The Summer Solstice | The Land of the Midnight Sun
June 20th, 2016 is the Summer Solstice. This means several things. Scientists often use this day to mark the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. The Earth is farthest from the sun this time of year. The Solstice is often called the hottest day of the year, and while that may prove true on the west coast of the United States this year (which is reporting yet another record heat wave), this is a fallacy. The hottest day of the year is usually later in the summer.
The Summer Solstice is also one of the longest days of the year, usually by a few full minutes. This a “fun” little factoid we are all typically taught as second graders, usually by enthused adults who are trying desperately to get us interested in astronomy, or simply away from the video games for a few minutes. As hyperactive little kids, however, we usually reacted with a bored indifference. When someone tells us day is going to be longer than usual, we want it to be several hours longer. We want to see the sun go down at 11 at night. And the sun itself should look to be at least three times its usual size. That would be more dramatic.
If only we knew, at that tender age of 7ish, that part of that wish could be fulfilled. For today and today only, one can trek north, up past the Arctic Circle (located at 66°, 33′, 46.3″ north of the Equator, for those of you keeping track), and experience 24 straight hours of sunlight. During this day, the Earth is tilted at just the right angle to allow the entire northern cap to be exposed to the sun for one entire rotation.
If you’re standing in the Arctic Circle, then, the sun will appear to go all the way down, will likely dip partway past the horizon, but then scoot along sideways until it circles all the way behind you. Once it makes its way 180° around the sky, it will rise again. The next day has started without the last one ending. People who have experienced it have said it’s an electric experience, allowing them to live briefly in a perpetual combination of dawn and dusk. It’s a Magic Hour that lasts all night. Time itself seems to bend, and one cannot help but become philosophical.
Norway, one of the few countries able to observe this phenomenon, has officially claimed the title Land of the Midnight Sun, and the Norwegian tourism board will make darn sure you visit them to see the 24-hour sun party in action (their website also offers locations to see it, and tips for photographing it). However, the phenomenon can be seen from Sweden, Finland, northern Canada, most of Greenland, a large chunk of Russia, and bits of Alaska.
It seems to me, we all have our June vacations planned.
Top Image: Fox Searchlight
Witney Seibold is a contributor to the CraveOnline Film Channel, and the co-host of The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon. He also contributes to Legion of Leia and to Blumhouse. You can follow him on “The Twitter” at @WitneySeibold, where he is slowly losing his mind.