Couldn't find element LayerAd

Error finding content

The Summer Solstice - Windows to the Universe

Shop Windows to the Universe

Learn about planets outside our solar system through Exoplanets and Alien Solar Systems by Tahir Yaqoob, Ph.D., a book in our online store book collection.
A diagram showing how the Sun moves through the sky on the Summer solstice.
Click on image for full size

The Summer Solstice

Let's pretend, for the moment, that you're the person standing on the Earth in the picture to the left, living in Topeka, Kansas, around 40 N latitude. The picture on the left shows the view from the solar system (upper panel), and from on the surface of the earth (lower panel). Notice that some of the same features are labelled on each panel.

The upper panel shows that on the summer solstice (which occurs around June 21), the northern half of the Earth is tilted towards the Sun. Notice that the Sun is north of the equator. For you in Topeka, the altitude of the Sun at noon is 73.5, which is pretty high in the sky. In fact, that is as high as the Sun ever gets at that latitude. It has been getting higher and higher in the sky since the winter solstice and through the vernal equinox. The bottom panel shows how the Sun moves through the sky for someone standing on the ground in Topeka.

So in general, the northern hemisphere is getting more direct sunlight, which heats the Earth most efficiently, than the southern hemisphere. This is summer for people in the northern hemisphere. During the summer, the Sun is also above the horizon longer than it is during the winter. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year.

At this same time, the southern half of the Earth is tilted away from the Sun. If you were living in Neuquen, Argentina (roughly -40 S latitude) you would be bundled up for the winter.

How high the Sun gets in your sky, and how long it is above the horizon during the day, depend not only on the season, but also on your latitude.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

A Big Day for the Sun

On Thursday, June 21, 2001, there will be a total eclipse of the Sun. The eclipse will only be visible from parts of Africa and Madagascar. The triple line on the image to the left shows the path of where...more

Archeoastronomy

"The movements of the heavenly bodies are an admirable thing, well known and manifest to all peoples. There are no people, no matter how barbaric and primitive, that do not raise up their eyes, take note,...more

Megaliths Revealed

Many people are interested in the mysterious megalithic structures that can be found around the world. A megalithic structure is a ancient monument made of large stones. Megalith comes from Greek; "mega"...more

Pentre Ifan Dolmen Tomb

The stone structures of England and France are very famous. But, there are also stone structures in Wales, Sweden, Germany, Portugal, Spain, and Russia. The most popular site in Wales is Pentre Ifan. Pentre...more

Astronomy at Stonehenge

Some people would say that advanced astronomical astronomy was practiced at Stonehenge. But, it is not likely that ancient observers were able to make advanced predictions such as when lunar and solar...more

Native American Astronomy

People from Asia crossed the Bering Strait into North America. These people were first in this new land and so they are known as Native Americans. Over time, these people broke into tribes (as seen on...more

The Stones of Carnac

The stones of Carnac, France, are probably the most famous stones markings outside of those found at Stonehenge in England. There are many, many stones at Carnac. And these stones are very old too, the...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF