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Shedding light on the summer solstice

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Rodrigo Cokting
Staff writer

Saturday, June 21, 2014, 2:36 PM - You may not notice it, but today will be the longest day of the year. June 21 marks the summer solstice, a term that derives from the Latin words sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

But what exactly does it mean? The Weather Network has you covered with exactly what you need to know.

Closer to the Sun?

One common misconception is that the summer solstice is an extremely summer-like day because the Earth is at the closest point on its orbit to the sun. While the distance from the sun to Earth does vary, the perihelion–a term that refers to such a distance– was reached on January 4, 2014. In fact, we're just weeks away from the aphelion (or furthest distance from the sun) which should happen on July 3rd at 8 p.m. EDT.

On the other hand, the lengthy daylight we see during the summer solstice is explained by the axial tilt our planet has. Earth has an inclination of roughly 23º which means that part of the planet is facing the sun and part of it is tilted away. During the summer solstice, the axial tilt is aimed toward the sun providing the day with the most daylight hours.


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A day of celebrations

Every year thousands gather at Stonehenge, the monument in Wiltshire, England. Many are followers of Neo-Druidism which is a form of spirituality that seeks perfect harmony with nature. While some may mistakenly assume that they are worshiping the sun like ancient druids, that's not usually the case. In fact, it's the light that's catching their eye. Light is fundamental for life and modern druids have learned to appreciate the importance of today. In 2014, close to 36,000 visited the stones hoping to catch the sun rise.

In many Scandinavian countries, the solstice is day around which many celebrations occur. Often bonfires are lit near lakes and by the sea. Music festivals and cookouts are also very common. Traditionally, unmarried women collect several flowers and place them on their bed to dream of their future husband.

Ancient mysteries

As we continue to learn more about ancient cultures, it becomes clear that during a time when radars and telescopes weren't available, people were still very much aware of concepts like a calendar years, solstices and seasons.


THE WEEKEND FEATURE: On Sunday, digital writer Daniel Martins examines the 13 of the most notorious Canadian floods and the impact of each. Check back to read and share.


Whether or not it's a coincidence, the sun seemingly lines up with the Pyramids of Giza when view from the Sphinx.

The previously mentioned Stonehenge was seemingly built like a year-long "clock," during the Summer Solstice the sun rose by the Hell Stone and during the winter solstice the sun set between the sarsen stones.

In Peru, the mysterious Nazca Lines still continue to confuse experts as to their specific purpose. The shallow etchings were created between 400 and 650 AD. Many of the designs are aligned with the winter solstice and were perhaps related to their relationship with the Sun God.

Whatever the reason for these constructions, it is clear that the relationship between the sun and Earth has always been important and will continue to be so till the end of our time.


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