Today is a special day in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s the summer solstice, the day with the most amount of sunlight, and the start of summer. Not only that, but people who gaze up to the heavens will also see a full moon, a coincidence that hasn’t happened in decades.
In New York City, the solstice occurs at 6:34 p.m. ET. The Earth is tilted by 23.5 degrees, and so on the summer solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is angled directly towards the sun. The sun rose bright and early at 5:25 a.m. ET today, and won’t set until 8:31 p.m. ET.
Then there’s the moon— it officially became full early this morning, and rises in New York today at 8:33 p.m. ET. This month’s moon is also called the Strawberry Moon.
In short, there’s a whole lot of sunlight to enjoy today, and a full moon at night to boot. If you could see the Earth, sun, and moon from above, they’d form a line today, with the Earth in between the two other celestial bodies.
Anthony F. Aveni, a professor of astronomy, anthropology, and Native American Studies at Colgate University, said that one of the world’s most famous solstice celebration spots is Stonehenge, England.
“There’s no doubt that the sun rises over the Heel Stone, if you look down the avenue from the center of the great megalithic circle,” he told FoxNews.com. “We don’t know whether [Stonehenge] was a temple, or an observatory, or a combination of both.”
Then there's the Mayans, who reportedly pushed people off of pyramids on the solstice, according to astronomer Bob Berman.
In Roman times, an event called Vestalia Festival came before the solstice, and involved animal sacrifices, Aveni said.
And in Germany, Aveni said that a flaming wooden wheel figured into solstice celebrations in medieval times— the burning wheel, representative of the sun and fertility, was rolled down into a river.
As for the fact that this year’s solstice includes a full moon, Aveni reflected: “This is the time to celebrate— because you got a full moon ruling the night, and of course the sun ruling the day for a long period of time. So a lot of sunshine, which makes you think of a lot of fertility.”
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