Astronomical Explanation of the Summer Solstice

Those long days that never seem to end. We all, at some point in our life, feel a day is never ending. But that is usually due to the fact that we are either bored, we are overly excited about an anticipated event at the end of the day, or we are having a real difficult time coping with the trials that beset us on a given day. The summer solstice, is not a feeling, in fact we may not even notice it, but it is indeed the longest day of the year.

Solstices occur when the sun reaches its highest and lowest points. As opposed to the winter solstice , which is the shortest day of the year, the summer solstice heralds the start of summer and is the longest day of the year. The sun is highest in the sky, in the Northern Hemisphere, on the 21st of June with a declination of + 23.5 degrees. ( declination is the measurement from the Earth, between the celestial equator and the sun). It is equivalent to latitude on the Earth. Simply put , when the earth is tilted toward the sun, we have summer and we have summer solstice when the earth is tilted the farthest toward the sun.

The summer solstice for most of us is simply the much anticipated start of the summer season. It is just a day, and at times, and in certain areas, it may not seem like or feel like summer, but we know it is the start of hot days, picnics in the park, festivals, outdoor living, bugs galore, flip flops, bikinis and more. For many groups, religions and cultures, it however, has more significance. It can symbolize a time of rituals, casting of spells, candle burnings, sacrifices, bonfires, and religious ceremonies of all kinds.

The time that elapses between sunrise and sunset on June 21st or 22nd , is the longest for the year making the summer solstice the longest day of the year. We may change this scenario by manipulating our clocks as in daylight savings time, but this is merely artificial and is not true to the astronomical reality of the summer solstice. However, you choose to welcome and celebrate the beginning of summer, make the most of it as the days will become gradually shorter and shorter until we are at the winter solstice.