Solstice – National Geographic Education

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We call the solstices, which occur twice a year, points on the Sun’s path throughout the year. It coincides with the two extremes of the planet’s axial tilt: Cancer and Capricorn, thus marking its most significant decline concerning the equator. In other words, solstices happen when the Sun reaches its highest or lowest apparent altitude in the sky, at approximately +23° 27′ (north) or -23° 27′ (south) from the equator.

Solstices occur twice in a year: the summer and winter solstices, thus indicating the onset of these seasons, respectively the warmest or coldest, according to the hemisphere in which an event takes place. Therefore, in the northern hemisphere, summer solstice occurs in late June and marks the onset of summer, while in the southern hemisphere, it signals the beginning of winter. This phenomenon is linked to the tilt of the planet’s axis.

The term solstice derives from the Latin word sol sistere (“Sun standing still”), as during these days, the Sun’s path is longest (summers) and shortest (winters) of the year. Because of this, various ancient cultures have paid special attention to both days, focusing on maximum points or the completion of warmth or coldness, associating them with the dominance of the Sun and relating them to vitality, life, and brightness. Summer (warm season) is associated with more light, fertility, warmth, and therefore the presence of a more spiritual world, as the daytime world is generally understood as night’s counterpart. In fact, the most popular tradition of winter solstice is Christmas.

Solstice and equinox

Solstice and equinoxMany cultures have understood the equinox as a transitional date between two aircraft, like changing from one plane to another.While solstices mark the points where the Sun is farthest from the celestial equator, creating the most extreme points of summer and winter seasons, equinoxes are the opposite: they are the days when the plane of the Earth’s equator is perfectly aligned with the Sun, making day and night roughly equal in length. They occur twice a year in March (spring season) and September (autumn season) in the northern hemisphere (they reverse in the southern hemisphere).Many traditional human cultures have interpreted the equinox as a transitional date between two aircraft, times of transition heralding life (with the arrival of spring and greenery) or death (with autumn and the falling of leaves).

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