Summer Solstice and Once in a Lifetime Moon!

Believe it or not, but today is officially the first day of summer! The weather might not be playing ball, but thousands will flock down to Stonehenge to witness the summer solstice this evening. The longest day of the year (in terms of sunlight anyway). But this year is extra special. It’s also the Strawberry Moon. Whilst this might sound like a mashup of The Beatles’ singles, it’s a very rare and extremely beautiful occurrence:

The name comes from the Latin solstitium meaning “sun stands still”. It happens because the sun stops heading north at the Tropic of Cancer and then returns back southwards.

In the northern hemisphere this means the days begin to get shorter.

But 2016 is a special year, because the solstice coincides with the Strawberry Moon, a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.

What is the Strawberry Moon?

It is a full moon, which occurs in June, named by early Native American tribes. It is a full moon like any other, but marks the beginning of the strawberry season. The two events coincide once every 70 years.

When is the summer solstice?

Where we are, in not-so sunny Sheffield, it can fall on different dates from year to year, between 20 and 22 June.

This year it’s happening today, Monday 20th June. The sun will rise at 4.45am and sunset will happen at 10.34pm

Why is the summer solstice significant?

The summer solstice is a special day for many as it means the start of the summer.

It has links to many ancient cultural practices as different cultures have celebrated it being symbolic of renewal, fertility and harvest.

Why is Stonehenge significant for the solstice?

Stonehenge in Wiltshire is the most popular place in the UK to celebrate the longest day because the prehistoric monument aligns to the solstices. The rising sun only reaches the middle of the stones one day of the year when it shines on the central alter.

It is thought the original builders of Stonehenge had taken giant bluestones from the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire to build the inner ring of stones at the monument for reasons that are not fully understood.

The English Heritage-run site is expecting around 20,000 visitors this year.

Make sure you’re still up to see the sun set, the Strawberry Moon is not set to seen again until 2062! If you’d love to learn about all things Science that happen around us all the time, our various Science courses are sure to fill you in. Check them out here!

 

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