Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

June 21, 2023
Sun rise at Stonehenge; photo credit @Stonehenge on Instagram

Stonehenge continues to captivate and to bring people together to celebrate the seasons, just as it has done for thousands of years.

Nichola Tasker, director of Stonehenge at English Heritage. On Wednesday, around 8,000 people gathered at Stonehenge to witness the sunrise on summer solstice.

Why It Matters: Today is the longest day of the year! Sunlight over the Northern Hemisphere is at its peak intensity as the sun is at its highest point in the sky, meaning that light is hitting Earth more directly than it does on other days. Today also marks the first day of summer as "the sun stops moving in the northern direction. It holds that position, and then it reverses. It’s one of those moments that triggers you to realize that things are going to start changing seasonally," said Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC.

How it originated: Cultures have recognized the summer solstice for thousands of years, closely monitoring the sun's location and its influence on the seasons. Susan Greaney, a historian at English Heritage, explains: "In Northern Europe, midsummer [summer solstice] was celebrated from pre-Christian times until the mid-19th century, with festivals during which bonfires were lit, later incorporated into the Feast of St. John the Baptist."

Other ancient monuments are tied to the summer solstice. Stonehenge, a prehistoric stone structure in England, dates back about 5,000 years. During the summer solstice, part of the structure specifically "lines up with the rising sun." The longest day of the year is believed to have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years (National Geographic).

Antlers and fancy dress: Stonehenge welcomes 8,000 visitors for summer solstice

by Jenna Lee,