The solstice that kicks off summer at the magical site of Stonehenge

As is tradition, many gathered to celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge in the British county of Wiltshire on June 20. The celebrations took place the following day some environmental activists sprayed paint on the stones at the site, one of the most visited tourist places in Britain. Stonehenge, believed to date back 5,000 years, is a late Neolithic stone circle that attracts tourists, hippies and druids each year to celebrate the winter and summer solstices.

The subject of perpetual discussion is its function. For English Heritage, the body which manages hundreds of English cultural heritage sites, the most accepted interpretation of those proposed – coronation place of Danish kings, temple of the Druids, place of worship for healing – is that Stonehenge is what it seems, that is to say “a prehistoric temple aligned with the movements of the sun”.

The stones adapt perfectly to the sun during the summer and winter solstices. At the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, on the northeastern part of the horizon, and its first rays illuminate the heart of the circle of stones.

For 2024, the summer solstice falls on June 20, precisely at 10:51 p.m. Italian time, as reported by the Italian Union of Amateur Astronomers. This is in fact the moment when the Sun, during its apparent movement in the celestial vault, reaches its northernmost position, then begins its slow descent again: on this day, our star remains above for the maximum number hours on the horizon, while night has the shortest duration of the year.

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