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June 20, 2013

Solstice Joy

by Herb Saperstone
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Setting sun glows from the south

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Setting sun glows from the north

It may not be apparent to many that the first of day of summer (and winter) are truly astronomical events of the highest magnitude. It is the longest (or shortest) day of the year and where the sun’s rays are at their highest angle in the Northern Hemisphere. For many cultures the summer (and corresponding) winter solstice mark either the a start of season or mid-season celebration One interesting observance is from the Atacama cultures in northern Chile where they celebrate the occasion with a ‘take the Sun back’ festival. The cultural reference, in scientific terms, is the apparent reversal of the Sun’s march north and its regression to the South after the Solstice. All of these movements, of course, are a consequence of the earth’s upper (northern) hemisphere tilted toward the sun on June 21– away from the Sun on December 21.
In this way, facing due west at the same spot on my street 6 months later, you can see the sun’s light emanating from its northernmost position (Summer) and its southernmost position (Winter).

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