For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, today is the summer solstice, marking the traditional start of summer. (Friends in Australia and the rest of the southern hemisphere, we’ll have to catch you another time.) While in many parts of the country the season is already in full swing, June 21st brings us the longest day and shortest night of the year.
At the time of the solstice, the Earth’s north pole is tilted toward the sun. This tilt has the sun take its most northerly path of the whole year. During this time we get the type of sun we usually think of at high noon...where the sun appears to hang in the sky directly overhead and produces the shortest noontime shadows of the year. In fact, the word solstice is derived from the Latin sol sistere, roughly translating to the sun standing still.
Throughout history, the solstices have been considered occasions to be celebrated. They have marked the start of ancient new years, been commemorated with bonfires, and welcomed with sun dances. Solstices (both summer and winter) are times of change, where the days start to go in the opposite direction.
Here in Colorado, the solstice brings us nearly 15 hours of sunlight. The late evening light and the great temperatures make for the perfect excuse to spend time outside. When the sun doesn’t set till 9pm, you can leave work, head out on an adventure and still be home before dark. It’s not quite a giant celebration on the level of Stonehenge, but it is enough for us.
Our amount of sunlight is nothing compared to those in Alaska, however. The Land of the Midnight Sun earns its name during the solstice, when the sun north of the Arctic Circle will dip to the horizon but not below. With effectively 24 hours of sunlight around dramatic scenery, you have plenty of time to celebrate and some wonderful photo ops.
Even though the solstice marks the longest day of the year, it does not mark the latest sunset! This typically follows in the coming days—so you still have time to plan a late afternoon adventure to soak up all the daylight you can. Feel free to send photos of the solstice (especially our Alaskan customers!). We’d love to see what you’re doing with your longest day of the year.