This Sunday marks the official start of summer as the event known as the summer solstice will occur at approximately 12:39 PM (Eastern Daylight Time), marking the longest day of the year for Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. The summer solstice happens annually on either the 20th or 21st of June.
During the summer solstice, the Earth’s inclination towards the Sun will be at its highest for the Northern Hemisphere, with it happening this year at the aforementioned time as the Sun will be over the Tropic of Cancer. All the places north of it will experience the longest period of daylight during a calendar year, while places south of it will experience the opposite.
In the US this will amount to roughly between 13 and 15 hours of daylight throughout the country. The exception to this is Alaska, which is going to see almost 22 hours of daylight, with the sun rising at 2:58 AM and setting the following day at 12:47 AM. After the summer solstice, days will start growing gradually shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, and in the meanwhile they will grow longer in the Southern one.
This day will also observe the longest twilight length throughout the whole year, with its duration varying from little past 20 minutes in the southernmost points of the country to over 40 minutes in northern parts, such as Seattle.
The summer solstice is an event which has been celebrated throughout human history in different ways and which has given rise to many folklore and myths surrounding it. For example, according to Discovery, an area in medieval Germany on the day of summer solstice used to construct a wheel of straws, set it on fire and then roll it downhill through vineyards towards a river, with fire being considered as a purifier and bringer of fertility.
Some believe that the mysterious Stonehenge might also have been erected as a place to celebrate the solstice, or a Sun temple, as its placement allows a viewer in center of the structure to capture the sun standing still in its entirety through one of its gateways. A crowd of thousands have also gathered there early in the morning to observe the solstice sunrise.
In many pre-Christian European cultures, the feast was known as Midsummer Eve and was marked by Pagan customs, such as the gathering of herbs considered to be of exceptional potency during the event or the lighting of massive bonfires. After the spread of Christianity the event became known as Saint John’s Eve.
Image Source: urbanpriestess.com