Today & Tomorrow mark the Summer Solstice
poolparty | June 20, 2008 at 12:44 pmby
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Depending on where you live, the Summer Solstice occurs this year — in the Northern Hemisphere on: June 20, 2008 at 7:59 PM EDT; and in the UK on June 20, 2008 at 23:59 UTC. in the Southern Hemisphere on: December 21, 2008 at 10:04pm AEST. Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning "sun" + "to stand still." As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky. As a major celestial event, the Summer Solstice results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Northern Hemisphere celebrates in June, but the people on the Southern half of the earth have their longest summer day in December.
What is a solstice? The earliest humans knew that the sun’s path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. They built monuments, such as Stonehenge, to follow the sun’s yearly progress. Today, we know that the solstice is an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis, and its motion in orbit around the sun. Because Earth doesn’t orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23-and-a-half degrees, Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. At the June solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that the North Pole is leaning 23-and-a-half degrees toward the sun. As seen from Earth, the sun is directly overhead at noon 23-and-a-half degrees north of the equator, at an imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Cancer. This is as far north as the sun ever gets. All locations north of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours at the June solstice. Meanwhile, all locations south of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours
Summer Solstice Fun Facts * Pagans called the Midsummer moon the "Honey Moon" for the mead made from fermented honey that was part of wedding ceremonies performed at the Summer Solstice. * Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires, when couples would leap through the flames, believing their crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump. * Midsummer was thought to be a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear. To thwart them, Pagans often wore protective garlands of herbs and flowers. One of the most powerful of them was a plant called 'chase-devil', which is known today as St. John's Wort and still used by modern herbalists as a mood stabilizer.