What does the first day of summer really mean?
POSTED: Saturday, June 21, 2014 - 1:16pm
UPDATED: Saturday, June 21, 2014 - 1:23pm
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — Summer is easily one of my personal favorite season's of the year.
It's the time of year when people take out the swimming pool, have balloon fights in their back yard, cookouts, late night camp fires, and of course the typical clothing you swear should be illegal on some people.
But aside from all these perks, the weather begins to get hotter as well.
The scorching sun shines brighter and hotter than on any other month, and as you may have heard, summer is the season with the longer days and shorter months.
And that is absolutely true.
June 21st marks the first day of summer because it happens to also be the summer solstice.
The summer solstice took place Saturday at 6:51 a.m. EDT, the moment the sun shines directly on the Tropic of Cancer, an imaginary line north of the equator.
This is the longest day of the year for people in the Northern Hemisphere.
For example, here in El Paso, our sunrise was at 6:01a.m. and our sunset is expected at 8:14p.m., which means today we will have 14 hours and 13 mins of sunlight!
But why is this happening?
As we all know, the Earth rotates around the sun, always tilted on its axis at a 23.5-degree angle.
It's because of this tilt that the latitudes of 23.5 degrees north and 23.5 degrees south are so important.
Quick world geography lesson: The line at this latitude above the equator is called the Tropic of Cancer, and below the equator it's called the Tropic of Capricorn.
On Saturday morning, the Earth was positioned so that the sun shined directly on the Tropic of Cancer, which crosses countries such as Mexico, China and India.
So, the opposite was true for the Southern Hemisphere.
As the Tropic of Capricorn was tilted away from the sun on Saturday, people there experienced the winter solstice, also known as the shortest day of the year.
Therefore, starting Saturday, the sun will appear to stay at the same height in the sky, as in the days before and after the solstice.
The biggest misconception about the summer solstice: People think the Earth is closer to the sun.
That day already passed.
In fact, its called the perihelion.
When our planet Earth reaches perihelion, it's has reached the closest point to the sun for the year and that happened on January 4, 2014.
The word “perihelion” is from the Greek words peri meaning near, and helios meaning sun.
Now the farthest point away from the sun is yet to happen this year.
That is called Aphelion, and that is expected to occur on July 5th.
Quick World Geography Lesson: did you know the closet we will ever get to the sun on the perihelion is 91,400,000 miles, while the farthest we will ever get from the sun on the aphelion is about 94,500,000 miles away.
For what it's worth, enjoy the day today, as the saying would go on the summer solstice, party all day sleep all night.