Longest Day of the Year—Everything You Need to Know
The June solstice arrived this morning (Tuesday, June 21), signaling the beginning of summer as defined by astronomy. Many cultures worldwide celebrate the Solstice. Here are some trivia, jokes, and folklore about the event.
The June solstice (or summer solstice) occurs when the Sun reaches its northernmost position in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere. This marks the beginning of a summer in the northern half of the world. The June solstice starts the beginning of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, when the Sun is in a low position in the sky – the opposite of what happens in the Northern Hemisphere.
When is the Summer Solstice Happening?
On Tuesday, June 21, 2022, the June solstice occurs.
The June solstice is the time when the North Pole is pointing directly at the Sun, and the longest and the shortest night of the year occur (Northern Hemisphere only). Since the North Pole is at its maximum angle of tilt toward the Sun (about 23.5 degrees), the longest day and shortest night of the year occur on the June solstice. (The longest “day” refers to the longest period of sunlight hours.) The Northern Hemisphere receives direct sunlight on the day of the June solstice.
June is when winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere.
What is the Importance of the Summer Solstice?
The word “solstice” originates from the Latin solstitium—still or stopped. During the year, Earth’s tilted axis causes the Sun to rise and set at various locations on the horizon rather than at the same spot each morning and evening. The Sun’s rise and set positions move northward or southward in the sky as Earth orbits the Sun. Furthermore, the Sun’s track in the sky changes in height or in the amount throughout the year. The June solstice is important because the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky at this time, after which its course remains unchanged for a while.
The Sun appears to reverse direction after the Solstice and proceed in the opposite direction, as seen from Earth. It takes the form of a flattened eight when viewed from Earth at the same moment every day, for example, at noon. The analemma is the apparent path of the Sun across the sky throughout the year. The Sun is not moving (unless you consider its journey around the Milky Way galaxy), but its position in the sky alters because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis as it orbits the Sun in addition to the elliptical, rather than circular, the orbit of Earth around the Sun.
Is the Solstice Ever Occur on the Same Day?
There is no specific calendar date or time when the June solstice occurs; the Sun reaches its northernmost point from the celestial equator and determines the timing. So, the Solstice won’t always occur on the same day. Currently, the Solstice occurs on June 20, 21, and 22.
Fun Facts about the Solstice
The date of the Solstice is NOT the date of the earliest sunrise.
The days of summer solstice are the moment when the Sun rises earliest in the year, even though it occurs when there are the most daylight hours. It happens about a week earlier in the mid-latitude Northern Hemisphere, depending on your latitude.
Sunrises occur at certain times due to the Earth’s rotational axis being inclined and the Earth’s elliptical (rather than circular) orbit.
Sunsets near the solstice point can last several days, depending on location.
The Sun takes longer to set at the Solstice
The Sun indeed sets at a slower rate near a solstice, taking longer to dip below the horizon. The angle at which the Sun sets is determined by its setting position. The lower the Sun sets on the horizon at a solstice, the shallower its angle. In other words, you may enjoy those lengthy summertime sunsets near an equinox or Solstice.
More reading: We Celebrated the Sun and Fathers in June
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