1. This year it’s June 21.The summer solstice always occurs between June 20 and June 22, but because the calendar doesn’t exactly reflect the earth’s rotation, the precise time shifts slightly each year. This year, the sun will reach its greatest height in the sky for the Northern Hemisphere on June 21 at 12:38 P.M.
2. The sun will be directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer.While the entire Northern Hemisphere will see its longest day of the year on the summer solstice, the sun is only directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer (23 degrees 27 minutes north latitude).
3. The name comes from the fact that the sun appears to stand still.The term “solstice” is derived from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because the sun’s relative position in the sky at noon does not appear to change much during the solstice and its surrounding days. The rest of the year, the Earth’s tilt on its axis—roughly 23.5 degrees—causes the sun’s path in the sky to rise and fall from one day to the next.
4. The world’s biggest bonfire was part of a solstice celebration.Celebrations have been held in conjunction with the solstice in cultures around the world for hundreds of years. Among these is Sankthans, or “Midsummer,” which is celebrated on June 24 in Scandinavian countries. In 2010, the people of Alesund, Norway, set a world record for the tallest bonfire with their 40.45-meter (132.71-foot) celebratory bonfire.
5. The hot weather follows the sun by a few weeks.You may wonder why, if the solstice is the longest day of the year—and thus gets the most sunlight—the temperature usually doesn’t reach its annual peak until a month or two later. It’s because water, which makes up most of the Earth’s surface, has a high specific heat, meaning it takes a while to both heat up and cool down. Because of this, the Earth’s temperature takes about six weeks to catch up to the sun.
6. Thousands of people gather at Stonehenge to celebrate.People have long believed that Stonehenge was the site of ancient druid solstice celebrations because of the way the sun lines up with the stones on the winter and summer solstices. While there’s no proven connection between Celtic solstice celebrations and Stonehenge, these days, thousands of modern pagans gather at the landmark to watch the sunrise on the solstice. Last year, 37,000 people attended.
7. The Pagans celebrate the solstice with symbols of fire and water.In Paganism and Wicca, Midsummer is celebrated with a festival known as Litha. In ancient Europe, the festival involved rolling giant wheels lit on fire into bodies of water to symbolize the balance between fire and water.
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