In our latitude, the Northern hemisphere, the summer this year starts on Sunday, June 20th, 10:32 P.M. CST.
The word Solstice comes from the Latin solstitium, meaning “sun stands still.” For approximately six days in June and again in December, the sun appears to rise and set at the same point on the horizon. This illusion is caused by the slight tilt in the Earth’s axis in relation to the sun. A tilt toward the sun for the southern hemisphere brings summer, and tiling away brings winter. The transition times between these orientations are the solstices. The summer solstice varies each year between June 19 -23.
Note the subtle changes in sunrise and sunset times around June 20th:
For approximately six days in June, the sunrise and sunset are very close to the same time. The first day of summer also marks the longest day of the year and the shortest night. Starting June 2nd, the days start to get shorter and the nights longer by about 1 minute per day. The daylight hours are 14 hours and 44 minutes on this longest day of the year.
Since the beginnings of humanity
Most early societies worshipped the sky and associated their gods with celestial bodies. Simply by being there, the heavens reveal how tiny we are in the cosmos. Major festivals were scheduled according to the sun’s movements, and shrines were built. Our ancestors perceived the changing of the seasons as miraculous, and sacred importance was placed on the return of the sun. They knew that for their survival, they had to observe the seasons. They were much more attuned to nature and learned how to live in harmony with it. For example, they observed the rise and fall of the seas depending on the phases of the moon and the yearly flooding of the river Nile, which brought much-needed fertile soil.
Early humans fully developed the understanding of the Sun cycle and created myths, rituals, and major holidays around their solar deities to give thanks for the light and warmth that promotes growth in all living. People built altars and temples to celebrate the sun since ancient times. Many were very elaborate and survived to this day.
Already the ancient Egyptians…
The Egyptians worshiped many gods who represented the sun. The statue of the Sphinx, a lion with a human head, is strategically placed for the summer solstice when the sun sets between the pyramids of pharaohs Khufu and Khafre.
Also, in the Egyptian Temple of Amun at Karnak, the Solstice sun alights the light exactly in the heart of the complex.
Stonehenge, England, has been described as an astronomical observatory. It was created around 3,000 BCE. The stones were strategically placed, so the first rays of the sun on each solstice fall on a specific place. How the builders did that thousands of years ago is still not fully understood.
Learn more with KC Astronomical Society
We all live under the same Sun. Appreciate it by learning more about it! For example, visit a local astronomical society! The events are fun family outdoor time.
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