The summer solstice is the day with the longest period of daylight, which is why it is often called the longest day of the year. During the month of June, the solstice occurs when the sun reaches its highest and northernmost point in the sky.
Is the summer solstice the first day of summer?
It depends on whether you’re referring to the beginning of the astronomical or meteorological season.
The summer solstice is the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere, based on the astronomical start of the season.
However, meteorologically, the year is divided based on the months and temperature cycles, therefore summer begins on June 1st.
In the southern hemisphere, the sun is at its lowest point during the June solstice and signifies the beginning of winter, following the astronomical seasons.
Why is it called a summer solstice?
The word “solstice” comes from the latin word “solstitium” from sol meaning ‘sun’, and stitium - meaning ‘still’ or ‘stopped’. The word solstice means “sun stands still”.
It is called the summer solstice because the sun appears to linger in the sky and stop “moving” at the northernmost point in the sky on this day.
Why does the summer solstice occur?
The earth’s rotational axis is an imaginary line through the center of earth and extending to the geographical north and south poles. This axis isn’t at an exact right angle to the earth’s orbit around the sun. Instead, it is tilted at a right angle, 23.5 degrees from the vertical axis.
As the earth orbits around the sun, the axis always points in the same direction. This means the earth is tilted towards the sun for half the year and away from the sun for half of the year.
When the north pole is closest to the sun, it is called the summer solstice. When the north pole is furthest from the sun, it is called the winter solstice (in the northern hemisphere).
When is the summer solstice?
In 2020, the summer solstice is Saturday June 20th.
The summer solstice is not always on the day each year. It all depends on when the sun reaches the northernmost point from the equator. Currently, the summer solstice shifts between June 20, 21, and 22, but June 22nd solstices are rare.
Because the summer solstice occurs at the same moment in time for everyone on Earth, the date depends on your timezone.
In the US, future summer solstices will occur on…
Saturday June 20th
Sunday June 20th
Tuesday June 21st
Wednesday June 21st
Thursday June 20th
Friday June 20th
How is the summer solstice celebrated?
The summer solstice has been observed for many years. In fact, it may be one of the earliest astronomical observations made by humans. The summer and winter solstice were important dates on the ancient calendar because they marked the different seasons.
Several monuments are believed to have been built to align with the rising or setting sun during the summer solstice, including the Bighorn Medicine Wheel in Wyoming and the 5,000-year-old Stonehenge in England.
Today, in many countries around the world midsummer festivals are celebrated on the summer solstice. Other ways the solstice is celebrated include talks given by astronomers, concerts, and ceremonies at locations like Stonehenge. You can even catch the sunrise at Stonehenge live on the English Heritage YouTube page.
Watch the 2019 Stonehenge Summer Solstice Highlights
While there are many ways to celebrate the solstice, you can also just enjoy the longest day of the year while at home.
5 Ways for You to Celebrate the Longest Day of the Year
Celebrating the beginning of summer can be simple and fun. Here are some fun ways to enjoy the summer solstice.
The summer solstice is a great time to reflect on the past season and set goals for the season ahead. Grab a yoga mat and take a moment for yourself to relax and meditate. There are plenty of videos on YouTube to help you get started if you haven’t done meditation before.
The warm weather makes the summer solstice the perfect time to play some games with your kids. Set up a sprinkler and play a fun game of tag. Or set up a fun outdoor obstacle course by repurposing other items you have around your house like hula hoops or pool noodles. Here are 33 more outdoors games to play, including messy games, water games, active games, and more!
While playing outdoors, don’t forget that accidents happen. Be prepared for minor bumps and scrapes with a first aid kit.
Have a bonfire
Take advantage of the extra hours of sunlight and have a bonfire to celebrate the solstice. Play music, sit around the fire, and enjoy some yummy food. Roast some traditional s’mores for a delicious campfire treat or try something new like campfire nachos or pineapple upside down cake.
Try this simple recipe for banana boats: Slice a banana lengthwise through the peel (don’t cut all the way through to the other side). Stuff with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. Wrap the banana boat in tin foil and cook over the fire until the chocolate melts. Unwrap and eat with a spoon!
And if all that exercising leaves you with sore muscles, make sure you have some Biofreeze for cool relief!
Mark your calendar now for the summer solstice and have a great first day of summer!
The Old Farmer’s Almanac. (2020). Summer Solstice 2020: The First Day of Summer What You Need to Know About the Longest Day of the Year. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/3fS7DEG
Metcalfe, T. (2019). What is the summer solstice? The science behind the first day of summer. Retrieved from https://nbcnews.to/3fS7KjA
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