Summer is coming! No wait, summer is here! A little confusion would have been understandable on Tuesday June 20, as the summer solstice hit Turtle Island at different times of day, straddling two dates.
The astronomical phenomenon that launches summer occurs high above Mother Earth, so although it happens in one instant in the heavens, it occurs in different time zones on the ground. Thus this year, depending on where you are and whom you ask, summer started either on Tuesday June 20 or Wednesday June 21.
The solstice—derived from the Latin word solstitium, a combination of sun (sol) and stitium (to stop), according to Treehugger.com—falls at 12:24 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday June 21. For the rest of the country, though, the solstice occurred on June 20.
“This is the precise moment when, basically, the sun stands still at its northernmost point as seen from Earth,” reports Treehugger.com. “Its zenith doesn’t teeter north or south, but sits patiently at the Tropic of Cancer before switching directions and heading south again.”
But since the U.S.’s other time zones are an hour and more behind the East Coast, midnight gets in the way. Either way, though summer technically arrived on the 20th in some parts, the first full day of summer for everyone is on the 21st.
There’s also a commensurate amount of daytime, with New York City clocking 15.05 hours of sunlight, according to Treehugger.
“A solstice happens when the sun's zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. On the June solstice, it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.4 degrees,” reports Timeanddate.com. “It's also known as the northern solstice because it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere.”
Celebrations are taking place among First Peoples across Turtle Island, especially in Canada, which commemorates its indigenous heritage each June 21 with National Aboriginal Day.