Summer has finally arrived in the UK, with Brits basking in record high temperatures last week after weeks of cold and rainy weather.
And with the sunny season now underway, it means the summer solstice is just around the corner.
The summer solstice, otherwise known as the longest day of the year, officially marks the beginning of the astronomical summer and is the start of brighter evenings.
Here’s what you need to know about the summer solstice and when it falls this year.
When is the longest day of the year in 2021?
In the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice - also know as midsummer - takes place between 20 and 22 June every year, when the sun travels along its northernmost path in the sky.
This year, the solstice will fall on Monday 21 June, when the UK will enjoy 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight, with the sun rising at around 4.45am and setting at 9.26pm.
The solstice falls on the same date as the proposed end of all lockdown restrictions in England, although there have been doubts as to whether measures will be lifted as planned.
The UK government has said it is “absolutely open” to delaying the unlocking of restrictions on 21 June as the Delta Covid variant continues to spread in parts of the country.
What happens during the summer solstice?
The summer solstice takes place when the Earth arrives at the point in its orbit where the North Pole is at its maximum tilt toward the sun and is directly above the Tropic of Cancer.
This results in the longest day and shortest night of the calendar year, and marks the beginning of the astronomical summer, which ends with the autumn equinox on 22 September.
The day signals the moment the sun’s path stops moving northward in the sky, with the days gradually becoming shorter afterwards as we move towards winter.
However, the days won’t become noticeably shorter for a while, with the shortest day of the year not due until Monday 21 December, known as the winter solstice.
There are two solstices each year, with one occurring in the winter and the other in the summer.
During the winter solstice, the Earth's axis is tilted furthest away from the sun directly over the Tropic of Capricorn bringing only a few hours of daylight.
In the southern hemisphere the dates of the two solstices are reversed, with the winter solstice occurring on the same day in June and the summer solstice the same day in December.
How is the summer solstice celebrated?
Historically, the summer solstice used to take place between the planting and harvesting of crops, giving people who worked on the land time to relax.
This is also the reason many people would traditionally get married in June, and why it is still a popular month for weddings.
The summer solstice has inspired many festivals and midsummer celebrations over the years, with people lighting bonfires, having picnics, watching the sun rise and Maypole dancing.
Many people also visit Stonehenge on the summer solstice to see the sun rise at the heritage site. The rising sun only reaches the middle of the stones on one day of the year, when it shines on the central altar.
The summer solstice event at Stonehenge will still be going ahead this year, with anyone arriving on 20 June asked to observe social distancing and to stay within groups of fewer than 30.
As the event coincies with the government’s lifting of lockdown restricitons in England on 21 June, the solstice celebrations will take place as planned. However, if the guidance changes for England, plans may need to be changed. Organisers will post updates of the plans online with the latest information for visitors.
It is advisd that anyone planning to attend the event at Stonehenge takes a lateral flow covid test before setting off, and only attend if the result is negative.
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