With the arrival of warmer temperatures, perhaps you’ve been enjoying some outings to the mountains or a float trip on a river. While there is no doubt that summer is in full swing here in western Colorado, it’s not until this coming Saturday that the Universe makes it official.
June 21st is an important day for our planet; the June, or summer solstice. The June solstice occurs each year on the day when the northern hemisphere of the Earth is tilted at its maximum angle toward the Sun. As a result, the Sun appears higher in our sky on this day than on any other. Exactly the opposite is true in the southern hemisphere, which is tilted away from the Sun during this time.
If you thought the days in late June seemed long, you’re right! The longest day of the year occurs on the summer solstice. Here in western Colorado, the Sun will be above the horizon for nearly 15 hours this Saturday. On the December, or winter solstice, the Sun is up for only about 9.5 hours.
This tilt combined with the fact that the Sun is above the horizon for so long each day is what causes the warm temperatures we experience in the summer. Contrary to popular belief, how close the Earth is to the Sun doesn’t really matter. Oddly enough, the Earth is actually about 3% further from the Sun during our summer than it is in the winter.
So whether this week brings barbecuing, hiking, or simply relaxing on your back porch in the evening sunshine, you have the Sun and the tilt of the Earth to thank for the extra five hours of daylight to explore our beautiful corner of the state!
You’ve been listening to “Western Slope Skies”. Today’s feature was written by Zach Schierl and recorded by Art Trevena of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.