Welcome the summer solstice with a fun 10-question solstice quiz. Then read Bob Berman’s seven cool (or, is it “hot”?) solstice facts to celebrate the start of summer!
The solstice on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth; only our clocks are different. In the eastern United States, the solstice occurs at 10:58 AM EDT.
Sure, you may know that the summer solstice is the “longest” day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. (And let’s not quibble: “Longest day” is shorthand for the day with the longest period of daylight.) But that’s a tired factoid—let’s learn something new!
But, first, let’s do a fun quiz to see how much you know already (and how much you can learn)!
Summer Solstice Quiz
See how much you know about the summer solstice with these 10 questions!
- How often do solstices happen?
- Where does the word solstice come from (hint: Latin words)?
- Does the solstice occur at the same time or at different times across the world?
- Is the June solstice always on June 21?
- Is the June solstice the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere?
- On the solstice, is the Earth the closest or farthest from the Sun?
- Does the earliest sunrise happen on the summer solstice?
- Is it the longest day of the year everywhere on Earth?
- On the summer solstice, the Sun reaches its most northernmost position in the sky. What is this called? (Hint: Tropic of ?).
- Why isn’t the summer solstice the hottest day of the year?
Bob Berman will fill you in on things to know about the June solstice below (or skip and scroll to the bottom for the quiz answers)!
7 Summer Solstice Facts
Let’s get on with some fun facts about the June solstice:
- The word “solstice” comes from the Latin words sol “Sun” and stitium “standing.” On the summer solstice, the Sun’s path stops advancing northward each day and appears to “stand” still in the sky before going back the other way.
- On the solstice, the Sun reaches its northernmost position, reaching the Tropic of Cancer and standing still before reversing direction and start moving south again. (See illustration above.) In fact, that’s how the Tropic of Cancer got its name. A few thousand years ago, the solstice happened when the Sun was in the constellation of Cancer the Crab.
- On the summer solstice, you may observe that the Sun’s path across the sky is curved—NOT a straight line. It appears to rise and keeps veering to the right as it passes high overhead. This is quite different from the laser-straight path the Sun moves along in late March and late September, near the equinoxes.
- You may also observe that the midday Sun is highest up in the sky (or, lowest if you live in the Southern Hemisphere). But did you know that the Sun’s highest point is getting lower and lower over time? That’s because Earth’s tilt is slowly decreasing.
- It may be the “longest day,” but it’s not the latest sunset. Nor the earliest sunrise! The earliest sunrises happen before the summer solstice and the latest sunset after the summer solstice. See it for yourself wherever you live.
- In India, the summer solstice ends the six-month period when spiritual growth is supposedly easiest. Better hurry, you only have a few days left!
- On this day, the Sun rises farthest left on the horizon and sets at its rightmost possible spot. Sunlight strikes places in your home that get illuminated at no other time.
As a bonus, here are two additional Sun-themed facts:
- The kind of energy the Sun emits most strongly is not ultraviolet, gamma rays, or even visible light—it’s actually infrared. That’s the Sun’s strongest emission, which is the kind we feel as heat.
- As for the Sun’s visible emissions, its strongest is the green light. That’s why our eyes are maximally sensitive to that color.
With all that, most people only care about one single solstice fact:
“It’s the start of summer!” (Or, winter, if you live south of the equator).
Check out our Summer Solstice page for everything you need to know about the June Solstice, including FAQs, folklore, and more!
- Twice a year (June and December)
- Latin words sol, meaning Sun and sistere, meaning to come to a stop or stand still.
- The exact same instant of time.
- Usually, but can range from June 20 to June 22.
- To astronomers, yes. But to meteorologists, it’s June 1.
- Farthest! Surprised? It’s not the distance but Earth’s tilt that matters.
- Nope. Neither the earliest sunrise nor the latest sunsets are on this day.
- It’s the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere (the shortest day of the year).
- On the summer solstice, the Sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer.
- It takes a few more weeks for the oceans and air to warm up!