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Wednesday: Happy Summer Solstice

It's the first official day of summer and the longest day of the year.

Today is the first day of summer, also known as the summer solstice. It's the longest day of the year (and the shortest night).

The actual moment of the solstice will occur at about 4:09 p.m. (PT), while the sun sits directly above the Pacific Ocean to the west of Hawaii.

As you may remember from your grade school science lessons, the seasons and the changing lengths of the day and night throughout the year are a result of the Earth's axial tilt.

Try to visualize the Earth's orbit around the sun as an elliptical path on an imaginary plane in space. As the Earth rests in that plane, its north and south poles—the ends of its axis—do not point straight "up" and "down." The axis is instead about 23.4 degrees off the "vertical."

As a result, the northern and southern hemisphere do not receive equal amounts of sunshine throughout the year. Right now, the northern hemisphere is "leaning" towards the sun. From tonight until the winter solstice on December 21, as the Earth continues around the sun, that tilt in the planet's axis will be "leaning" our hemisphere less towards the sun each day. 

If not for the tilt of the Earth's axis, we would not have seasons. The day and night would be exactly the same length, year round. The northern and southern hemispheres would share the sun's light equally. Right now, that only happens on the days of the spring and fall equinoxes (March 20 and September 22, this year).

According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will reach the low 70s with plenty of sun in Gig Harbor. Perhaps it's the perfect day to grab dinner and sit outside by the water. Gig Harbor definitely has .

Are you doing anything to celebrate the most sunlight of the year? Tell us in the comments and happy summer solstice!

Akiko Oda June 20, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Let's hope it's a good day--it's going to be the longest day of the year!

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