Enjoy the longest day; summer is short!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

This was the first year we heard TV weather people refer to “meteorological” summer as June 1, but today’s the official first day of summer.

We’re having 15 days of sunlight in McCook today — maybe a skosh more since we’re a few miles north of the 40th parallel, which forms the Kansas-Nebraska border.

Key West, Fla., will get only 13 hours and 40 minutes of sunlight, while Seattle will get almost 16 hours. On the Arctic Circle, the sun won’t set at all, simply circling the horizon.

It’s a pleasant day today, lawns and crops are enjoying the moisture from Tuesday’s downpour without the stifling heat we experienced earlier in the year.

At solar noon today, the sun was directly over the Tropic of Cancer, 23.5 degrees north of the equator, the same 23.5-degree tilt that provides the seasonal variety we so enjoy on the High Plains.

McCook doesn’t have much of a druid population, but perhaps we should follow their lead by marking the summer solstice with a special celebration — perhaps joining pilgrims venturing to Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska’s version of Stonehenge.

The Pagans and Wiccans celebrated with a festival known as Litha, involving rolling giant wheels on fire into bodies of water to symbolize the balance between fire and water.

Egyptians set their calendar by the appearance of the star Sirius, which they believed was responsible for the annual flooding of the Nile.

The Chinese believed “yang” was strongest at the summer solstice, “yin” at the winter.

The Fairbanks baseball team starts a game at 10 p.m. and plays until the following morning, all without artificial lights.

Despite the long hours of sunlight, the Earth is actually farthest away from the sun today — perhaps that moderates summer somewhat in the Northern Hemisphere.

According to legend, Galileo was forced to recant his declaration that the Earth revolves around the Sun on the summer solstice in 1633. It didn’t do him any good, he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

The Romans honored the goddess Vesta on the solstice, and the ancient Greeks celebrated the god of agriculture, Cronus, with a festival in which slaves and freemen participated as equals.

It will take a while for the atmosphere to heat up in response to the extra sunlight, but as the fireworks stands indicate, it’s time to get out and enjoy summer while we still can.

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