Welcome to Summer, and the SpaceWatch News

Hello everyone. Welcome to the SpaceWatch news service of the Grand Rapids Amateur Astronomical Association.

Using this blog, we will be keeping you, the public, informed of various happenings in astronomy, and things to interest in the local astronomical community that will be of interest to the people of West Michigan.

There isn’t really a schedule of when things will be posted, so please visit often.

Today is the Summer Solstice, which means the first “official” day of summer for people living in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun – at its northernmost point in the sky today – will be 70.5 ° above the horizon from Grand Rapids. The “official time” of the solstice is 2.06pm EDT.

The term “Solstice” is Latin for sun (sol) and to stand still (sistere). On this day – and on the Winter Solstice, the sun stops it’s north/south travels and “stands still” in declination.

If you were down at Latitude 23.5° the sun would be directly overhead. That is the location of the “Tropic of Cancer”, an imaginary line around the Earth. It’s called the “Tropic of Cancer” because thousands of years ago, the sun at that time was located in the constellation of Cancer, the Crab. But because of an effect called precession of the equinoxes, the sun is no longer in Cancer, but about the pass into the constellation of Gemini.

If you were north of Latitude 66.5° the sun would never set for weeks. In fact, if you were in Svalbard, Norway, the sun would rise ~April 19th and not set again until around August 23rd.

So enjoy the “longest day” today. Here in Grand Rapids, we will have nearly 15 1/2 hours of sunlight today. But be aware: tomorrow we get one second less sunlight.

Yes, winter is (unfortunately) right around the proverbial corner. But let’s enjoy summer while we can.


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