Science

How the summer solstice works

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Between June 20 and June 22 every year, the Northern Hemisphere celebrates the summer solstice.

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The summer solstice marks the day marks the North Pole’s maximum tilt towards the Sun.

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It's also the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing early sunrises and hot summer days.

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A summer solstice (and its December counterpart, the winter solstice) is possible because the Earth is tilted — 23.5 degrees, to be exact — relative to the Sun.

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This tilt causes the seasons: when Earth’s northern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun, it’s summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. And vice versa.

Around June 20-22, Earth reaches a position in its orbit when the North Pole is tilted as much as it’s going to be towards the Sun — that’s the solstice.

The Sun’s noontime position won’t change for several days. In fact, in Latin, solstice means “Sun stands still.”

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Then days will get shorter and shorter, until the winter solstice in December — The shortest day of the year.

Read a deeper solstice explainer here.

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