An annular solar eclipse occurring on the day of the June solstice, is a rare event.
‘Solstice’ (Latin: ‘solstitium’) means ‘sun-stopping’, because the point where the sun appears to rise and set, stops and reverses direction after this day.(Timeanddate.com)
The June Solstice
The day of June 21st (or 20th or 22nd) marks the beginning of summer and the longest day of the year. Hence it is known as the summer solstice.
In the southern hemisphere, it is known as the winter solstice. For it marks the shortest day of the year and the beginning of winter.
Soon after the solstice, in the northern hemisphere the days begin to get shorter while the nights get longer. Subsequently, the reverse happens in the southern hemisphere.
Hence, this is a period of change and new beginnings.
On this day, many cultures around the world celebrate the energies of the sun and the wonders of Nature. This happens especially in the northernmost regions, where there is a celebration of “midsummer”. For this time brings a prolonged period of sunshine, which becomes the blessing of the day.
“The June solstice is the only day of the year when all locations inside the Arctic Circle experience a continuous period of daylight for 24 hours.”
“On the Antarctic Circle, there are 24 hours of nighttime on the June solstice.”(Timeanddate.com)
The Ancient Architectural Wonders
Many ancient monuments and architectural wonders, such as Stonehenge in England and the Pyramids of Egypt, were constructed in alignment with sunrise and sunset on the day of the solstice.
The Temple of the Sun at Machu Picchu in Peru – in this temple, the Mayans built a window so that, on the day of the winter solstice, the sun would shine through it and radiate its light on a particular area of a sacred stone. Similarly, the same window can be found in the Temple of the Sun in Cuzco, Peru.
Stonehenge in England – on the day of the summer solstice, one can stand inside the ring and face northeast, to see the sun rise above the Heel Stone (this is a single large block of stone, positioned outside the entrance “fractionally to the east of the main solstitial axis”).
The Ring of Brodgar in Scotland (2500 B.C.) – This is an ancient stone circle and a UNESCO world heritage site. Most importantly, its formation aligns with sunset and sunrise on the day of the solstice.
The Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt – these magnificent monuments seemed to have been built in perfect alignment with the sun’s position during the solstice and equinox. Therefore, if one stands directly in front of the Sphinx, the sun will be seen setting precisely between the pyramids of Khafre and Khufu.
Chichen Itza in Mexico – this sacred monument was built by the Mayans and has an axes running through the pyramid’s northwest and southwest corners. These are oriented toward the rising sun during the summer solstice and the setting sun during the winter solstice.
The Jantar Mantar Observatories in India – these were built with the “aim for a clearer picture of the entire sky and the systems that governed it”. On the day of the winter solstice, when it is the shortest day of the year, one pillar completely covers the other with its shadow, while during the summer solstice, when it is the longest day of the year, it casts no shadow.
The Solar Eclipse
How often do solar eclipses occur on the day of the June solstice ?
There are four types of solar eclipses, total, hybrid, annular and partial.
In this century an annular eclipse occurs just twice on the day of the June 21st solstice. The first in 2020 and the second in 2039.
“An annular solar eclipse happens when the Moon covers the Sun’s center, leaving the Sun’s visible outer edges to form a “ring of fire” or annulus around the Moon.” The name “annular” comes from the Latin word for ring, “annulus.”(Timeanddate.com)
In addition, there are just five solar eclipses that occur between 1900 and 2100, on the day of the June solstice. This further emphasises the rarity of the event. The following data reveals a 19 year cycle. Yet after a series of four to five occurrences, it seems the pattern begins to shift again. If one goes further back in time or further forward, a clear indication is given. Therefore, it would appear that the next series of a similar occurrence would likely be after a very prolonged interval.
The Centuries 1900 – 2100 :
On June 21st 1982, a partial solar eclipse occurred.
(After 19 years)
On June 21st 2001 a total solar eclipse occurred.
(After 19 years)
On June 21st 2020 an annular solar eclipse will occur.
(After 19 years)
On June 21st 2039 an annular solar eclipse will occur.
(After 19 years)
On June 21st 2058 a partial solar eclipse will occur.
The 19 year cycles correspond to what is known as the Metonic cycle (named after the Greek astronomer Meton).
“Mathematically, it uses the fact that 19 tropical years contain 6,939.60 days while 235 synodic months contain 6,939.69 days. Since it is almost equal to 20 eclipse years, 6,932.4 days, it is possible for a series of four or five eclipses to occur on the same dates 19 years apart.”(Copyright: Royal Greenwich Observatory)
“Solar eclipses are relatively rare. For any solar eclipse to take place, it has to be around the New Moon. This happens when the Sun and Earth are aligned on opposite sides of the Moon. In addition, the New Moon also has to be close to a lunar node.”
A Time Of Reflection
As one introspects and reflects in this present time, one may listen to the words of the Dalai Lama –
“The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.
The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another…. recall your desire to practice compassion and assume responsibility for helping prevent the other person from suffering the consequences of his or her acts.”