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Breaking Down the Longest Day of the Year

By Zoe Huang

The summer solstice marks two moments during the year when the sun is farthest north in the Northern Hemisphere or farthest south in the Southern Hemisphere. It falls on June 20 or 21 in the Northern Hemisphere and on the 21 or 22 of December in the Southern Hemisphere. Although the summer solstice occurs on varying dates, it occurs at the same time for every country. The precise moment of a summer solstice may happen at midnight for some places and at noon for others! During the summer solstice, the sun travels through the longest path in the sky. As a result, that day has the longest and most daylight.

Stonehenge is a location for Summer Solstice celebrations.

The summer solstice is celebrated in many cultures and has been for thousands of years with the arrival of it marking a moment to welcome the return of summer or the coming of winter. In Scandinavia, the Midsummer's Eve holiday is observed on a weekend close to the time of the solstice. This is because seasons and weather had a vital role in the lives of ancestors who relied on hunting and farming.

The Science Behind the Summer Solstice

Science can be used to explain the summer solstice. The sun reaches its highest point in the sky while the summer solstice is occurring. During the summer solstice, the Earth orbits at an angle of 23.5 degrees, causing a change in the length of days on Earth. Whilst the Earth orbits, the tilt of the North Pole changes in relation to the sun.

When the North Pole is closest to the Sun, a summer solstice occurs in the Northern Hemisphere. However, when the South Pole tilts closest to the sun, a summer solstice occurs in the Southern Hemisphere. In between the Earth's journey to the summer and winter solstice, it passes a point where the earth is not tilted towards or away from the sun due to specific positions called the autumn & spring equinox. This describes two moments in a year when the sun is precisely above the Equator and the length of night and day are equal. Whilst the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, it appears higher or lower in the sky throughout the year. This is dependent on the season.

The Connection Between the Summer Solstice and Stonehenge

Ancient monuments are the only existing clues that tell us when humans started tracking the summer solstice. Stonehenge is an example of this.

On the 2019 summer solstice, thousands of individuals from around the world gathered at Stonehenge, a monument made of rock located in Wiltshire, England. The rocks were specifically placed to line up with the motion of the sun and perfectly frames the summer solstice sunrise. Stonehenge offers such a perfect view of the solstice sunrise that scientists and visitors alike wondered for centuries if it was built to showcase the solstice.

The summer solstice in Australia is an event that occurs when the Southern Hemisphere is tilted closest to the sun. It is an important event that held significance as it was celebrated by many cultures throughout history. Falling on different dates for both the Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice is celebrated in many locations in the world including Sweden, England, Finland, and Austria.


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