Summer Solstice 2013: More Than 20,000 Celebrate At Stonehenge

Wiltshire, England – The summer solstice occurs when the tilt of the planet, for either the northern or the southern hemisphere, is most inclined toward the sun during its orbit. This happens twice each year, at which time the sun reaches its highest position in the sky – typically marking the start of summer with the longest day.

The summer solstice occurs during a hemisphere’s summer: northern solstice in the northern hemisphere and the southern solstice in the southern hemisphere. The summer solstice occurs sometime between December 20 and December 23 each year in the southern hemisphere and between June 20 and June 22 in the northern hemisphere.

Worldwide, interpretation of the event varies among cultures, recognized in some way with holidays, festivals, and rituals with themes. One such festival occurs annually at Stonehenge.

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, composed of the remains of a ring of standing stones, originally built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The location has been shrouded in mystery, as theorists still ponder to the stones array and purpose.

The true meaning of this ancient, awe-inspiring creation has been lost in the mists of time, according to English Heritage. Was Stonehenge a temple for sun worship, a healing center, a burial site or perhaps a calendar? How did our ancestors manage to carry the mighty stones using only the most primitive of tools? More specifically, who built Stonehenge? Ancient man or aliens?

During the summer solstice an observer standing within the stone circle, looking north-east through the entrance, can see the sun rise above the heel stone. The Heel Stone, which lies just outside the main entrance, leaning inwards towards the stone circle, has been known as both the “Friar’s Heel” and “Sun-stone.”

CBS News reports, over 20,000 revelers gathered at Stonehenge for the summer solstice this year to witness the sunrise. Following an annual, all-night party, thousands celebrated at the site of the ancient stone circle as the solstice occurred – 4:52 am local time Friday. Only 22 partygoers were taken into custody, most on drug-related offenses; fewer than usual according to police.

[Image via Craig Stanfill, Flickr]