Thursday, June 21 officially marks the first day of summer, otherwise known as the summer solstice.
The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, which sits at 23.5 degrees north latitude. Today, this happened at 6:07 a.m. ET.
The further North you're located, the more sunlight you will see, with the Arctic Circle experiencing almost perpetual daytime.
Technically speaking, the solstice occurs because Earth rotates on a tilted axis, with the solstice happening when the planet's geographical pole is most inclined toward the star it is orbiting, which in our case is the sun. With the summer solstice, the Northern pole is closest to the sun, and when the winter solstice hits in December, the Southern pole will be more inclined.
For the rest of the year, the planet will tilt until the Southern Hemisphere gets the most light, resulting in the Northern Hemisphere's winter solstice in December.
The summer solstice is marked by traditions around the world, one of which occurs at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. While it's unknown why the formation was built, it's possible it had something to do with the summer solstice, since the day sees the sun rise over the structure's Heel Stone and arrive at the center of the Altar Stone.
Cultures around the world have celebrated the summer solstice for thousands of years, marking the day with holidays, festivals and other traditions.
Many groups celebrated with various pagan traditions, as the day is steeped in mystical beliefs, with the changing of the seasons believed to represent various changes including new beginnings, unions, fertility and the harvest.
"The summer solstice is honored in several ancient cultures as the union between heaven and earth," Brooklyn-based energy healer Emily Mikaelah told Vogue. "As we emerge out of the spring—where we were in a period of renewal, birthing new ideas, and shedding the icy layers of the shadow months—we slowly grow into summer, a time of manifestation and the ripening of the fruit."
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