13 Facts You Never Knew About the Summer Solstice

Did you know that the sun is NOT close to the earth on the summer solstice and it’s NOT the hottest day of the year? Here are some other facts about the summer solstice, you may have been getting wrong all this time.

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Summer Solstice 2018

The timing of the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere varies between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year and time zone. This year, the summer solstice will be at 6:07 a.m. on Thursday, June 21st. The summer solstice is the day with the most hours of sunlight during the whole year.

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1. When it’s summer in the north, it’s winter in the south

During the summer solstice, the North Pole is tilted closest to the sun. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s the opposite, so the South Pole is tilted farthest from the sun. That’s why when it’s the summer solstice in the north, it’s the winter solstice in the south. And when it’s the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

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2. Summer solstice isn’t exclusive to Earth

All the planets in our solar system have summer solstices. Mars’ solstice occurs a few days after Earth’s June one. On Uranus, the summer solstice happens for 42 years; the winter solstice lasts the same amount of time. Talk about a never-ending winter!

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3. One of the Seven Wonders of the World may have been built around it

Stonehenge in England is thought to have been constructed to celebrate the summer solstice. To this day, tourists flock to the ancient site to witness the sunrise right through the centre stone during the summer solstice.

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4. The word “solstice” comes from Latin

“Solstice” comes from the Latin word for “sun stand still” because the sun will reach its highest point at noon on that day and briefly appear not to move.

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5. It goes by many different names

In Northern Europe, the summer solstice is often referred to as Midsummer; Wiccans and other Neopagan groups call it Litha; while some Christian churches recognize the summer solstice as St. John’s Day to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist.

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6. The bright day has a dark history

Many ancient cultures worshiped the sun and/or had deity/rulers called Sun Kings and practiced ritual human sacrifice, especially at the solstice. The Vikings were said to have hung dead human and animal bodies from trees as an offering to the gods.

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7. Those flower garlands aren’t just for show

According to pagan folklore, evil spirits would appear on the summer solstice. To ward them off, people would wear protective garlands of herbs and flowers. One of the most powerful of these plants was known as “chase devil,” today referred to as St. John’s Wort.

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Classroom globes

8. It’s how the Tropic of Cancer got its name

The Tropic of Cancer—the latitude on Earth where the sun is directly overhead at noon on the summer solstice—is called that because when the ancients established the day, the sun appeared in the constellation Cancer, reports Discover Magazine.

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Beautiful view of Londrangar Rocky cliffs in Snaefellsnes Peninsula - Iceland

9. You can watch the sun “not set”

In northern Iceland you can perch on a cliff overlooking the sea and physically watch the sun “not set,” says Ryan Connolly, co-founder of Hidden Iceland. “The sun dips all the way down to the horizon, brushes the water then starts to rise again.” Iceland is the only place outside of the Arctic Circle where you can experience this phenomenon, according to Connolly.

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10. Midnight sports are a thing

In Alaska, the summer solstice is celebrated with a midnight baseball game, The game starts at 10:30 and goes into the next morning. This tradition started in 1906 and 2018 marks the 113th game. Or if you prefer a nine-iron, head to Iceland for a round of midnight golf.

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11. No shadows!

If you are somewhere in the tropic of Cancer during the solstice, you’ll note that at the stroke of noon, you won’t see any shadows. That’s because that is the precise time when the sun is directly overhead at a 90-degree angle to the Earth.

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Closeup photo of household alcohol thermometer showing temperature in degrees Celsius

12. More sunlight doesn’t mean more heat

While the Northern Hemisphere receives more sunlight on the summer solstice than on any other day of the year, that doesn’t mean the first day of summer is also the hottest. Even though the planet absorbs a lot of sunlight on the summer solstice, it takes several weeks to release it. As a result, the hottest days usually occur in July or August.

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13. The Earth is actually furthest from the sun

Another popular misconception is that during the summer solstice Earth is closest to the sun. But, in reality, the tilt of Earth has more influence on the seasons than does our planet’s distance to the sun. So on the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is actually furthest from the sun.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest