Science

Summer solstice 2019: When is the summer solstice 2019? How long the longest day of the year is, and what happens at Stonehenge

The rainy climate may make you think something, yet summer is officially starting soon.
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The summer solstice marks the first day of summer, and this year falls on Friday 21 June.

In the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice denotes the longest day of the year, and for the most part occurs between 20-22 June.

The term solstice is made up of the Latin ‘sol’ meaning ‘the sun’, and sistere which means ‘to make stand still.’

How long is the longest day of the year?

On Friday 21 June, there will be 16 hours and 38 minutes of light – and the sun will rise at 4.43am before setting at 9.21pm.

The summer solstice occurs when the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky, and the tilt of the Earth’s axis is closest to the Sun and straight above the Tropic of Cancer.

A Northern Hemisphere lasts from the summer solstice to the autumnal equinox on 23 September. Throughout this period, days will gradually become shorter as the sun stops moving northward in the sky.

Why is Stonehenge significant?

The solstice has been celebrated for a huge number of years and related with pagans, who call the day Litha.

The pagan understanding of Litha is a fight between light and dark, and between the ruler from the winter to summer solstice – the Oak King – and the ruler from summer to winter – the Holly King. Traditionally, pagans reflect on the battle between light and dark within themselves at this time.

For agnostics, the old Stonehenge landmark in Wiltshire has dependably been vital when commending solstice, as it is just on this day that the rising sun reaches the middle of the stones when shining on the central altar.

A year ago, Stonehenge celebrated the centenary of it being publicly gifted to the nation by local barrister Cecil Chubb and his wife Mary in 1918. A programme of restoration, care and conservation began which continues to this day.

Originally, Stonehenge was constructed between 3,000 BC and 1,600 BC in three separate phases, with stones from as far away as the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire and the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire.

This particular alignment of stones with the sun pulls in a huge number of visitors to Stonehenge every year to see the sun ascend on the first morning of summer, even if the history of the site, why and for who it was built remains a mystery.

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