Summer Solstice 2011: Why It's the First Day of Summer
Why summer starts today, and why it's the longest day—but not the hottest.
The summer solstice is a result of the Earth's north-south axis being tilted 23.4 degrees relative to the sun. The tilt causes different amounts of sunlight to reach different regions of the planet.
Today the North Pole is tipped more toward the sun than on any other day of 2011. The opposite holds true for the Southern Hemisphere, where today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.
As a result, at high noon on the first day of summer, the sun appears at its highest point in the sky—its most directly overhead position—in the Northern Hemisphere.
That doesn't mean the sun will be exactly overhead at noon for everyone, said Cornel University astronomer James Bell.