21 June 2014: summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere
Next 21 June 2014, at 10:51 Universal Time, the Sun will reach its maximum declination (angular distance from the celestial equator): this will officially be the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. In that moment, the Sun will be at its more distance position from the celestial equator (23° 27′), in the norther part of the sky: this will give the longer “day” in that portion of the globe, as the Sun will stay for the maximum number of hours above the horizon. Conversely, for southern people, this will be the winter solstice.
At mid-, northern latitudes, the astronomical night last for an handful of hours and deep sky lovers have just a little time to observe/image vary pale objects. For example, in Rome today the darkness (that is, the time the Sun will stay below the horizon) will last a bit less than 9 hours, while six months ago, it lasted more than 14.5 hours. A long, clear winter night is a big gift!
The term “solstice” originates from the apparent behavior of the Sun: in that moment, the solar declination seem to stands still, being at its peak: from that moment, the Sun will start going down, slowly at first, but continuously increasing its rate to the celestial equator.
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