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It’s officially summer time…
It’s official! The longest and brightest day of the year is here, to mark the start of the summer season.
One week after the strawberry supermoon, the summer solstice has arrived. The summer solstice marks the change of the seasons and has been celebrated for thousands of years. Here is everything you need to know about the celebration and its history.
When is the summer solstice?
Every year, the summer solstice lands between June 20 and 22. This year the summer solstice and the longest day will be Tuesday, June 21. If you expect to see the sunrise, it will rise at 4:43 am and set at 9:22 pm.
The UK will see 16 hours and 43 minutes of daylight, the perfect time for a heat wave.
What is a summer solstice?
The summer solstice occurs when the earth is most tilted to the sun and marks the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. The sun is at its peak and directly over the Tropic of Cancer (which is right on the equator).
It is also the beginning of astronomical summer, with the longest day of the year. In the southern hemisphere, it marks the opposite, the start of winter. Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s also the beginning of nights very gradually (barely noticeable) getting longer as we move into winter (ah, don’t want to think about that yet).
It also happens to be the same day that the sun lands in the astrological sign of cancer. It marks exactly the middle of the year, and between the two equinoxes.
It is a time of celebration and reflection. The summer solstice, and cancer season in general, is a time for family and friends to get together and spend time together.
For centuries, it has been a time when groups of people come together, especially at Stonehenge.
What happens at Stonehenge?
Just as in ancient history, when people used the time to gather together, the same is true today, with groups of people gathering at Stonehenge every year.
Every year, thousands of people gather at the heritage site to watch the sunrise. This morning 10,000 people joined the stones for the first time in three years.
It is a point of interest as the sun only shines through the middle stone during the solstice as the stones are perfectly aligned for this to happen at this time.
There is much ancient importance about Stonehenge that has not been recorded, but what we do know is that it has been the center of pagan rituals for many years.
During the summer solstice, it is the only time that visitors can get close to the stones, and it is likely that many attend for this reason, rather than a pagan ritual. See you there bright and early next year.
Why is it called the summer solstice?
The Latin word “solstice” derives from the words “sol”, which means “sun”, and the word “sistere”, which means “to stand still”. The name arises when the sun seems to stop, before changing direction in the sky.
In ancient history, the sun and moon were used as a calendar and marked the time between planting and harvesting of crops. This gave the farmers a much needed break and that is why it is now used as a time to get together, celebrate and remains the most popular month to get married to this day.
How long will it last?
The solstice lasts only one day, Tuesday June 21 will be the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Marking the beginning of summer, which will end when the autumnal equinox occurs on September 22 or 23.
Happy summer solstice!