Today marks the beginning of summer, it arrives at 4:34 p.m. It also marks the longest day of the year; the sun rose in Saskatoon at 4:46 this morning and the sun will set 9:31 p.m.
1. So what is the summer solstice?
The earth orbits around the sun on a tilted axis, so for the six months of the year between March and September, the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere gets more exposure to sunlight. During the summer solstice, the sun is shifted closer to the earth than at any other time during the year.
2. How much sunlight will you get?
That varies depending on how far north you live. Here in Saskatchewan, we get between 16 and 18 hours. The closer you get to the middle of the planet – think the equator – the more it stays around 12 hours. In Alert, Nunavut (Canada’s North Pole) the sun doesn’t set. In Iqaluit, the sun rose at 2 a.m. and will set just after 11 tonight.
3. Why does Stonehenge always come up at this time of year?
While there is no final word on why Stonehenge (that giant stone structure in England) was built 5,000 years ago – one of the possibilities is that is was used to mark the solstices. It turns out that during the summer solstice the sun rises over the structure and hits the alter stone dead centre. People travel by the thousands to see the sunrise on the solstice at Stonehenge.
4. What happens in the other hemisphere?
It is heading into winter on the other side of the plant – think Australia. For people in the southern hemisphere, today marks their winter solstice, so it will be the shortest day of the year with the longest night. The exact opposite of us (and for the same reasons).
5. A 2016 summer solstice bonus.
This year’s summer solstice coincides with the June full moon for the first time since 1967. If you miss this, the two will happen together again in 46 years. June’s full moon is nicknamed the Strawberry Moon, because according to the Farmer’s Almanac, Algonquin First Nations knew it as a signal to gather ripening fruit. In the Europe, where strawberries aren’t native, it’s also known as the Full Rose Moon or the Honey Moon. You can watch the rare summer solstice full moon online on the Farmer’s Almanac site.