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Each year, the summer solstice offers us a moment of astronomical significance. It’s the longest day of the year, marking the first day of the summer season.

That means we also experience the shortest night of the year on this day.

Our planet’s rotational axis isn’t at a right angle to the orbital path taken around the sun. The pitch is approximately 23.5 degrees from vertical. As we travel through space each year, the axis is always pointing in the same direction.

That means the Northern Hemisphere is closer to the sun for half of the time, and then the Southern Hemisphere gets the other time.

That means the solstices are reversed when you step onto the other side of the equator.

How Does the Summer Solstice Impact Our Planet?

When one hemisphere gets closer to the sun, that area of the planet receives a steeper angle of received sunlight. That’s why the months tend to get warmer.

As you travel further north or south, the longer daylight hours extend at this time, with some areas having the sun never setting. The reverse happens in the winter when the sun doesn’t even rise into the sky.

Although the first day of summer happens at the solstice, it usually takes about a month for the planet’s climate to catch up to the sunlight change. This effect is called “seasonal lag,” and it is why the hottest months in the Northern Hemisphere tend to be in July and August.

When we know the time of the solstice, it is much easier to plan our crop planting cycles. It allows us to understand when to expect harvest, get ready for the winter, and manage other aspects of our lives.

We often celebrate these times with festivals today, but the significance of the solstice remains the same. It allows us to maximize our time in the warmer weather each year.

Scott Larson