According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the summer solstice or the June solstice is the green light to welcome the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere and winter season in the Southern Hemisphere. For those in North America, this astronomical event occurs on June 20 at 10:32 p.m. CDT (UTC-5) while for the rest, it usually happens on June 21, 2021, at 03:32 UTC.
For the uninitiated, June or summer solstice is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere or the day with the longest period of daylight in Northern Hemisphere whereas it marks the onset of winters in the southern half and is the shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere. This year, the June solstice is expected to fall on on Tuesday, June 21, 2022 at 9:14 UTC (4:14 a.m. CDT) and is caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis and its motion in orbit around the Sun.
The word “solstice” originated from Latin word “sol” which means sun and “sistere” which means stationary or stand still. It occurs twice a year, once in the Northern Hemisphere (between June 20-22, depending on the year and time zone) and once in the Southern Hemisphere (between Dec 20-23).
1. The ancient cultures knew that the sun’s path across the sky, length of daylight and location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. Additionally, people built monuments, like Stonehenge in England, to follow the sun’s annual progress, to worship the sun and to predict its movements.
2. During the June solstice compared to any other time of the year, the north pole is tipped more directly toward the sun, and the south pole is tipped more directly away from the sun. As a result, all locations north of the equator see days longer than 12 hours and all locations south see days shorter than 12 hours.
3. A few thousand years ago, the solstice happened when the sun was in the constellation of Cancer (Latin for crab) and that’s how the line of latitude, Tropic of Cancer, was named as on the June solstice, the sun reaches its northernmost position, reaches the Tropic of Cancer and stands still before reversing direction and moving south again.
4. The sun’s path across the sky is curved—NOT a straight line on the summer solstice.
5. Sunlight strikes places in your home that get illuminated at no other time as the sun rises farthest left on the horizon and sets at its rightmost possible spot on the day of summer solstice.
6. Based on Earth’s current orbit, the summer solstice date rotates between June 20, 21 and 22 and is not fixed since it depends on the physics of our solar system and not on human calendar.
7. Summer solstice is also referred to as Midsummer or First Day of Summer while Wiccans and other Neopagan groups call it Litha whereas some Christian churches recognise the summer solstice as St John’s Day to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist.
8. The Vikings were said to have hung dead human and animal bodies from trees as an offering to the gods to practice ritual human sacrifice, especially at the solstice.
9. According to pagan folklore, people would wear protective garlands of herbs and flowers like “chase devil”, today referred to as St John’s Wort, to ward off evil spirits that were believed to appear on the summer solstice.
10. Iceland is the only place outside of the Arctic Circle where we can experience the sun “not set” as in northern Iceland, the sun dips all the way down to the horizon, brushes the water then starts to rise again if one physically watches the sun from the top of a cliff overlooking the sea.