While most of us think the first day of summer is Memorial Day weekend, the first day of summer isn’t until June 21st, also called the summer solstice.
Due to the tilt of the earth and the rotation around the sun, the north and south poles have a point that is closest to or farthest from the sun. When the north pole is closest to the sun, this is the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice (also the Southern Hemisphere’s winter solstice). Alternatively, the Northern Hemisphere is farthest from the sun in December and called the winter solstice (also the Southern Hemisphere’s summer solstice).
The diagram above shows how the tilt of the earth affects our seasons differently for the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. On the far left, you see the Northern Hemisphere summer solstice (since the north pole is closest to the sun) and on the far right you see the Northern Hemisphere winter solstice (since the south pole is closer to the sun).
What does all that science mean for us Earthlings? Here are 5 easy-to-understand facts on the summer solstice:
1) The summer solstice is the longest day of the year! Yep, believe it or not, the days will start to get shorter already. You still have about 2 months to enjoy those long summer evenings though.
2) The sun is the highest in the sky on the summer solstice. The earth’s maximum axial tilt toward the sun is 23.44°, creating the maximum exposure to the sun. So why are the hottest days 1-2 months later? This is because it takes the earth some time to heat up. Generally, the earth’s seasons lag the summer and winter solstice dates about 6 weeks.
3) The northern latitudes experience the longest daylight during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice. In polar regions of the north, people can experience 24 hours of daylight. For example, the city of Rovaniemi, Finland is about 4 miles (6 km) south of the Arctic Circle and sees the sun for 24 hours during the Summer Solstice. But during December the sun barely makes it over the horizon and the city averages 6 minutes of sunshine daily.
4) Full Moon rarely lands on the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice. In fact, 2016 was a special year! It was the first time in nearly 70 years that a full moon rose as the sun set on the 2106 Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice.
5) The summer solstice is also called “midsummer”. Specifically, in European solstice celebrations, midsummer is celebrated between June 19th and June 25th. While astronomers consider the summer solstice the first day of summer, it actually represents the midpoint of the season, again because the days were getting longer until that point, and the days will get shorter after that point.
View of the Heel Stone at summer solstice sunrise as seen from inside Stonehenge. Image credit: mysticrealms.org.uk
Share your solstice stories and pictures in the comments section of this blog! How many hours of sunlight did you get? What temperature did your weather station reach on the solstice? What time of day did the maximum temperature occur? Our comment section now allows you to upload videos and images! Happy Summer and Happy Sharing!
June 21, 2018
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