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What is the summer solstice??

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EMaggio1 View Drop Down
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Direct Link To This Post Topic: What is the summer solstice??
    Posted: Jun/21/2011 at 10:08am
Why Summer Begins Tuesday
 
 
The steamy temperatures would make it seem summer had already begun, but according to the astronomical calendar summer officially begins Tuesday.

The summer solstice occurs at 1:16 p.m. EDT (17:16 UTC), when the sun will be as high in the sky as possible, and it will be up a fraction of a second longer than the day prior or the day after. Though it's the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the length of the full day, including night, doesn't change, of course. 

Here's how it works: Earth is tilted on its axis 23.5 degrees, so it leans one way as it spins around its axis while orbiting the sun. On June 21 this year (some years it's June 20), the North Pole is pointing toward the sun as much as is possible. (The winter solstice occurs when the top half of our planet, everything north of the equator, faces directly away from the sun, leaving the North Pole in complete darkness.)

Tuesday may mark the sun's peak, but it doesn't typically mark summer's peak heat. That's because the oceans take time to heat up (or cool down). By mid-June the oceans of the Northern Hemisphere are still cool from winter's chill, delaying the peak air temperatures by a month and a half, according to NASA.

Earth is actually farther away from the sun during the summer than it is during the winter months, because our planet's orbit is elliptical, a squished circle of sorts. The difference is about 3 million miles (5 million kilometers), and it makes a difference in radiant heat received by the entire Earth of nearly 7 percent. But the difference is more than made up for by the longer days in the Northern Hemisphere summer with the sun higher in the sky.

If you're a night owl, not to worry. Days may be longest during the summer, but nights aren’t at their shortest. Before sunrise and after sunset some light gets scattered over the horizon by the atmosphere. This light, called twilight, lasts longest during this time of year.

(Courtesy of http://ca.news.yahoo.com/why-summer-begins-tuesday-000005632.html)

Edited by EMaggio1 - Jun/21/2011 at 10:10am
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun/21/2011 at 10:13am
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Direct Link To This Post Posted: Jun/21/2011 at 10:14am

The June Solstice and Ancient Traditions

In ancient times, the date of the June solstice was an important source to help people manage their calendars and organize when to plant and harvest crops. This time of year was also a traditional month for weddings. Some societies invested much effort to establish the length of the year.

Stonehenge was built around 3100 BCE. Some people believe that it was built to help establish when the summer solstice occurred. Interestingly, the sun rises at a particular point on the horizon as viewed from the centre of the stone circle on day of the June solstice. At that point the builders may have started counting the days of the year. Many other megalith structures in Europe may have been built for similar purposes, although reasons are still uncertain.

In ancient China, the summer solstice was observed by a ceremony to celebrate the earth, femininity, and the “yin” forces. It complemented the winter solstice that celebrated the heavens, masculinity and “yang” forces. According to Chinese tradition, the shortest shadow is found on the day of summer solstice.

In many countries in Europe, Midsummer festivals or celebrations were held around the time of the June solstice. In ancient Gaul, the Midsummer celebration was called Feast of Epona, named after a mare goddess who personified fertility and protected horses. In ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes, many pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. After Christianity spread in Europe and other parts of the world, many pagan customs were incorporated into the Christian religion. In many parts of Scandinavia, the Midsummer celebration continued but was observed around the time of St John’s Day, on June 24, to honor St John the Baptist instead of the pagan gods.

In North America, many Native American tribes held ritual dances to honor the sun. The Sioux were known to hold one of the most spectacular rituals. Usually performed during the June solstice, preparations for the dance included cutting and raising a tree that would be considered a visible connection between the heavens and earth, and setting up teepees in a circle to represent the cosmos. Participants abstained from food and drink during the dance itself. Their bodies were decorated in the symbolic colors of red (sunset), blue (sky), yellow (lightning), white (light), and black (night).

The June Solstice’s Influence in Modern Times

There are many solstice observances held by New Age and Neopagan groups throughout the world. In the United Kingdom, an organization known as English Heritage will provide managed open access to Stonehenge for the June solstice in 2008. Thousands of people, including modern-day druids and pagans, gathered at Stonehenge in 2007 for this occasion.

 In some parts of the United States, events that focus on the theme of the summer solstice are held. These events include: local festivals featuring art or music; environmental awareness activities that focus on using natural sunlight as a source of energy; and family gatherings.

In northern European countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, the Midsummer Festival is one of the most festive summer celebrations. Celebrations occur when the summer days are at their longest – and in the north it is the time of the midnight sun. Midsummer festivals generally celebrate the summer and the fertility of the earth. In Sweden and many parts of Finland people dance around maypoles. Bonfires are lit and homes are decorated with flower garlands, greenery, and tree branches.

(Courtesy of http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/june-solstice-customs.html)
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