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Magic of Stonehenge shown off on 2015's longest day

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Sunday, June 21, 2015, 9:34 AM - Nothing boosts your solstice-cred like showing up at actual Stonehenge on the day.

The world-famous stone circle in Wiltshire, England, was thronged with around 23,000 revellers early Saturday morning, marking the dawn of the longest day of the year.

Police told the BBC attendance was less than last year's 36,000, and there were also fewer people arrested for drug offenses.

The summer solstice has special significance among pagans, and Stonehenge is believed to have been a religious site around 4,000 years ago.

At the site itself, the central altar stone, heel stone, and slaughter stone are all aligned with the rising sun on the solstice, with sunrise this year at around 4:52 local time.

In astronomical terms, the summer solstice occurs in the north when the Earth is at a point in its orbit where its axis is tilted toward the sun, maximizing the amount of sunlight that strikes the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, June 21 marks the winter solstice, the year's shortest day.

For one day each March and September, the Earth's axis is tilted neither away from or towards the sun, with equal amounts of light hitting both hemispheres. This marks the equinox, from the old latin meaning "equal darkness." 

"Solstice" means the sun is standing still, a reference to the fact the day is as long or as short as it will get that year, depending on the hemisphere.

On the summer solstice in Canada, sunrise appears earlier depending on how far north you are.

In St. John's, Nfld., the sun rose at 5:03 a.m., at 5:06 a.m. in Montreal, Que., and at 5:36 a.m. in Toronto, Ont.

Out west, the sun rose at 5:04 a.m. in Edmonton, Alta., slightly behind St. John's. In Iqaluit, Nunavut, the sun rose at 2:11 a.m., and that city's day will last 20 hours and 49 minutes. 

At Alert, Canada's outpost on Ellesmere Island in the high Arctic, the sun will not set at all.

June 21 is the "official" start of summer (and, this year, Father's Day as well), but of course the downside is from now until the winter solstice on December 22, the days will gradually become shorter.

That's three months off, though, so if it's sunny out where you are, get out and soak it up.


WATCH BELOW: A tranquil timelapse of the sunrise in Morin, Alta., from earlier in June

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