Yes I realize it is several days after the solstice, but I don’t want to wait 6 months to publish this. It seemed to me significant that we had both the solstice and a full moon at perigee (“supermoon”) in the same week. I’m an astronomy nerd, so the motions of the sun, moon and planets mean something to me. It’s not just about your sign! I think the solstices are the most important days of the year, with the equinoxes a close second. I still like Christmas a lot, but that’s just the winter solstice a few days after.
Last week, one of the year’s two solstices took place. For us in the northern hemisphere it marked the first day of summer, the longest day of the year. It happened in the evening on the west coast of North America. Like all astronomical phenomena, solstices (and equinoxes) happen at a specific time not on a date. In the case of the solstice, it is the moment when the earth points its axis directly toward or away from the Sun. For the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice is when our planet points its northern hemisphere at the sun, at the sharpest angle it can. Therefore for most of the world’s population this signifies the longest day and shortest night of the year.
For the southern hemisphere, the situation is the same but opposite. The summer solstice for the northern hemisphere, which happens either on the 20th or 21st of June every year, is the winter solstice for the southern hemisphere. Folks in South Africa and Australia have their shortest day and longest night while people in America and Europe have their longest day and shortest night. The year’s other solstice occurs in 6 months, on December 20th or 21st. The northern hemisphere is pointed away from the Sun, and thus has its shortest day and longest night. The southern hemisphere has its longest day and shortest night. Short nights around Christmas? I really don’t like the thought of that.
The planet we live on is tilted on its axis of rotation. Therefore it must tilt toward or away from the Sun as it revolves around it. If you are good at visualizing, you know that there is a time (two times actually) when during the year the Earth neither points toward or away from the Sun. Those times are known as the Equinoxes. Nights and days are equal. Think of those times as when the Earth is tilted directly toward or away from its direction of its travel around the Sun.
Okay, so why is this stuff important, or at least very cool? The nature of time, the seasons, the passage of our lives: to me these have always been very profound & interconnected things. When I was younger, the seasons meant warmth, colorful leaves, cold and snow, and flowers, and that’s all. But as I learned about things astronomical, the other pieces fell into place. Add all the fascinating myths and stories from around the world and I realized I was not the only one who thinks these matters are important.
Connections between things that happen in the world have always interested me. You will occasionally see TV shows and books dedicated to these ties between natural events and human stories and experience. Unfortunately these are too often academic and dry. This I can’t understand, since these events have inspired so much that is creative in humans: poetry, art, stories. I like the way people respond and react, both emotionally and in a visceral sense, to these cycles. I definitely react to them, and I like this very real connection to the natural world that I share with others. I guess that’s why I think the solstice is worth celebrating.
I should admit right here that I did nothing special to signify the event. It snuck up on me. I have in the past celebrated by climbing a mountain and camping atop it, or by joining in some extended outdoor excursion or even party. But this time it just passed, and like with birthdays I just felt older.
Enjoy these images. I’m sorry but they’re copyrighted and not available for free download without my permission. Just click on any you are interested in to go to purchase options for the high-res. version. Please contact me if you have any questions. Thanks!