Summer solstice: The birthday of the night and Stonehenge

June 21 is the year’s longest daytime day in the Northern Hemisphere. And its night is the shortest night of the year. The daytime lasts for more than 16 hours in the mean latitudes; the sun never sets behind the polar circle. A popular term for the shortest night of the year is a “sparrow’s night.” The night will start growing longer on the following day. The point of sunrise and the point of sunset stop moving at the moment of solstice. The daytime lasts 17hours 36 minutes at the latitude of Moscow, while the astronomical dusk seems to stay on forever.

The remarkable phenomenon enables the dwellers of central and northern parts of Russia to do without artificial lighting for nearly 24 hours. Yet the circumstance is rather unfortunate in terms of night observations because the astronomical dusk does not fade to black. The picture looks the opposite way in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a day of the shortest daytime and the longest night.

The day of summer solstice is an extremely important day for astronomers and geographers. It is the most favorable day for observing the silvery clouds that are seen against the twilight segment. The sun actually never sets in areas located above 66.5 degrees latitude, the daytime lasts around the clock at the time of summer solstice. The sun moves across the sky at a constant altitude all through the day on the North Pole. On June 21 the sun crosses the 6-hour meridian and starts sliding down the ecliptic. It begins a journey to autumn equinox, when it will cross the earth’s equator.

Year in and year out hordes of tourists arrive in Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, England, as the day of summer solstice draws nearer. Tourists arrive in that place to spend the most mystical night near Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument. The Druids are thought to have performed strange rites in the vicinity of Stonehenge. Their rites were somehow associated with the periods of equinox, with summer solstice playing a crucial role. Some scientists maintain that the Druids regarded the day of solstice a special day for it was the time when a “tide of energy” would come over the planet and feed the people for the next year. Other scientists believe the old stones have medicinal properties.

Both astronomers and astrologists agree that during the time of summer solstice “Earth will position itself with respect to the Sun in such a way that sunbeams in the Northern Hemisphere will fall over Tropic of Cancer in a vertical way and reach the bottom of the deepest wells. Some very old mysteries will be undone as a result.”

On the other hand, doctors do not believe the day of summer solstice stands out among other days of summer. Speaking to, pediatrician Elena Skvortsova said that no specific pieces of advice were extended to patients or healthy individuals during the time of summer solstice. “The length of daytime and nighttime has, without doubt, a certain impact of the way a person feels during a particular period. However, the maximum stay of the sun over the horizon has no impact whatsoever on a person’s mental or physical health because each day the daytime has grown a few minutes longer. Speaking of a healthy individual, we’re not aware of any noticeable detrimental consequences, which may be caused to him by that pretty regular daylight-saving time procedure when we set the clocks one hour ahead or behind of standard time twice a year. As for a patient, it’s a different story. Every disease has its symptoms,” says Dr. Skvortsova.


Translated by Guerman Grachev

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov