The June solstice is known as the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere and the winter solstice the southern hemisphere. The date varies between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year.
The summer solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet’s semi-axis in a given hemisphere is most inclined towards the star that it orbits. Earth’s maximum axial tilt to our star, the Sun, during a solstice is 23° 26’. This happens twice each year, at which times the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the North or South Pole respectively.
Though the summer solstice is an instant in time, the term is also colloquially used like Midsummer to refer to the day on which it occurs. Except in the polar regions (where daylight is continuous for many months), the day on which the summer solstice occurs is the day of the year with the longest period of daylight.
Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied among cultures, but most have held a recognition of sign of the fertility, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time. In ancient times, solstices and equinoxes were important in guiding people to develop and maintain calendars, as well as helping them to grow crops. It was important for many people, especially those who spent a considerable amount of time outdoors, to understand the seasons and weather, which played a key role in their lives. Over the centuries, the June solstice was a time when festivals, celebrations and other festivities were celebrated.
The word solstice derives from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).
Photo © Abraham Menashe