Summer Solstice 2020: The First Day of Summer

Everything You Should Know About the Longest Day of the Year

June 19, 2020
Summer Solstice Grain
Pixabay

In 2020, the June solstice occurs on Saturday, June 20, marking the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Here’s everything you need to know about the summer solstice—the longest day of the year!

The June Solstice

In the Northern Hemisphere, the June solstice (aka summer solstice) occurs when the Sun reaches its highest and northernmost points in the sky. This event marks the start of summer in the northern half of the globe. (In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the opposite: the June solstice marks the start of winter, when the Sun is at its lowest point in the sky.)

When Is the Summer Solstice?

In 2020, the June solstice is Saturday, June 20, at 5:44 P.M. EDT. This date marks the official beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, occurring when Earth arrives at the point in its orbit where the North Pole is at its maximum tilt (about 23.5 degrees) toward the Sun, resulting in the longest day and shortest night of the calendar year. (By longest “day,” we mean the longest period of sunlight.) At the June solstice, the Northern Hemisphere receives sunlight at the most direct angle of the year.

Summer Solstice Dates and Times

Year Summer Solstice (Northern Hemisphere)
2020 Saturday, June 20 at 5:44 P.M. EDT
2021 Sunday, June 20 at 11:32 P.M. EDT
2022 Tuesday, June 21 at 5:14 A.M. EDT
2023 Wednesday, June 21 at 10:58 A.M. EDT

Note: In the Southern Hemisphere, the June solstice marks the beginning of winter.

Celebrate the Start of Summer With an Eclipse

An annular solar eclipse will occur on the weekend of the solstice, beginning just before midnight (Eastern Time) on Saturday, June 20, and reaching its maximum point at 2:40 AM EDT on the 21st. Annular eclipses are very similar to total solar eclipses, but instead of covering the Sun completely, the Moon only covers most of the Sun, leaving a thin, shining ring—called an “annulus” or “ring of fire”—around the Moon’s dark shape.

This eclipse will NOT be visible from North America, but can be viewed from parts of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. If you’re not in one of those areas, don’t worry! You can watch the eclipse live on YouTube starting at 1:00 AM EDT on Sunday, June 21, here: Annular Solar Eclipse Livestream 

What Is the Summer Solstice?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the June solstice (aka summer solstice) occurs when the Sun reaches its highest and northernmost points in the sky. It marks the start of summer in the northern half of the globe. (In contrast, the June solstice in the Southern Hemisphere is when the Sun is at its lowest point in the sky, marking the start of winter.)

The word “solstice” comes from Latin solstitium—from sol (Sun) and stitium (still or stopped), reflecting the fact that on the solstice, the Sun appears to stop “moving” in the sky as it reaches its northern- or southernmost point (declination) for the year, as seen from Earth.

After the solstice, the Sun appears to reverse course and head back in the opposite direction. The motion referred to here is the apparent path of the Sun when one views its position in the sky at the same time each day, for example at local noon. Over the year, its path forms a sort of flattened figure eight, called an analemma. Of course, the Sun itself is not moving (unless you consider its own orbit around the Milky Way galaxy); instead, this change in position in the sky that we on Earth notice is caused by the tilt of Earth’s axis as it orbits the Sun, as well as Earth’s elliptical, rather than circular, orbit.

Does the Solstice Always Occur on the Same Day?

The timing of the June solstice is not based on a specific calendar date or time; it all depends on when the Sun reaches its northernmost point from the equator. Therefore, the solstice won’t always occur on the same day. Currently, it shifts between June 20, 21, and 22.

The Year’s Longest Day

The Summer Solstice is the day with the longest period of sunlight. Notice how the Sun appears highest in the sky at the solstice; its rays strike Earth at a more direct angle, causing the efficient warming we call summer. Because the Sun is highest in the sky on this day, you’ll notice that your shadow (at local, or solar, noon, not clock-time noon) is the shortest that it will be all year. [Local noon is when the Sun crosses the local meridian (an imaginary line between the North and South poles) and is highest in the sky for the day.]

For those who live in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the shortest day of the year and marks the arrival of winter.

See 7 fun facts about the June solstice!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is the Summer Solstice the First Day of Summer?

A:Yes and no… Technically, it depends on whether we’re speaking about the meteorological or astronomical start of the season. Most meteorologists divide the year into four seasons based on the months and the temperature cycle, which allows them to compare and organize climate data more easily. In this system, summer begins on June 1 and ends on August 31. Therefore, the summer solstice is not considered to be the first day of summer, meteorologically speaking.

Astronomically, however, the first day of summer is said to be when the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky, which occurs on the summer solstice (June 20–22). Therefore, the summer solstice is considered to be the first day of summer, astronomically speaking.

As an almanac, which is defined as a “calendar of the heavens,” we prefer to follow the astronomical interpretation of the seasons and do consider the first day of summer to coincide with the summer solstice. That being said, you may choose to follow whichever system you like best!

Q: Is the Summer Solstice the Longest Day of the Year?

A: Yes! As spring ends and summer begins, the daily periods of sunlight lengthen to their longest on the solstice, then begin to shorten again.

On the solstice, the Sun is at its highest point in the sky and it takes longer for it to rise and to set. (Note: When the Sun appears highest in the sky near the summer solstice, the full Moon opposite the Sun generally appears lowest in the sky!)

On the winter solstice, just the opposite occurs: The Sun is at its lowest in the sky. At this time, its rays hit part of Earth at an oblique angle, creating the feeble winter sunlight.

Use our handy sunrise and sunset calculator to figure out how many hours of sunlight you’ll get in your location on the solstice!

SUnflower field

Q: Why Doesn’t the Summer Solstice Fall on the Same Date Each Year?

A: The summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere ranges in date from June 20 to 22. This occurs in part because of the difference between the Gregorian calendar system, which normally has 365 days, and the tropical year (how long it takes Earth to orbit the Sun once), which has about 365.242199 days. To compensate for the missing fraction of days, the Gregorian calendar adds a leap day about every 4 years, which makes the date for summer jump backward. However, the date also changes because of other influences, such as the gravitational pull from the Moon and planets, as well as the slight wobble in Earth’s rotation.

Q: Why isn’t the Summer Solstice—the longest day of the year—also the hottest day of the year?

A: Earth’s atmosphere, land, and oceans absorb part of the incoming energy from the Sun and store it, releasing it back as heat at various rates. Water is slower to heat (or cool) than air or land. At the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere receives the most energy (highest intensity) from the Sun due to the angle of sunlight and day length. However, the land and oceans are still relatively cool, due to spring’s temperatures, so the maximum heating effect on air temperature is not felt just yet. Eventually, the land and, especially, oceans will release stored heat from the summer solstice back into the atmosphere. This usually results in the year’s hottest temperatures appearing in late July, August, or later, depending on latitude and other factors. This effect is called seasonal temperature lag.

Q: What is Midsummer Day (June 24)?

A: Historically, this day marks the midpoint of the growing season, halfway between planting and harvest. It is traditionally known as one of four “quarter days” in some cultures. Folks celebrated by feasting, dancing, singing, and preparing for the hot summer days ahead. Read more about the ancient Quarter Days!

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Celebrating the Solstice

Watch the summer solstice LIVE from Stonehenge, wherever you are in the world!

Looking for a unique way to celebrate the solstice? How about a virtual trip to Stonehenge? For centuries, people have flocked to Wiltshire, England, to visit Stonehenge—a mysterious prehistoric monument. See more about this ancient site. This year, due to the coronavirus, the in-person event has been canceled, but live coverage will capture the best views of Stonehenge, allowing everyone to connect with this spiritual place at all once—from the comfort of home.

See the Stonehenge summer solstice livestreamed here

Go strawberry picking. Enjoy a big bowl of strawberries and cream on the solstice.

There are many people—like the Swedes—who celebrate the beginning of summer by eating the first strawberries of the season. Indulging in some strawberries and cream is the perfect way to celebrate the June solstice, since June’s full Moon is also known as the Full Strawberry Moon. It typically coincided with the ripening of strawberries in what is now the northeastern and midwestern United States. In fact, in many states, this is the perfect time to go strawberry picking! Look up the you-pick farms in your area!

Have a solstice evening bonfire!

Swedes and many northern people also celebrate a solstice holiday known as Midsummer’s Day on June 24, which is one of the four ancient quarter days of the year. The eve prior is called Midsummer’s Eve, marking the shortest night of the year. A common way to celebrate is to have a bonfire party! After all, these northern people have emerged from some long, dark winters! In the Austrian state of Tyrol, torches and bonfires are lit up on mountainsides, which is a stunningly beautiful sight.

According to ancient Latvian legend, Midsummer’s Eve (St. John’s Eve) on June 23 is spent awake by the glow of a bonfire and in pursuit of a magical fern flower—said to bring good luck—before cleansing one’s face in the morning dew. Read more about fern folklore

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Solstice Fun Facts

The solstice does NOT bring the earliest sunrise

Although the day of the solstice has the most daylight hours of the year, the earliest sunrises of the year occur before the summer solstice. The exact timing will depend in part on your latitude: In the mid-latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs about a week earlier than the June solstice.

The reason for the timing of sunrises is related to the inclination of the Earth’s rotational axis and Earth’s elliptical (rather than circular) orbit.

The latest sunsets of the year will occur several days after the solstice, again depending on latitude.

The Sun sets more slowly at the solstice

Did you know that the Sun actually sets more slowly around the time of a solstice, in that it takes longer to set below the horizon? This is related to the angle of the setting Sun. The farther the Sun sets from due west along the horizon, the shallower the angle of the setting Sun. (Conversely, it’s faster at or near the equinoxes.) Bottom-line, enjoy those long romantic summertime sunsets at or near the solstice!

See sunrise and sunset times for your area.

Seasons on Other Planets

  • Mercury has virtually no tilt (less than one-thirtieth of a degree) relative to the plane of its orbit, and therefore does not experience true seasons.
  • Uranus is tilted by almost 98 degrees and has seasons that last 21 years. 

See rise/set times for all the planets!

Summer Solstice Folklore

  • Deep snow in winter, tall grain in summer. –Estonian proverb
  • When the summer birds take their flight, goes the summer with them.
  • If it rains on Midsummer’s Eve, the filbert crops will be spoiled. –Unknown
  • One swallow never made a summer.
  • Easterly winds from May 19 to the 21 indicate a dry summer.
  • If there are many falling stars during a clear summer evening, expect thunder. If there are none, expect fine weather.

When does fall start? Click here to see the first date of each season.

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

I'm mad!!! Since when is the

I'm mad!!! Since when is the first day of Summer on June 20??? My birthday ( and my daughter's) is on June 21 and THAT is the first day of Summer! Has been forever. Summer used to slide in about 1AM on June 21...we are bummed When did this abomination happen? Is this "global warming"? Does anyone have an answer?

It's not exactly the same

It's not exactly the same time every year. If the year has a leap day (Feb 29), the summer soltace will occur on June 21. The year prior to leap year, the summer soltace will happen on June 20. Also, it varies depending on your time zone.

The first day of summer (or

The first day of summer (or any of the seasons for that matter) are not calendar events, they are astronomical events. Summer starts when the Sun reaches its furthest point north of the equator (the Tropic of Cancer). This year that is at 1:04am EDT on June 21. However, if you live in Mountain Time (like I do) it will be at 11:04pm on June 20. It has nothing at all to do with "global warming."

It's different every year and

It's different every year and not just for the summer solstice.

All the comments,

All the comments, meteorological, astronomical, and historical are science combined with tradition. It is the first OFFICIAL day of summer! Celebrate!!

Anyone familiar with the

Anyone familiar with the ancient Chinese calendar. I always remembered that spring began when the sap starts running, around the first of Feb. (Groundhog's to the west), spring beginning when the life energy begins to "rise" again out of the earth pushing sap and growth. You can actually "feel" the life energy in the air around that time. And likewise all the other seasons where earlier due to this theory. To me it is a very "energetic" based calendar, I like that becasue thats all everything is - energy (Enstein).

A little insight into the

A little insight into the Druid outlook...
Summer Solstice “Litha”
Litha, Mid-summer. The summer solstice. June 21st. (This year on the 20th. Actually)
A time of great magical power. This holiday is also known as Mid-Summer festival.
The Cauldron is the main focal point in this celebration; it is ringed with fresh flowers and filled with spring water. This celebration is also a time for rededicating or initiations to the craft. A major symbolic gesture in ritual a sword is plunged into the cauldron, that sword would be used to anoint new members into the craft or to honor advancement in the craft.
Bonfire leaping is done to celebrate the renewal of the season and what this season brings forth from the Earth. It is also said it gives you luck for the coming year.
The first fresh herbs are hung around the fire to be blessed and cleansed from the smoke. After the herbs have been cleansed they are placed on the altar for blessings. Mugwort is one of the leading old school herbs and if you can find some really makes the ritual sing.
Mirrors are placed around the fire or altar to reflect the sun or candle light.
The traditional colors for altar and such are white, orange, and red.
Traditionally this celebration was started at high noon and would continue into the wee hours of morn. Modern Wiccans try to at least have a feast and celebration during mid day when the sun god is highest in the sky. The green Man is honored during the celebration as well and his renewed energies and the preparations for fall harvest are planned.

Thank you for posting your

Thank you for posting your comment. I appreciate learning more about the older traditions. They just resonate for me.

Thanks for a little herbal

Thanks for a little herbal older tradition info shared here ...amongst the disputers of who know what for sure vs. giving the gift of what their traditions teach. good comment.

Living in Alaska we get 22

Living in Alaska we get 22 hrs of sun on the solstice. Nothing like bbqing outside after midnight with full sun! The sad part is after the solstice, we start losing daylight. In the winter we get 5 hrs and that's not much!

Jesus was born in "April" or

Jesus was born in "April" or the first full moon after the spring solstice. An old Jewish guy told me that. But if you read the Bible, he really was born in the spring because it coincided with tax collecting and shepherds in the fields.

I hit the wrong reply button.

I hit the wrong reply button. The comment above should be one main comment down. Please excuse me.

Why were shepherds in the

Why were shepherds in the fields overnite at the time? Lambing season.

They would have no reason to be out in the fields overnite in December, which even in Palestine can be pretty cold especially at night.

That is always Passover, and

That is always Passover, and it is the day He was crucified. It is the first full moon after the Spring equinox. The sun is directly over the equator at the two equinoxes, and stops at the Tropic lines at the solstices, from the perspective of the ecliptic.

And Ketchican Alaska only 17

And Ketchican Alaska only 17 hours of Sun in June.

I love this article. Summer

I love this article. Summer to me means time with family, a much slower pace, enjoying the out of doors, more excercise outside, bike rides, running and really having a lot of fun! YEAH Summer!

I think you might consider

I think you might consider rephrasing "There is a lag time between sunlight being produced and it actually hitting Earth." The lag time is only about 8 minutes and 19 seconds from when it is produced to when it actually hits earth. You may have chosen your words better, and what I think you meant, by saying that the sun's energy is stored in the earth's atmosphere and oceans, and this stored heat continues to dissipate after the summer solstice to keep the earth warm even until later in the summer. The opposite happens six months later in the winter, as this "lag" period keeps the earth cooler longer, even after the nights get shorter.

A photon 'produced' in the

A photon 'produced' in the sun may bounce around for a thousand years before it breaches and can then begin the short journey here.

Thank you for your feedback.

The Editors's picture

Thank you for your feedback. We have revised our copy to (hopefully) make things clearer.

Thank you, Val Popov-- all

Thank you, Val Popov-- all that you state is true. That said, again, none of these considerations have any bearing whatever upon the Solstices. They are when they are, and they are always the mid-point of the Suns' astronomical cycle.

you mean the solstices are

you mean the solstices are the high and low point respectively, the mid points are the equinoxes.

There are several

The Editors's picture

There are several interpretations as to when each season begins.
In North America, calendars commonly use the astronomical definition. It is true that various countries, cultures, religions, organizations, and individuals may use definitions other than the astronomical. Because we are an almanac that provides astronomical data, however, that’s why we use the astronomical definition. For our weather predictions, however, we start with a more meteorological definition by providing Nov-March “winter” predictions, Apr-May for spring, June-Aug for summer and Sept/Oct for fall. Hope this is helpful. --Your OFA editors

No, you do not use the

No, you do not use the astronomical definition, as the astronomical definition places the middle of Summer on June 20th and the middle of Winter on the 21st of December this year, with no variance whatsoever. If you're calling June 20th the "beginning of Summer" and December 21st the "Beginning of Winter", I'm really not sure what definition you're using (possibly rolling dice or consulting a magic eight ball), but it most certainly is not the astronomical definition.

Every kid knows that summer

Every kid knows that summer starts when school ends. Therefore, every school district defines summer differently.

Accept that summer is like pornography, as the Supreme Court Justice said, "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."

How true!

How true!

Okaaay i may off missed it

Okaaay i may off missed it out haaa, but i live in south england, when does our summer start?!

This rain is doing my heading, this time last year it was hot and sunny. xD

Summer in the Northern

Summer in the Northern Hemisphere begins on May 1st. June 20th (or some years 21st, as the solstices vary) is actually Midsummer or the middle of the Summer season, just as the Winter Solstice is Midwinter, or the middle of Winter. If you're in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed and our Midsummer is their Midwinter (June), while our Midwinter is their Midsummer (December).

Rest assured, it starts on

Rest assured, it starts on May Day, same as everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. It may be wet, even snowy, that doesn't matter. The Solstice will occur on 20 June regardless of what the local weather is doing. Based on that fact, the Summer season begins on the first of May. We still had snow on the ground this past Spring Equinox, but it was still the Spring Equinox, we didn't try to tell the Haevens they had to hold up on allowing the hours to balance until the weather felt right.

Please explain something to

Please explain something to me. The Summer Solstice or Mid Summer's Day where the sun is at it's highest is surely the middle of summer as the name implies not the start of summer? As the winter solstice is the middle of winter not the start, also the vernal and autumnal equinoxes are the middle of spring and autumn respectively. Your seasons appear to be about a month and a half out.

The solstice does indeed

The Editors's picture

The solstice does indeed herald the beginning of the astronomical season. Which season? It depends on where you live!
At the June solstice:
* Summer starts in the Northern Hemisphere, and winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere.
* The North pole is tipped 23-1/2 degrees toward the Sun.
* The Sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer at local noon.
At the December solstice:
* Winter starts in the Northern Hemisphere, and summer begins in the Southern Hemisphere.
* The South Pole is tipped 23-1/2 degrees toward the Sun.
* The Sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at local noon.

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