Images show the 2024 summer solstice at Stonehenge

the Summer Solstice Thursday marks the end of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of a brand new season, one that promises more warmth and more sunlight. Marking the transition to summer 2024, this astronomical event is a kind of grand opening: everywhere above the equator, it will be the longest day of the year.

in Stonehengea prehistoric monument of colossal stones that is now a protected heritage site in southern England, historians believe that the ancients built a ceremonial circular structure of colossal sarsen stones with the specific intention of honoring and celebrating the solstice.

A crowd gathers to celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge in the British county of Wiltshire on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

English Heritage via Reuters

Mysteriously constructed around 2500 BC, Stonehenge is believed to be a spiritual or ritual ground of sorts, although the true reasons why people conceived the idea of ​​building it, and what they may have used it for, remain unknown. The stones were lifted and carefully arranged in the late Neolithic, or Stone Age, a time when the creation of such a monument would have been a remarkable feat of advanced construction and engineering.

The sun sets at Stonehenge as a crowd of people gather to celebrate the summer solstice in the British county of Wiltshire on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

English Heritage via Reuters

For a person standing in the middle of Stonehenge, the design is oriented so that the stones form an exact outline of the summer solstice sunrise and summer solstice sunset. Winter solstice. Thousands of people flock to the site each year on both solstices to witness the phenomenon for themselves.

The sun sets at Stonehenge as a crowd of people gather to celebrate the summer solstice in the British county of Wiltshire on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

English Heritage via Reuters

The moon rises behind Stonehenge on June 20, 2024 in Wiltshire, England. On the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun rises in perfect alignment with the Heel Stone and Altar Stone in the 5,000-year-old Stonehenge circle.

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Just one day before this year’s summer solstice, climate protesters Spraying Stonehenge with orange paint To make a statement against fossil fuels. English Heritage, which manages the Stonehenge site, told CBS News that the incident was “deeply disturbing and our curators are investigating the extent of the damage,” but the monument remained open to the public.

Climate activists at Just Stop Oil spray Stonehenge in the UK with an orange substance in protest against fossil fuels on June 19, 2024.

Just stop the oil

What is the summer solstice?

The solstice is technically the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, with its opposite, the winter solstice, simultaneously heralding winter across the Southern Hemisphere.

It happens when the earth, which is It is tilted at 23.5 degrees on its axisIt reaches the furthest point at which the northern half of the planet has turned toward the sun since the summer solstice last occurred. Since the Earth is constantly rotating on its axis and revolving around the Sun at the same time, this tilt provides each hemisphere with the opportunity to be bathed in the longest period of daylight only once a year.

Seasons exist on Earth because of its 23.5 degree tilt. As the planet rotates and moves on its orbital path Approximately 365 daysEarth’s tilted axis means that the angles at which different parts of its surface face turn the Sun throughout the year. During the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice, which typically falls on June 20 or 21 — which is June 20 this year — those cosmic mechanics push the top of the planet toward the sun. In the Arctic, daylight begins for six months, while in the Antarctic, it means six months of darkness instead.

The Earth’s tilted axis is responsible for the changing seasons as it passes around the Sun.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service

The conditions reverse six months later, when the Earth reaches a point in its orbit where its axis is tilted back so that the south pole is closer to the sun. On that day, usually December 21 or 22, the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere brings the shortest period of daylight, while summer begins in the Southern Hemisphere.

Crowds gathered at Stonehenge in December to celebrate the winter solstice as well.

People take part in winter solstice celebrations at the prehistoric Stonehenge monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England, on December 22, 2023.

Images by Ben Birchall/PA via Getty Images

Why is June 20 the longest day in 2024?

The North Pole never tilts toward the sun as it does during the summer solstice. This apparent tilt exposes a larger portion of the northern hemisphere to the sun’s rays at one time than at any other point in the Earth’s revolution. From the perspective of a person on Earth, this exposure creates the longest 24-hour period of daylight that occurs all year.

This year, the North Pole reaches its maximum tilt at 4:51 PM EDT on June 20. According to To the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Sun is then directly above the Tropic of Cancer, a longitudinal line that wraps horizontally around the circumference of the Earth at 23.5 degrees above the equator. The line passes through Mexico, the Bahamas, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India and southern China.

The summer solstice occurs when the Earth’s inclination toward the sun reaches its maximum and the sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer, which is located at 23.5 degrees north latitude. During the summer solstice, the sun is at its highest point in the sky and it is considered the longest day of the year.


At the other end of the cycle, when the North Pole is tilted as far away from the Sun as possible, the portion of sunlight that can reach it from the Northern Hemisphere is as small as possible. This is why the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year for people above the equator, and the longest day of the year for people below it.

How has the summer solstice been celebrated throughout history?

The summer solstice is an occasion that has been observed and celebrated by civilizations for thousands of years. Historians believe the Neolithic people who built Stonehenge were part of a broader ancient culture in northern and central Europe, which experts say recognized the solstice and the change of seasons as they relate to agriculture, and perhaps the timing of crop cycles.

British non-profit National Trust writes in an overview of… Ancient coup traditions That this event was “commonly marked by Celtic, Slavic and Germanic peoples by lighting fires, with the aim of enhancing the power of the sun for the remainder of the crop season and ensuring a healthy harvest.” Other Neolithic stone circles, somewhat similar to Stonehenge, also appear to have been built with solstices in mind, according to the organization.

These days, people celebrate the solstice in their own style of traditional celebrations of ancient times. Festivals and bonfires are common in communities around the world. But there are countless ways in which modern people acknowledge the seasonal transit of the land. Depending on where it takes place, it may look like a summer solstice celebration A midnight baseball game In Fairbanks, Alaska, or all day Holistic yoga pool In Times Square.

People practice yoga in New York’s Times Square while celebrating the summer solstice on June 21, 2015. (Photo credit DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

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