If you want a really stellar beach day, ask your boss to give you Wednesday, June 21, off. That's when the summer solstice occurs in the northern hemisphere, making it longest day of the year and the one with the most hours of sunlight.
The June Solstice is typically acknowledged as the official start of summer. Solstices occur because of the earth's gradual movement around the sun, and the tilt on its axis. The summer solstice occurs in the northern hemisphere, when the sun is at its northernmost point in the sky — the Tropic of Cancer.
According to The Old Farmer's Almanac, the opposite is true of the winter solstice, when the sun is at its southernmost location is the sky, making for the least amount of sunlight and the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. For those in the southern hemisphere, however, the winter and summer solstices are reversed.
Different cultures have different summer solstice traditions: Swedes prefer to eat strawberries, the Chinese conduct the famous Dragon Boat Festival. Part of the reason that so many of us love to celebrate the arrival of the summer solstice may be psychological. Studies have found that when the change is daylength is positive, moods are better. So, when we move from a day with less daylight to more, as we do on the summer solstice, happiness increases. And if you've ever suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder during the dreary, gray days of what may seem like a never-ending winter, you know that the promise of increased sunlight truly is cause for celebration.
Check out a special views of the sun from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres during Slooh.com's broadcast at 8 p.m. on June 21.