7 Facts About the June Solstice

Learn Something New About the Longest Day of the Year!

Jun 19, 2018
June Solstice at Stonehenge

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This year, the June solstice falls on Thursday, June 21. Enjoy seven cool (or, is it hot?) solstice facts—and see how many you know!

If you ask friends what happens on the summer solstice, they’re likely to get it right. It’s the longest day of the year, meaning this day has the most minutes of sunshine. And the midday Sun is highest up in the sky, or lowest if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.

June Solstice Facts

Alright, let’s get on with some fun facts about the June solstice:

  1. On the solstice, the Sun moves through the sky along its most-curved path. It rises and keeps veering to the right as it passes high overhead—quite different from the laser-straight path the Sun moves along in late March and late September.

  2. 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 up. That’s because a few thousand years ago, the solstice happened when the Sun was in the constellation of Cancer the Crab.

  3. The June solstice is when folks in the Northern Hemisphere see the highest Sun of the year. 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.

  4. For those at the equator, the solstice is when the Sun is lowest in the sky.

  5. 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 “stands” still.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

Sun and clouds

As a bonus, here are two additional Sun-themed facts:

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

Learn More

Check out our Summer Solstice 2018 page for everything you need to know about the June solstice, including FAQs, folklore, and more!

About This Blog

Welcome to “This Week’s Amazing Sky,” the Almanac’s blog on stargazing and astronomy. Bob Berman, longtime and famous astronomer for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, will help bring alive the wonders of our universe. From the beautiful stars and planets to magical auroras and eclipses, he covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob, the world’s mostly widely read astronomer, also has a new weekly podcast, Astounding Universe

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

weather

What kind of weather will there be in Ocean City, NJ over Labor Day and the week following?

winter in June

Here in New Zealand some brave souls celebrate the Shortest Day, June 21, with a mid-winter swim. I did so but once!

How do you celebrate the solstice?

I celebrate the solstice by sleeping late and staying cool!

solstice and angle of the sun

Since moving into our house 22 years ago,we have noticed in recent years that the light coming through our back door window has changed.The band of light on the floor used to disappear at the summer solstice and then gradually reappear as we approached winter. The band of light now remains during all seasons and we now can confirm that the reason is the change in the earth's tilt.

Earth's tilt or house tilt?

Or perhaps in 22 years your house has settled or tilted more so than the earth.

Solstice facts

It's not really the start of Summer; it's Midsummer for a reason. The days (sunlight) start getting shorter. The seasons have many different definitions; Meteorological summer started on June 1st; back in the day, Summer started on May 1, thus mid-June was mid-Summer according to that calculation. Personally, I follow the meteorological dates (Dec. 1, March 1, June 1, and September 1) to reckon the seasons. The Summer Solstice is fun and has a rich folklore, but for me, it doesn't mark the start of Summer.

first day of astronomical summer

Correct. The June solstice marks the first day of astronomical summer in the Northern Hemisphere, though it’s more common today to use meteorological definitions and what it “feels” like outside.  The Almanac also recognizes Midsummer Day, which is a pagan holiday rich in folklore and traditionally marks the midpoint of the farmer’s growing season.  Right now, you are on an astronomy blog, so Bob is using astronomical definitions, i.e., the summer solstice happens when the Sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. On the summer solstice, the Sun reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the Sun.

Longest Day

There was another blog a while back explaining that while the Solstice is the longest day, the few weeks following it may actually seem longer because of the sunrise/sunset times, or something like that. Can you point me to that article? Thanks-

longest day of the year

Hi Tracy,  Sorry we’re not sure which blog you’re referencing. We do have an article that mentions why the solstice isn’t the hottest day of the year—as it takes a while for the atmosphere to warm up: http://www.almanac.com/content/first-day-summer-summer-solstice . The solstice is indeed the day that receives the most daylight of the year.  The way to check day length is with our sunrise/set tool which is customized to your location: http://www.almanac.com/sun/rise

Equinox

On a related note, we do have an equinox article that speaks to the fact that the equinox—which literally means “equal night”—is not actually 12 hours night and 12 hours day. On the date of each equinox, there are more than 12 hours of daylight. The reasons are a little complicated. Equal day/night would require us to measure sunrise/sunset at the exact moment that the exact center of the Sun appears above/disappears below the horizon, however, we actually define sunrise and sunset as the moment that the Sun’s disk become visible above/below the horizon. In addition, the Earth’s atmosphere refracts sunlight which also causes the Sun to become visible a few minutes before the edge technically reaches the horizon. Basically, these factors cause some differences in timing so that our manmade clocks won’t measure perfectly equal day/night hours on the equinoxes. Hope you find this helpful—and interesting!

Southernmost?

"The solstice sun stands directly over the Tropic of Cancer. In fact, that’s how the topic of cancer got its name. It’s the southernmost line connecting all places on Earth where the Sun is ever straight up." Southernmost? I would have thought that was at the winter solstice....

Southernmost

I agree with you Rich, I caught that right off. It is still southern to most of us, but the tropic of cancer is the northernmost point that the sun is straight overhead.

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