Summer Solstice 2022: Everything You Need to Know

Despite the wind and rain, summer is here! We are exactly halfway through the year, between the two equinoxes. The summer solstice marks the first astronomical day of summer, and for many around the world, it’s a time of celebration.

But when exactly is the summer solstice? How does it affect different latitudes? Read on for more information.

For those who missed it, you can check out our wonderful gallery of pictures of the Wolf Moon, the first full moon of 2022. If you’re looking forward to clear nights this year, why not plan ahead with our UK full moon calendar and beginner’s guide to astronomy?

When is the summer solstice 2022?

The summer solstice is Tuesday, June 21, 2022. The summer solstice marks the first day of astronomical summer, and the exact time of the summer solstice will be 10:13am BST.

There are two solstices each year, one in June and one in December.

What is the summer solstice?

The summer solstice is when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky, and in the northern hemisphere it is the longest day of the year.

The solstices (and equinoxes) are the result of the tilt of the Earth and its orbit around the sun.

Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted about 23.4 degrees relative to its orbit around the sun. This means that during the summer solstice, the northern hemisphere tilts most toward the sun, resulting in longer days. Likewise, during the winter solstice, the northern hemisphere tilts furthest from the sun.

Simply put, when one pole is more towards the sun, that hemisphere receives more sunlight than the other, giving us summer.

If the Earth is not tilted, the Sun will remain directly above the Earth’s equator throughout the year. This means we won’t have seasons as we know them, although we may have “climate zones”.

But the winter solstice is not necessarily the hottest day, which usually occurs in July or August in the northern hemisphere. This is because land temperatures were still relatively cool due to the previous spring. Our seasons are affected by what’s known as a “seasonal temperature lag,” which occurs because it takes a while to have the greatest heating effect on air temperatures.

This typically results in warmer temperatures in late July and August, as the oceans and land release the heat they have absorbed over longer periods of time back into the atmosphere.

How the Solstice Affects Different Latitudes

The winter solstice affects different latitudes in different ways. At the poles, there is a huge difference between the summer solstice and the winter solstice. You may have heard the country within the Arctic Circle known as the “Land of the Midnight Sun.” In Svalbard, for example, the sun does not set from April 20 to around August 20, but remains above the horizon, providing 24 hours of sunshine. And during winter, or “polar night,” the sun doesn’t rise from mid-November to late January.

The sun sets but never sets in the Svalbard sky during the summer months, casting a warm glow across the landscape © Getty images

For example, somewhere along the equator (0 degrees latitude), in Kenya, there is little variation in sunshine hours throughout the year. This is thanks to constant direct sunlight, so the sun always rises around 6am and sets around 6pm every day.

What causes the Earth to tilt?

Gravitational pulls from the sun and moon, as well as from the larger planets Jupiter and Saturn in the solar system, exert a pull on Earth. In addition to the series of bombardments the Earth suffered in the early days, this also caused the axis to tilt. Over an astronomical cycle of about 41,000 years, the tilt angle cycles between 21.5 and 24.5 degrees.

Where is the sun at the summer solstice?

During the summer solstice, the sun is furthest north of the celestial equator and maintains nearly the same declination for about two weeks. This is why the sun is seen high in the southern sky from the northern hemisphere and low in the northern sky from the southern hemisphere.

During the Solstice, the Sun is directly above the Tropic of Cancer, a line of latitude that circles the Earth about 23.27 degrees north of the equator.

What does the word “solstice” mean?

The word “winter solstice” is of Latin origin, derived from Solmeaning “sun” and the word sisters, which means “stand still”. On both the June solstice and the December solstice, the Sun reverses its apparent annual north-south motion.

What is the difference between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice?

Think of the solstices and equinoxes as opposites, the difference between them being the hours of daylight we receive on Earth. The two solstices in June and December mark the longest (summer solstice) and shortest (winter solstice) days of the year, while at the two equinoxes, days and nights are nearly equal in length.

During the summer solstice, the northern hemisphere tilts the most toward the sun, so the sun appears highest in the sky, resulting in the longest days of the year.During the winter solstice, the northern hemisphere reaches its greatest inclination leave From the sun, so the sun appears at the lowest point in the sky, giving us the shortest day of the year. However, during the vernal equinox, the sun is halfway between the two solstices and directly above the Earth’s equator.

Image showing difference between equinox and solstices

Earth is exactly between the two solstices during the equinox © Getty

Why does the date of the summer solstice change?

The date of the summer solstice varies according to when the sun reaches its northernmost point from the celestial equator, which varies between June 20, 21, and 22.

This is because the Earth takes more than 365 days to complete one orbit around the sun. Specifically, we need 365.25 days to orbit our star (this is also known as a “tropical year”). In the Gregorian calendar, they account for this by adding a day every four years, which is why we have leap years.

The date and time of the summer solstice, British Summer Time

2022: June 21, 10:13 am

2023: June 21, 3:57 pm

2024: June 20 at 9:51 pm

2025: June 21, 3:42 am

2026: June 21, 9:24 am

2027: June 21 at 3:10 pm

2028: June 20 at 9:01 pm

2029: June 21, 2:48 am

2030: June 21, 8:31 am

Do other planets have solstice?

Yes! When the poles of any planet are tilted the most toward the sun, we get the summer solstice (the north pole is tilted toward the sun) and the winter solstice (the south pole is tilted toward the sun). Every planet in the solar system has seasons, although they are different from the seasons we experience on Earth.

Like Earth, Mars’ axis of rotation is tilted by 25.2 degrees, and due to its eccentric orbit, the 2016 Mars solstice set within a few days of Earth.

Why do people celebrate the Solstice at Stonehenge?

There’s a lot we don’t know about the ancient monument Stonehenge, but we do know that it has been the center of ceremonial celebrations for thousands of years. The standing stones are oriented to commemorate the position of the rising sun, and thousands of people flock to the Neolithic monument to commemorate the occasion. There is some debate as to whether they were originally built for a specific solstice, or both.

Different stones of Stonehenge have been assigned different names, and outside the main circle is a stone called the Heel Stone. It is located just over 78m (256 feet) northeast of the main circle and marks the point of the sun rising on the summer solstice seen from the center of the circle. It is likely that it once had a partner who together framed the sunrise, however that stone has been forgotten by history.

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