The summer solstice occurs today, 20 June 2012, at 23.09 UTC (GMT).
The summer and winter solstices mark the times when the Sun is at its furthest from the celestial equator (the projection of the Earth’s equator onto the sky) – or in other words, when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky (as seen from the North pole for the summer solstice). Unless you happen to live in polar regions, the summer solstice is also the day with the longest daylight.
The world solstice comes from the Latin solstitium meaning ‘Sun stands still’ because the apparent movement of the Sun’s path north or south stops before changing direction.
The summer solstice usually falls on 21 June, but not always. Because the Earth takes approximately 365.25 days to go around the Sun, the precise time of the solstices occurs about 6 hours later each year, with a jump of a day backwards on leap years (such as 2012).
Find out more about solstices and equinoxes in our fact file. And enjoy the long daylight hours!