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Natural North Dakota

Summer Solstice and Supermoon

Summer will officially arrive this Sunday.  The summer solstice will occur on Sunday, June 20, at 10:32pm CT. The summer solstice, of course, is when the northern hemisphere will be tilted furthest toward the sun than at any other time of the year. And it will also be the sun’s highest arch at midday for the year. It is all because of the earth’s angle of rotation and orbit, and for people of higher latitudes it is a special time.  In the Southern Hemisphere of course it marks the first day of winter.

I checked my North Dakota Game and Fish Department calendar for sunrise and sunset on the solstice. In Bismarck, sunrise on the solstice will be at 5:48am, and sunset will occur at 9:41pm. That is a whopping 15 hours and 53 minutes between sunrise and sunset. As most hunters know from the proclamation, the sun rises and sets about one minute earlier for every 12.5 miles east of Bismarck. And of course, westward, it will rise and set one minute later for every 12.5 miles.  

That is a lot of sunlight, especially when compared to the winter solstice. Most of us have probably tried to forget it, but sunrise and sunset for last year’s winter solstice in Bismarck was at 8:26am and 4:58pm, respectively. That is only 8 hours and 32 minutes between sunrise and sunset. So, enjoy the longest day of the year, because after the solstice it is going to be all downhill until December.   

Cultures have been celebrating the solstices and equinoxes for millennia, and in Europe the summer solstice is often referred to as “midsummer.” Midsummer celebrations often involve fireworks, bonfires, and feasting.    

Then, on June 24, we will be able to enjoy a full moon and supermoon. A supermoon occurs about every fourteenth full moon or so. That is when the moon is near its closest approach to Earth in a given orbit. And because it is about as close as it gets to the earth, it will look larger and brighter than other full moons.  

So be sure to get out and enjoy the summer equinox. Of course, it is a good reminders of the cycle of the seasons. And if we have a clear sky, that supermoon should be an interesting site!

-Chuck Lura

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