If you ask friends what happens on the summer solstice (this Sunday), they’re likely to say it’s the longest day of the year. But let’s learn something new. Bob Berman lists 7 cool (or, is it “hot”?) solstice facts. See how many you know!
The solstice on Sunday, June 20, 2021, happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth; only our clocks are different. In the United States, the solstice occurs at 11:32 PM 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.
Time to learn something new about the longest day of the year.
7 Summer Solstice Facts
Let’s get on with some fun facts about the June solstice:
On the summer solstice, 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.
The solstice Sun stands directly over the Tropic of Cancer. In fact, that’s how the Tropic of Cancer got its name. It’s the northernmost line connecting all places on Earth where the Sun is ever straight overhead. That’s because a few thousand years ago, the solstice happened when the Sun was in the constellation of Cancer the Crab.
At the solstice, 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.
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.
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, or gamma rays, or even visible light—it’s actually infra-red. 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 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 below the equator). Enjoy this year’s June solstice!
How do you celebrate the solstice? Let us know in the comments!
Check out our Summer Solstice page for everything you need to know about the June solstice, including FAQs, folklore, and more!