There are few relationships more enduring than the one we have with the Sun. The oxygen we breathe, the food we eat, how we dress, what activities we undertake are all dictated by the Sun. Yet in our modern life we forget that the Sun is the back beat to our being. This recent lack of direct awareness was not always this way, as humans have long had a love affair with the Sun. We have called the Sun Ra, Surya, Daz bog, Tonatiuh, Amaterasu, Apollo, Huitzilopochtli, to name but a few as the Sun has had many names in many places.
And our ancient acknowledgement of the intrinsicity of the Sun to our life is marked by festivals world-wide.
Regardless of where we are in the world when the solstice comes, it is a moment of acknowledgement of who we are in time and space, whether we are at our lightest of light or darkest of dark. We here at Wndsn want to bring particular attention to the cyclical nature of our experience on Earth and nudge you to take a moment to look up at the sky wherever you are and pause.
But first, the science. As the Earth orbits around the Sun, it also tilts, moving towards and away from the Sun depending on its path during the year, currently maintaining an angle of ≈66.56°. As a result, the plane of the equator of the Earth (and respectively, the celestial equator) with the ecliptic plane currently forms an angle of ≈23.44°), which is called the obliquity of the ecliptic or obliquity (Obliquus; Latin for ‘crooked’). And regardless of your viewpoint of the night sky, it is always the same background with regards to where the Earth is along its path.
The point where the tilt is closest to the Sun is known as the Summer Solstice, and the point where it is furthest away from the Sun is known as the Winter Solstice. As we are all on the same piece of rock hurtling around in the space, some of us are experiencing dark and light differently. (To be most precise, we refer to the solstices as either the June Solstice or the December Solstice to properly describe the solstices on either hemisphere.) While we are all experiencing the solstice at the same time, for those in the southern hemisphere it can be a signal to wrap up warmly and become reflective, and for those in the north it is a clear sign that abundance is with us and it is time to come outside. This year, the June Solstice is on June 21, 2021 at 3:32 GMT.
For those of our readers with Quadrants, you can take note of the solstice by:
- Aligning the string with the date of the Solstice.
- When you do so, you find out that the degree arc shows the maximum elevation of the Sun for this day. As it is the solstice this coincides with it also being the maximum elevation for the year. (Note: This Quadrant was made for the northern hemisphere. A southern-made Quadrant would be mirrored and would show the minimum elevation for the same day.)
- Keeping the string in place, slide the cursor knot upwards to the 12-hour arc. This now marks the day on the string and you are witnessing a graphical calculation of the solstice. You can now delineate the sunrise and sunset for this date, thereby determining the amount of daylight available. Also by sighting the Sun with this set up, you can take the time.
As you mark the June Solstice in your own way, consider going outside and observe that you are experiencing the maximum of either light or dark. And then take a moment with your Quadrant if you have one and witness the mathematics involved.
Want to get more into the science and math of the solstice? Head over to the tutorials on Using the Obliquity Arc.