Welcome To The Summer

It's the first day of summer, and you know what that means — the return of our daily science posts, like this one, explaining why it's the first day of summer!

Note: If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, ignore this post, and enjoy the winter.

Today is the summer solstice, which for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, marks the official beginning of summer. The summer solstice normally happens around June 21 of each year, though years of fiddling with the calendar sometimes mean it falls on June 20.

Today the North Pole is tipped closer to the sun than on any other day, making for the longest day of the year. Why? Because the Earth tilts on its axis, and today its tilt is most inclined towards the sun at its maximum of 23° 26'.

This is why the sun appears at its highest point in the sky today for most people in the Northern Hemisphere. The more you know, right?

The summer solstice has been celebrated since ancient times. The Egyptians built their pyramids in conjunction with the setting of the solstice sun. Incans used it as an excuse to sacrifice fruits, animals, and even people, just like all the other excuses Incans made to sacrifice fruits, animals, and people.

Today's Pagans celebrate it by wearing extra patchouli oil. They might hop over a broom. I probably have that terribly wrong. Sorry, Pagans.

As for gamers, traditionally the first day of summer meant a two or three month gaming draught was upon us, but in recent years publishers have realized that gamers fear the sun and will buy anything as long as they can stay inside, away from the burning yellow orb.

For me this just means I have a very long wait before it starts getting dark at 5PM and the neighbor children stop screaming outside my window.

And there you have it. From 13-year-old me sometime in the late 80's, be sure to raise hell this summer!

Summer Solstice 2010: Why It's the First Day of Summer [NatGeo]