Summer solstice 2020: What is it and how is it celebrated?

Last updated at 10:46
StonehengeGetty Images

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year - that means it has the most hours of sunlight.

In the northern hemisphere (where the UK is) in 2020 it falls on Saturday 20 June.

It will take place at 10:43pm.

The summer solstice marks the end of spring and start of summer. It will end with the autumn equinox, which this year falls on 22 September.

What makes the solstice the longest day of the year?
diagramMet office
This handy diagram can help you to get your head around all the astronomical seasons

We get the most hours of daylight on this day because of the position of the Earth in relation to the Sun.

It occurs when the Earth's geographical pole - on either the northern or southern hemisphere - becomes most inclined towards the Sun.

When the summer solstice takes place in the northern hemisphere, the Sun will reach its highest possible point.

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Watch this video to learn more about the seasons

As a result, the day on which the summer solstice falls will have the longest period of daylight of the year.

Our planet does not spin on a vertical axis - it is titled. This means the amount of sunlight that reaches different regions of the Earth changes during the year as it orbits the Sun.

Why doesn't the Sun set in some parts of the world?
midnight sunGetty Images
This is midnight on the Summer solstice 2018 in a bay in the Åland Islands, archipelago between Finland and Sweden

Around the time of the summer solstice areas of Norway, Finland, Greenland, Alaska and other polar regions experience 'midnight sun'.

In the Arctic Circle, the Sun does not set at all!

Again it comes down to the tilt of the Earth's axis.

How is the summer solstice celebrated?
Stonehenge summer solstice celebrationsAFP/Getty Images
Solstice means a stopping or standing still of the Sun

Summer solstice is celebrated by thousands of pagans across the world.

Many gather at Stonehenge which is believed to have been used as an important religious site by early Britons 4,000 years ago.

On the summer solstice, the central Altar stone at Stonehenge aligns with the Heel stone, the Slaughter stone and the rising Sun to the north east.

solsticeGetty Images
How will summer solstice celebrations be different in 2020?

This year, because of the coronavirus and lockdown restrictions, people won't be able to gather at Stonehenge to watch the rising of the Sun.

English Heritage, which manages the site, is asking people to stay at home and not to visit "for the safety and wellbeing of all attendees, volunteers and staff".

Instead, a video of the sunrise will be streamed live on social media.