Celebrate Nature, Get Outside on the Longest Day of the Year

Image: Onlinewoman, Flickr Creative Commons

At 1:16 p.m. eastern daylight today, it’s officially summer in the Northern Hemisphere—summer solstice, in science-speak. That means it’s the day with mucho light, the most of the year, in fact. And many take that as an opportunity to celebrate nature, the sun, just about anything related to the great outdoors.

In New York City, for example, the Hayden Planetarium is hosting a party tonight with astronomers Steve Beyer, Joe Rao, and Ted Williams. The trio will explain the sun’s path as it relates to the Earth, check out how it’s changed during the past thousands of years, then introduce a troupe presenting music and dance of the Andes’ Festival of the Sun. In England, thousands of people gathered at Stonehenge for the day’s 4:52 a.m. sunrise.

Here are a few cool facts about the summer solstice:
- At the summer solstice moment, the sun is farthest north of the celestial equator
- The summer solstice actually does not have the year’s earliest sunrise or latest sunset; the former happened on June 14, the latter will come next week, on June 27 (MSNBC.com)
- The event in 2012 happens on June 20 at 11:09 p.m.

Tonight, sunset is sometime around 8:30 p.m. (depending on where you live). Spend time outside this evening. Go bird watching in your local park. Take a walk with your family. Check out a few other ideas from Audubon’s Pennies for the Planet Program:
- Pitch a tent in the backyard, then make it a no-electronics evening.
- Use your ears. What wildlife sounds do you hear in your neighborhood? How do the noises change when the sun sets?
- Pick up trash. Use the extra daylight to clean up litter. Invite other families to join you.

Finally, why not use summer solstice as an excuse to make your yard bird-friendly? Click here for suggestions from Audubon’s Audubon at Home program.

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