Summer in the Northern Hemisphere will officially arrive on Tuesday (June 21, 2011) at 1:16 p.m. EDT (17:16 Universal Time ): the June solstice. At the same time, winter officially begins for the Southern Hemisphere.
At that moment, the sun will reach the point where it is farthest north of the celestial equator. To be more precise, when the summer solstice occurs, the sun will appear to be shining directly overhead at a point on the Tropic of Cancer (latitude 23.5 degrees north) in the Great Bahamas, roughly halfway between Andros Island and central Cuba.
To view a few interesting summer solstice photographs, click here.
The summer solstice has been recognized and observed in human societies around the world since antiquity.
The ancient Egyptians, for example, built the Great Pyramids so that the solstice sunset, when viewed from the Sphinx, sets precisely between two of the Pyramids.
The Inca of South America celebrated the summer solstice with a ceremony called Inti Raymi, which included food offerings and sacrifices of animals and maybe even people.
And perhaps most famously, Stonehenge in the United Kingdom has been associated with the winter and summer solstices for 5,000 years.
For many of the ancients, the summer solstice was associated with agriculture, and attended by elaborate celebration and ritual relating to the fertility of the land.
Modern skywatchers revel in the arrival of summer with its increased opportunities for outdoor activity, arise to watch the sunrise at 4am or even earlier, and read web log postings about the solstice.
I like to remember that, in the beginning, the Heavenly Father of men, in preparing Planet Earth as a site for human habitation, organized its relationships with the sun, the moon, and other celestial objects in such as way as to provide markers for the passage of time, the change of seasons, and other measurement. Solstices, equinoxes, eclipses, and other astronomical events thus became for mankind an immutable frame of reference for his activities and his devotions.
In the following short video from Fecks Productions, timelapse photography of summer and winter solstices in various locations is accompanied by a soothing gently rhythmic musical soundtrack.
And there is a nice article about the Creation at the Mormon Wiki.