The summer solstice, also known as the longest day of the year, falls on June 21, marking the return of brighter evenings for all of us.
Whether you’re planning to make the most of your annual vacation or just want to schedule a few more evening plans, there’s plenty to do to make the most of those long summer days.
Also known as midsummer or the summer solstice, it’s the day with the longest period of sunlight – a good omen for anyone suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or looking to take in some extra vitamin D.
Read on below to learn all about summer, the solstice, traditions and the significance of Stonehenge.
What is the summer solstice and when is it?
The summer solstice takes place between June 20 and 22 every year in the Northern Hemisphere.
This year it falls on Wednesday 21 June exactly 3:58 pm in the United Kingdom.
The UK will enjoy 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight.
The sun rises at 4:43 am and sets at 9:21 pm in London.
The solstice officially marks the beginning of astronomical summer, which ends when the autumnal equinox falls on September 23.
Day and night will be nearly equal in length on this date, as the sun crosses the celestial equator and moves south into the northern hemisphere.
What Happens at the Summer Solstice?
There are two solstices every year: one in winter and one in summer. The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most toward the sun and is directly above the Tropic of Cancer.
Traditionally, the summer solstice fell between the planting and harvesting of crops, giving people who worked the land time to relax. Therefore, June became the traditional month for weddings.
It may seem like a day to celebrate, but it actually marks the moment when the sun’s path stops moving north in the sky, and the beginnings of days get shorter and shorter as the slow march into winter begins .
However, we will not notice that the days are getting shorter for the time being. The shortest day of the year does not fall until December 22, which is known as the winter solstice.
At the winter solstice, the Earth’s axis is tilted farthest from the sun, directly above the Tropic of Capricorn, leaving only a few hours of daylight.
In the southern hemisphere, the dates of the two solstices are reversed. The winter solstice occurs on the same day in June and the summer solstice on the same day in December.
The term “solstice” is derived from the Latin word “solstitium”, which means “sun that stands still”.
Some prefer the more German term “sunturn” to describe the event.
Astrologers say the sun “appears to stand still” at the point on the horizon where it appears to rise and set, before setting in the opposite direction.