The Solar System: Our Summer Solstice Is Not Dependable

Dan stand-in at summer solstice sunset on the beach

Our solar system is messed up. The Earth wobbles on its axis. The Moon doesn’t spin. The circling of Earth around the Sun is nearer the Sun sometimes and farther away at other times. So sometimes the Earth’s surface is cold and other times it’s hot. What a rickety operation the solar system is.

There is one constant, however. The solstices. The Sun sets a little further to the right each day, reaching its furthest point within a few days of June 21 each year. About six months later, the sunset moves to the left to its most southerly point. The winter solstice.

I am personally rather annoyed with this. Summer in the Hamptons begins the last week of May and ends the first week in September. You would think that the Lord would have made that dependable summer solstice at the 50th day of our 100-day summer season.

Because it all changes direction on June 21, the days start to shorten. Thus, there’s less sunshine in the last half of our season than in the first half.

I work out every day in East Hampton for 30 minutes just before sunset. So that means in the spring, I work out around 8 p.m. In the winter it can be at 4:30 p.m.  This is no way to run a railroad, or, for example, a solar system.

About 50,000 years ago in England, people built a circular group of stones called Stonehenge. It’s still there, and scientists and religious leaders say they can only speculate why this was built.

The fact is that every June on the day of the solstice, a ray of sunlight shines through a space between two particular boulders and blesses the very center of the circle with sunshine exactly at sunset. Then it fades out. Evidence suggests thousands of people came to observe this, and even to this day, crowds come to hotels and motels near to Stonehenge and party until they’re drunk as the beam of light meets that spot.

Why was Stonehenge built? I think I know. People back then were just as smart as we are today. They noticed the impossibly complicated solar activities that changed things every year. And they had religious leaders who tried to comfort them.

I think one of them noticed the constancy of the summer solstice. He may not have understood it. But he could use it.

Get a few thousand people to come to this site where these boulders were built and he will show, every year on the same day, how suddenly, he could make a beam of sunshine light up the very center of the circle. It was magic. He was their wizard, their king. And they bowed down to him and did his bidding. And he liked that.

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