A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most inclined toward or away from the sun, causing the Sun’s apparent position in the sky to reach its northernmost or southernmost extreme. The name is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstices, the Sun stands still in declination; that is, the apparent movement of the Sun’s path north or south comes to a stop before reversing direction.
The term solstice can also be used in a broader sense, as the date (day) when this occurs. The solstices, together with the equionoxes, are connected with the seasons. In some cultures they are considered to start or separate the seasons, while in others they fall nearer the middle.
A common misconception is that the earth is further from the sun in winter than in summer. Actually, the Earth is closest to the sun in December which is winter in the Northern hemisphere.
As the Earth travels around the Sun in its orbit, the north-south position of the Sun changes over the course of the year because of the changing orientation of the Earth’s tilted rotation axes. The dates of maximum tilt of the Earth’s equator correspond to the Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, and the dates of zero tilt to the Vernal Equinox and Autumnal Equinox.
The reason for these changes has to do with the Earth’s yearly trip around the sun. For part of the year the Earth’s North Pole points away from the sun and part of the time toward it. This is what causes our seasons. When the North Pole points toward the sun, the sun’s rays hit the northern half of the world more directly. That means it is warmer and we have summer.
The day of the summer solstice is the longest day of the year. The length of time elapsed between sunrise and sunset on this day is a maximum for the year. In the United States, there are about 14½ hours of daylight on this day.
This was an interesting astronomy lesson to start the day. I always say a day is a waist if you don’t learn something new…thanks!
June 21, 2010 at 9:51 am
Thanks Raul! And I like that motto myself.
June 21, 2010 at 5:48 pm
but the real question is whether or not i can balance an egg on it’s end during the summer solstice?
June 21, 2010 at 10:23 am
I have to smile at the last time I tried the old equinox egg trick. Left work on a Friday after ‘setting it up’, only to come in Monday to a not-so-pleasant odor from the broken egg on the floor…
June 21, 2010 at 5:52 pm
The summer solstice gets much less attention than the winter one. It’s probably no coincidence that almost every northern hemisphere culture has a holiday in late December. Before electricity, what could be more positive than the days getting longer again? Thanks for the reminder. I am always refreshed to hear someone explaining basic science to the masses. To learn more about how Earth’s axis and orbit (and therefore seasons) change through time, do an internet search for “Milankovitch cycles”.
June 21, 2010 at 10:44 am
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be sure to look that up – sounds very interesting!
June 21, 2010 at 5:54 pm
Or how far back does heliolatry go?
June 21, 2010 at 11:00 am
I guess each individual’s own beliefs might come into play on that question. Definitely an interesting point to ponder, Marie!
June 21, 2010 at 5:57 pm
way to go sweet heart. i liked reading it also….
June 21, 2010 at 11:00 am
Thank you, babe! ♥♥
June 21, 2010 at 5:58 pm
“A common misconception is that the earth is further from the sun in winter than in summer. Actually, the Earth is closest to the sun in December which is winter in the Northern hemisphere.”
So I assume the Earth is tilted North during December despite being closer to the sun?
June 21, 2010 at 11:19 am
You are correct. During winter in the northern hemisphere, our northern axis continues to point to the North Star, but because we have moved in our orbit around the Sun, our northern hemisphere now points away from the Sun. Earth’s orbit around the Sun has a very slight elliptical path, in which our Sun is not exactly centered – which accounts for the distance variable. Earth is closest to our Sun in January, and furthest away in July.
June 21, 2010 at 6:09 pm
Yes we need to pay attention to our place in the universe.
June 21, 2010 at 11:36 am
You’re so right Kitty – thanks for reading!
June 21, 2010 at 6:10 pm
That’s interesting – I would have thought the distance from the sun was closely related to the temperature!
June 21, 2010 at 12:42 pm
I had thought the very same thing, Ziggy. This stuff has always amazed me. Thanks for stopping by!
June 21, 2010 at 6:13 pm
This reminds me of sixth grade science class and memorizing those ridiculous moon charts… now in the wisdom of my years this actually makes sense and is interesting. Thanks for bringing vigor to something once so lifeless! 🙂
June 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm
So true! I, too, seem to appreciate it now more than ever. Thanks for the read! 🙂
June 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm
That was a very good and interesting blog post. Short, easy and right to the point. It does make for good reading.
June 21, 2010 at 1:26 pm
I appreciate that very much, Lu!!
June 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm
What we may should consider, is the Weebles wobble, but, they don’t fall down effect: This is what scientist are saying according to:
By Alex Morales
March 1 (Bloomberg) — The earthquake that killed more than 700 people in Chile on Feb. 27 probably shifted the Earth’s axis and shortened the day, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist said.
My question is, was it the quake that shifted the Earths axes…or, as according to the Mayan Effect long count calender 2012 prophecies…did the equinoctial axes pattern, changed possibly by suns spots, or some other undetermined phenomenon cause the Quake?
Just a little bait food, to tease the mind into more research and study.
Thanks for a very interesting blog.
June 21, 2010 at 1:49 pm
That bait food is some very interesting stuff, sonsothunder. When it was announced that the axis had tilted minutely, thus shortening the day, something grabbed ahold of my stomach and gave it a good twist. Definitely food for thought. Thanks for reading!
June 21, 2010 at 6:21 pm
Thank you so very much for this post. My teenage daughter recently asked me about this, which promted my seven year old son to inquire. I had no idea what to tell him until now.
June 21, 2010 at 2:56 pm
Well thank you for stopping by to read, Kevin! It’s fascinating stuff. And don’t feel bad – I’ve ‘been in the dark’ about it basically my whole life as well. 🙂
June 21, 2010 at 6:25 pm
Summer solstice is a huge celebration in Scandinavia and goes somewhat un-noticed here in the UK… Was surprised to find out the earth is closest to the sun in December!
June 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm
Thanks for reading, Songbird! It’s usually on or about January 3rd when the sun is its closest to Earth – and around July 4th when it’s the furthest away. It’s amazing stuff, for sure.
June 21, 2010 at 6:43 pm
And here I though the Summer solstice was an excuse to get pissed and dance around an inverted phallus.
June 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm
Woo-hoo… I’m all about a reason to dance – but a happy one, though. 🙂
June 21, 2010 at 6:44 pm
Educating. needed 2 knw more about the solstice. thanks.
June 21, 2010 at 5:08 pm
Thanks for stopping by to read, Emmanuel!
June 21, 2010 at 6:44 pm
Science apart, I use December 21 as a psychological marker that winter is coming to an end – it’s got me through many a tenebrous month.
June 21, 2010 at 5:26 pm
Thats an excellent analogy!! By mid-January I’ve about had it with winter myself. Thanks for reading!
June 21, 2010 at 6:46 pm
Have u seen the movie with Hilarie Burton and Shawn Ashmore? The film focuses on the “dark side” of the phenomenon though.
June 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm
I have not seen it, Harry – but I just looked it up, and it’s now on my list! Thanks for the suggestion, and the read! 🙂
June 21, 2010 at 6:48 pm
nice science 😀
June 21, 2010 at 8:25 pm
Thanks for stopping by to read!
June 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm
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June 21, 2010 at 9:21 pm
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Surprising to know that the Earth is closest to the sun in December. In India, we had scorching heat starting from mid Feb to May. And now the climate has changed, its pleasant all the time here. It’s interesting to learn the climatic changes in different regions on the earth. This pic is a good one, clearly explains why there’s 6 months day and 6 months night near the poles.
This is a wonderful piece. Thanks!
June 22, 2010 at 12:46 am
I agree Nandhini, the climate changes throughout time never cease to amaze me. Always makes me wonder what we’re in store for next! Thanks so much for your comment, and for taking the time to read!
June 22, 2010 at 4:18 pm
Fascinating information – thank you for this post!
June 22, 2010 at 12:48 am
Thanks so much for taking the time to read!
June 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm
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very informative 😉
June 22, 2010 at 4:38 am
Thanks for reading! 🙂
June 22, 2010 at 4:16 pm
Loving the work. Nice and simplified. The solstice always seems to bring out a primal feeling in people. Maybe the Celts and others had the right idea about seasons etc.
June 22, 2010 at 5:35 am
Thanks for stopping by to read, Dan! And I agree with your comment on the Celts. 🙂
June 22, 2010 at 4:15 pm
I adored this part of astrology 🙂 when I went to school… 🙂
June 22, 2010 at 9:39 am
I enjoyed it too… but it’s been proven now that I should’ve paid closer attention! 🙂
June 22, 2010 at 4:21 pm
Thank you for the astronomy lesson … and for adding me to the blogroll! 🙂
June 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm
Thanks Emily!! And, I’ve enjoyed your blog immensely – you have some great wit and I look forward to reading more!
June 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm
June 22, 2010 at 11:58 pm
Thank you for taking time to read, Sophia!
June 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm
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Life on Earth Changes through Time
September 12, 2010 at 2:26 am
September 14, 2010 at 11:34 pm
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As a history teacher, I find it absolutely astonishing that people who lived 6,000 years ago had things like this and other astronomical phenomena all figured out.
June 21, 2011 at 5:16 pm
I agree, Carl! It boggles the mind. My mind, anyway. 🙂
June 21, 2011 at 10:39 pm
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