Summer Solstice

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21st Jun 2021

The summer solstice, which falls on 21 June, has special significance for us at OM – from what may have been the first observatory at Beaghmore Stone Circles, to our modern day version in Davagh.

Many believe that Beaghmore was designed over 3500 years ago to align with the sun during the solstice, to celebrate the start of summer and the return to light.  It can be a symbolic event to experience, with many people believing it connects us with our ancient ancestors.

Ariel view of Beaghmore Stone Circles

Image: Beaghmore Stone Circles

Our ancestors didn’t have clocks to calculate the length of day and night, but they could measure the Sun’s position geometrically.  People observed that the Sun’s rising and setting points moved slightly each day of the year. The Summer Solstice would occur when the sun reached its northernmost point. The Suns’ southernmost point marked the Winter Solstice. The two days of the year when the Sun rose exactly due East and set exactly due West marked the Equinoxes.

These astronomical phenomena were a reliable way to record the yearly/seasonal cycle and were incorporated into their cultural and religious practices. To mark and record these astronomical events permanently, the ancient Irish built great monuments of stone (like Beaghmore), aligned with the sunrise or sunset on these days.

It is a day that has been celebrated since ancient times and is one of the earliest astronomical observations in human history. When you visit an ancient site look up in wonder at the sky and reflect that the people that built the monuments observed the same sky, sun, moon and stars.

Main image Courtesy of Tourism Northern Ireland

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