The June (or Northern) Solstice falls on Wednesday 21 June in 2017, the day on which the Sun rises highest in the sky and the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere (where it is the Summer Solstice) and the day on which the Sun rises lowest in the sky and the shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere (where it is the Winter Solstice). Up until this date the days have been growing longer in the Northern Hemisphere and shorter in the Southern Hemisphere since the December Solstice (which is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere), but after it the situation will be reversed, with days growing steadily shorter in the Northern Hemisphere and longer in the Southern Hemisphere until the next December Solstice.
The solstices are entirely a product of variation in the Earth's rotation on its axis, which is at an angle of 23.5° to the plain of the Earth's orbit about the Sun. This means that in December the Earth's Southern Pole is tilted towards the Sun, while the Northern Pole is tilted away from it. This means that around the Southern Solstice the Southern Hemisphere is receiving radiation from the Sun over a longer part of the than the Northern, and at a steeper angle (so that it to pass through less atmosphere to reach the planet), creating the southern summer and northern winter.
The tilt of the Earth at the Northern Solstice. Wikimedia Commons.
The solstices are fairly noticeable astronomical events, and tied to the seasons which govern the life cycles of life on Earth, and they have been celebrated under different names by cultures across the globe, but most notably by those at higher latitudes, who are more profoundly affected by the changes of the seasons.
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