Vail’s Curious Nature: Solstice means long days outside | VailDaily.com
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Vail’s Curious Nature: Solstice means long days outside

Lara Carlson
Vail Daily community correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Lara Carlson is the Avon in-school teacher at Walking Mountains (formerly Gore Range Natural Science School) where she teaches natural science to students at Avon Elementary School
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VAIL, Colorado –I recently asked a group of Vail Valley fourth and fifth graders how they identify the beginning of summer. I received the following responses: “June 3rd or 4th,” “I don’t know,” “When it’s warm and there are lots and lots of flowers,” “sometime in May, June or July,” “June 21,” and “Summer starts in summer.”

Of course, the average, local 10-year-old would recognize June 4 as the first day of summer because June 3 was the last day of school for Eagle County elementary school students. However, the astronomical and phonological calendars may beg to differ.

For outdoor enthusiasts, summer marks the time to be on the water, on top of mountain peaks, on mountain bikes, and on belay while rock climbing. The weather has been cooperating and many people are engaged in their favorite summer outdoor activities. However, astronomically, it is not summer yet. June 21 marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and the first day of summer.



The word solstice comes from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand still.” In the months prior to the solstice, the sun has been moving higher and higher in the sky on its daily path across the southern horizon. Now, it has reached near its highest point in the sky and seems to stand still in the middle of the day.

As a scientific review, the seasons result from the Earth’s orbit around the sun and the Earth’s tilt on its rotational axis. The Earth is always tilted in the same direction at 23.5 degrees as it spins around its axis. Throughout Earth’s annual orbit around the sun, the Northern and Southern hemispheres are exposed to different amounts of light. This results in changes in day length and severity of weather extremes, thus creating the four seasons.



The summer solstice marks the transition between the seasons of spring and summer in the Northern Hemisphere. On June 2 we will enjoy 14 hours, 59 minutes and eight seconds of daylight. The sun will rise at 5:32 a.m. Solar noon is marked at 1:01 p.m. and the sun will set at 8:31 p.m. All times are adjusted for Daylight Savings. Personally, my fingers are crossed for a nice and warm, no-clouds-in-the-sky, bluebird day. I plan on maximizing my time outdoors.

Just think, in the Southern Hemisphere the date represents cold weather and short, dark days. It is experiencing winter. After June 21, their days will begin to grow longer. In merely six months, the Southern Hemisphere will be celebrating its longest day of the year. It’s true. We are only six months away from our shortest day of the year, so enjoy all of the long days and warm sunshine while you have it.

Lara Carlson is the Avon in-school teacher at Walking Mountains (formerly Gore Range Natural Science School) where she teaches natural science to students at Avon Elementary School and is looking forward to a long summer. http://www.walkingmontains.org. Walking Mountains’ Curious Nature column appears Mondays in the Vail Daily and on http://www.vaildaily.com.



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