Tuesday is a day to savor. June 21 is the summer solstice, the longest day and shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

The sun traces its longest and highest path through the sky, and you can observe sunrise and sunset at its northernmost points along the horizon.

What causes the summer solstice?

Solstices, equinoxes and seasons occur because the Earth doesn’t orbit the sun completely upright. Instead, Earth’s axis is tilted by about 23.5 degrees,

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which causes each hemisphere to receive different amounts of sunlight throughout the year. “The Earth’s axis always points the same direction, so as the planet makes its way around the sun, each hemisphere sees varying amounts of sunlight,” Capital Weather Gang’s Jeremy Deaton explained in a 2019 article.

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Why do we celebrate the solstice?

Humans throughout history have celebrated the solstices with rituals such as bonfires and ceremonial dances to mark the passage of the seasons. Some ancient cultures, such as the Maya or the Aztecs, even built special monuments to mark the sun’s changing path in the sky.

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Today, thousands gather at Stonehenge each year to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes and the changing of the seasons.