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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June Solstice in Singapore

This week is June Solstice week, where the Sun reaches its most northerly point in the sky. Of course, this event is not due to the Sun's actual movement but instead the movement and tilt of Earth. Every year around 21st June, Earth's north pole points more towards the Sun than at any other time of year. This causes a number of significant effects here on Earth.

June Solstice signifies the start of summer in the northern parts of the Earth as well as the longest daylight hours for the whole year. At the same time, it also marks the start of winter and the shortest daylight hours in the southern hemisphere.
There's often a great deal of excitement and sometimes celebelation associated with solstice particularly in places like stonehenge in the UK, where crowds gather from sunrise (around 5am) to sunset (around 9:30pm). The stones themselves also mark the Sun's position at solstice.
Stonehenge - Credit: Pete Strasser -
In Singapore, the effects of solstice are a little harder to spot as near the equator the Sun's position varies only slightly throughout the year.
However, here are some of the signs to look out for in order to notice the solstice from 1 degree north of the equator:

1. Longest daylight hours and shortest night. As Singapore is technically in the northern hemisphere by 1 degree, we also experience the longest number of daylight hours for the year. How long? Exactly 12hours 11minutes 48seconds, from sunrise to sunset. Compare this to the shortest daylight hours of 12hours 3minutes 2seconds in December, the difference is only 8 minutes. Not much to celebrate about, but it is noticeable particularly if, like me, you find yourself reaching home around 7pm. Whilst walking home from the MRT station, bus stop or waiting for a ride, look up at the sky and see if it looks any brighter than usual. A slightly later sunset at 7:16pm should make the sky look brighter than at other times of the year.
Sunset/dusk in June - Longer daytime, later sunset, slightly brighter sky.

Sunset/dusk in April - slightly darker than in June.
2. Sunrise, Sunset and Northern Sun
If you're heading out to work or school around 7:30am or 8am, you may notice that the morning Sun is positioned slightly more to the left (i.e. North) than usual.

June morning Sun to the left (north) of the Science Centre entrance - After June 21st the morning Sun will gradually make its way south (towards the right)
After 21st June, take a look at the Sun every now and then over the next few months around 8am. You should find the Sun gradually moving more towards the right (i.e. south) every week, until it reaches the December solstice position on 21st December.
Similarly at sunset, the afternoon/evening Sun should be located more towards the right than usual. This can be a bit annoying if you happen to own a house, flat or condo with north-facing windows, thinking that you'll escape the brightness and heat of the afternoon/western Sun. Around June Solstice, you'll start to find what was once a nice shady spot is now lit by bright sunlight, as that north facing window is now tilted slightly towards the Sun for most of the day. Those with south-facing windows will experience the same thing in December.

3. Noontime Shadows
Between 12:30pm and 1:30pm, the Sun is at its highest point in the sky but as the June Sun is at its most northern point, midday shadows on the ground will be at their longest as compared to other times of year.
June Solstice Shadows - Longest noontime shadows. Shadows point South

Morning Shadows in June - Sun rises from north-east, shadows point south-west 
If you compare your shadow at midday over the next few months you should find it becoming gradually shorter and shorter until finally its directly below your feet around late September, when the Sun is directly overhead (Autumnal Equinox). Also, as the Sun is located towards the North, all the June shadows should point in the opposite direction towards the South.

All parts of the world, will experience the effects of solstice in one way or another, the most obvious being  in those parts furthest from the equator.In Singapore, the changes may be small, but the clues to spot them are all around us, we need only stop for a while and look around at the environment we live in.

There are a number of other times in year in which the Earth's tilt causes other seasonal effects, such as the the position of the Sun, daylight hours, sunrise, sunset, planet growth, animal migration and seasonal weather patterns. Some of these changes have even influenced the dates of well know holidays and celebrations such as May Day, Halloween, Mid-Autumn Festival, Christmas and Chinese New Year as the movement of objects like the Sun and Moon, have formed the basis of many calenders for thousands of years.
The world may be full of different cultures, but we all share the same sky.
Happy Solstice everyone!


  1. Happy Summer solstice!!
    Please read full article -

  2. June Solstice Shadows are the shortest for the Northern Hemisphere, your article is wrong.