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June Solstice: Longest and Shortest Day of the Year

Jun 20, 2021

Image: Summer Solstice diagram - Molly Zisk/Orange County Register/Public Domain
The June solstice is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the Winter Solstice the Southern Hemisphere according to
The date varies between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year, and the local time zone.
June Solstice in New York, New York, USA is on: Sunday, June 20, 2021 11:32 P.M. EDT
June Solstice in Universal Coordinated Time is on: Monday, June 21, 2021, at 3:32 UTC
Zenith Furthest Away from the Equator
 A solstice happens when the sun's zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. On the June solstice, it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.4 degrees.
It's also known as the northern solstice because it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere.
11 Facts About the June Solstice
1. Summer & Winter Solstice - In the Northern Hemisphere, where it is the longest day of the year in terms of daylight, the June solstice is also called the summer solstice. In the Southern Hemisphere, on the other hand, it is the shortest day of the year and is known as the winter solstice.
2. First Solstice of the Year - Solstices happen twice a year - in June and December. The June solstice happens around June 21, when the Sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer. The December solstice takes place around December 21. On this day, the Sun is precisely over the Tropic of Capricorn.
3. When the Sun Seems to Stand Still - Solstice comes from the Latin words sol, meaning Sun and sistere, meaning to come to a stop or stand still. On the day of the June solstice, the Sun reaches its northernmost position, as seen from the Earth. At that moment, its zenith does not move north or south as during most other days of the year, but it stands still at the Tropic of Cancer. It then reverses its direction and starts moving south again.
The opposite happens during the December solstice. Then, the Sun reaches its southernmost position in the sky - Tropic of Capricorn - stands still, and then reverses its direction towards the north.
Ten Things About the December Solstice
4. It Occurs at the Same Time all over the world. Technically, the June solstice is the exact instant of time when the Sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer. In 2018, this will happen on June 21 at 11:07 UTC.
5. It Can be on June 20, 21, or 22 - Even though most people consider June 21 as the date of the June solstice, it can happen anytime between June 20 and June 22. June 22 solstices are rare - the last June 22 solstice in UTC time took place in 1975 and there won't be another one until 2203.
6. It's the First Day of Summer - depending on who you ask. Astronomers and scientists use the date of the June solstice to mark the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere. For meteorologists, on the other hand, summer began almost three weeks ago, on June 1.
How are seasons defined? In many Northern Hemisphere cultures, the day is traditionally considered to be the mid-point of the summer season. Midsummer celebrations on or around the Northern summer solstice are common in many European countries.
7. The Earth is Farthest from the Sun - One might think that since it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth is closest to the Sun during the June solstice. But it's the opposite. The Earth is actually farthest from the Sun during this time of the year. In fact, the Earth will be on its Aphelion a few weeks after the June solstice.
Is this timing a coincidence? The Earth's distance from the Sun has very little effect over the Seasons on Earth. Instead, it the tilt of Earth's rotational axis, which is angled at around 23.4 degrees, that creates seasons.
The direction of Earth's tilt does not change as the Earth orbits the Sun - the two hemispheres point towards the same direction in space at all times. What changes as the Earth orbits around the Sun is the position of the hemispheres in relation to the Sun - the Northern Hemisphere faces towards the Sun during the June solstice, thus experiencing summer. The Southern Hemisphere tilts away from the Sun and therefore enjoys winter during this time.
8. The Earliest Sunrise of the Year Doesn't Happen on This Day - Even though the June solstice is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, most places do not see the earliest sunrise of the year on this day. The earliest sunrise happens a few days before, and the latest sunset takes place a few days after, the June solstice.
In the Southern Hemisphere, where this day marks the winter solstice, the earliest sunset happens a few days before the solstice, and the latest sunrise occurs a few days after it.
This happens because of the imbalance between time measured using clocks and time measured by a sundial. Read more
9. Not Usually the Hottest Day of the Year - In fact, the hottest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere usually comes a few weeks or sometimes months after the solstice. This is because it takes time for the oceans and landmasses to warm up, which again allows for higher air temperatures. This phenomenon is called the delay or lag of the seasons.
10. The Arctic Circle has 24 Hours of Daylight - The June solstice is the only day of the year when all locations inside the Arctic Circle experience a continuous period of daylight for 24 hours. Due to atmospheric refraction, however, the midnight sun is visible for a few days before and on the June solstice from areas as far as 60 miles (97 kilometers) south of the Arctic Circle. As one moves further north of the Arctic Circle, the number of days with the Midnight Sun increase.
What causes the Midnight Sun? On the Antarctic Circle, there are 24 hours of nighttime on the June solstice. Just as with the Northern Hemisphere, any location south of the Antarctic Circle has Polar Night several days before the June solstice.
11. It's Celebrated Around the World - The June solstice holds a special place of celebration in many cultures. People around the world celebrate the day with feasts, picnics, dance, and music.
Meaning of Solstice
'Solstice' (Latin: 'solstitium') means 'sun-stopping'. The point on the horizon where the sun appears to rise and set, stops and reverses direction after this day. On the solstice, the sun does not rise precisely in the east, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west, meaning it's visible in the sky for a longer period of time.
Although the June solstice marks the first day of astronomical summer, it's more common to use meteorological definitions of seasons, making the solstice midsummer or midwinter.
Solstices in Culture
Over the centuries, the June solstice has inspired countless festivals, midsummer celebrations and religious holidays.
One of the world's oldest evidence of the Summer Solstice's importance in culture is Stonehenge in England, a megalithic structure which clearly marks the moment of the June Solstice.
In the Southern Hemisphere, where the June solstice is known as the shortest day of the year, it marks the first day of astronomical winter, but the middle of winter in meteorological terms.
Midnight Sun or Polar Night?
On the June solstice, the midnight sun is visible (weather permitting) throughout the night, in all areas from just south of the Arctic Circle to the North Pole.
Sunrise and Sunset Times
On the other side of the planet, south of the Antarctic Circle there's Polar Night, meaning no Sunlight at all, on the June Solstice.
Solstice Dates Vary
Even though most people consider June 21 as the date of the June Solstice, it can happen anytime between June 20 and June 22, depending on which time zone you're in. June 22 Solstices are rare - the last June 22 Solstice in UTC time took place in 1975 and there won't be another one until 2203.
The varying dates of the solstice are mainly due to the calendar system – most western countries use the Gregorian calendar which has 365 days in a normal year and 366 days in a Leap Year.
A tropical year is the time it takes the Earth to orbit once around the Sun. It is around 365.242199 days long, but varies slightly from year to year because of the influence of other planets. The exact orbital and daily rotational motion of the Earth, such as the “wobble” in the Earth's axis (precession of the equinoxes), also contributes to the changing solstice dates.
Moving to Other Seasons
After the June solstice, the sun follows a lower and lower path through the sky each day in the Northern Hemisphere until it reaches the point where the length of daylight is about 12 hours and eight to nine minutes in areas that are about 30 degrees north or south of the equator.
Areas 60 degrees north or south of the equator have daylight for about 12 hours and 16 minutes. This is the September Equinox, the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere.
Earth does not move at a constant speed in its elliptical orbit. Therefore the seasons are not of equal length: the times taken for the sun to move from the March Equinox to the June Solstice, to the September equinox, to the December solstice, and back to the March equinox are roughly 92.8, 93.6, 89.8 and 89.0 days respectively.
The consolation in the Northern Hemisphere is that spring and summer last longer than autumn and winter.


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