Summer Solstice is the astrological event that marks the longest day (the most sun) - and the shortest night (the least moon) of the year. Usually on June 21st, it’s the beginning of the Summer season in the northern hemisphere.
From ancient times, humans have marvelled at and closely observed the predictable movements of the sun, moon, stars and the earth. They connected them to celestial gods, earthly survival through good harvests blessed with enough sunshine to grow, and the insignificance of humanity amongst the heavens.
Ancient sites around the world are believed to have measured, marked, or honored celestial events like rare eclipses or the annual Summer Solstice (and its counterpart, Winter Solstice 6 months later on December 21st marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year).
Perhaps the most famous of these is England’s Stonehenge, or ‘hanging stones’. Stonehenge triggers an onslaught of fantasy and imagination in everyone who sees or experiences it. A circle of gigantic standing stones, some as high as 30 feet, and weighing in at 45 tons, even topped with other monster-sized stones fitted perfectly on top, they were arranged in a ring pattern that exactly lines up with the sun’s Summer and Winter Solstices even thousands of years later.
Like the pyramids of ancient Egypt, this 5000 year-old site has remained a wonder of the ancient world for the generations that followed, rediscovering and attempting to unlock its mysteries. It was even connected to Britain’s fabled King Arthur, so it could not be more ripe with legend and mystique.
At this unparalleled Stone Age site 90 miles west of London, ten thousand or more people every year gather to watch dawn of the Summer Solstice. As the sun rises behind the site’s massive stones this one day of the year, its rays are framed to penetrate into the center of the prehistoric circle with astonishing precision. Members of today’s druid, pagan, and mystical communities who hold Stonehenge to be their temple believe it is a spiritual moment.
Whether or not you believe Stonehenge is an astrological ‘map’ or solar calendar or celestial place of worship by pre-historic Celtic priests, the celebration of the Summer Solstice at this astonishing site remains a moving and unforgettable experience for modern people.
So when the global pandemic made the gathering of crowds at Stonehenge this year unsafe, English Heritage, the organization that manages Stonehenge and many of the country’s historic sites, announced it would offer a livestream of sunrise on the site’s most celebrated and significant day of the year.
Summer Solstice at Stonehenge goes virtual this year on English Heritage’s social media accounts live on Sunday morning, June 21st at sunrise local time (4:43 am London time which is 11:43 pm Saturday night in North America’s Eastern Time zone.) Bear in mind, that’s the actual moment dawn breaks, so you’ll want to tune in earlier to get the full effect over the course of sunrise.
You can join the English Heritage event on facebook – click here.
Or watch a video of last year’s Summer Solstice at Stonehenge on English Heritage’s youtube channel (click here) while you wait for this year’s livestream to launch.
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