's summer solstice attracted more than five million viewers, according to the charity.

To watch the event, visit the English Heritage YouTube or Twitter pages. Sunset on December 20 will take place at 16:01 GMT, or 11:01 a.m. ET. Meanwhile, sunrise on December 21 will take place at 8:09 a.m. GMT, or 3:09 a.m. ET.

"We are very disappointed that we cannot host our usual winter solstice celebrations at Stonehenge," Nichola Tasker, Stonehenge Director, said in a statement.

"The solstices and equinoxes are incredibly important moments in Stonehenge's calendar, but this year has not been kind to such gatherings. We hope instead that people will enjoy the solstice sunrise online from their home. We can't wait to do the winter solstice justice at Stonehenge next year."

The winter solstice in the northern hemisphere occurs on December 21 at 5:02 a.m., marking the point in the year that the Earth's North Pole is tilted furthest away from the sun.

The day that December solstice falls on is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere—meaning the one with the fewest daylight hours and the longest night.

Stonehenge is a Late Neolithic stone monument that was constructed around 4,500 years, likely by farmers and herders.

According to English Heritage archaeologist Susan Greaney, the stones at the monument are laid out in such a way that they frame the sunrise at midsummer and the sunset at midwinter.

While archaeologists still have much to learn about what kinds of ceremonies originally took place at the monument, it is likely that the solstices were important to Stonehenge's constructors on both a spiritual and practical level.

For example, the summer and winter solstices may have helped farmers to decide what crops to grow and when, while these events may have also been times to remember the dead or worship a solar deity.

Stonehenge during the winter solstice
The sun rises over Stonehenge, as people take part in a winter solstice ceremony at the ancient neolithic monument of Stonehenge near Amesbury on December 22, 2018 in Wiltshire, England. Matt Cardy/Getty Images