Today Is the Longest Day of the Year. Here’s What to Know About the 2018 Summer Solstice

Sunset in New York City

While it’s already been hot for weeks, summer doesn’t officially start until the summer solstice, which falls on Thursday, June 21 this year.

The summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year, officially starts Thursday morning in the Northern Hemisphere. During the summer solstice, the sun appears to stand still as it reaches its highest point, before moving off toward the horizon.

Here’s everything you need to know about the 2018 summer solstice, including what it means and how Stonehenge is connected to the annual event.

What is the summer solstice?

While the calendar may say June 1 was the first day of summer, the season actually starts when the summer solstice happens, according to astronomers. That’s because meteorologists divide the year into four seasons based on weather patterns, so the summer solstice always occurs later than the first day of summer on the calendar.

The summer solstice begins when the tilt of Earth’s axis is most inclined towards the sun directly above the Tropic of Cancer. The winter solstice, which falls on Friday, Dec. 21 this year, is the exact opposite — when the earth’s axis tilted furthest away from the sun, marking the start of winter.

Gary Hershorn—Getty ImagesThe sun sets on midtown Manhattan and the Chrysler Building on the summer solstice in New York City on June 21, 2017 as seen from Weehawken, NJ.

The summer solstice happens every year between June 20 and June 22 when the sun reaches its highest elevation in the Northern Hemisphere, making it the longest day of the year with a stretch of sunlight that lasts for 17 hours.

The term solstice derives from Latin word “sol” meaning “sun” and “sistere” which means “to make stand, ” according Dictionary.com.

When is the 2018 summer solstice?

This year, the summer solstice officially starts at 6:07 a.m. E.T. on Thursday, June 21.

And while the summer solstice marks the start of the summer, the days are about to get shorter now because the sun is rising later and setting earlier.

Is the summer solstice different in the Southern Hemisphere?

Yes.

For those in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the exact opposite — Thursday’s solstice is actually the shortest day of the year and marks the beginning of winter.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice falls between December 20 and December 22, the same time period as the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice.

How is the summer solstice connected to Stonehenge?

One …read more

Source:: Time – Science

      

A Giant Plant That Can Cause Blindness Was Spotted for the First Time in a New State

The presence of a hazardous invasive plant that can cause burns and blindness has been confirmed for the first time in Virginia, authorities said.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed on Tuesday that giant hogweed, a toxic weed that can grow up to 15 feet tall and resembles the less dangerous cow parsnip, was identified at a private home in Clarke County. Earlier this month, Virginia Department of Transportation employees who remembered hearing about the species years earlier reported a bunch growing in Frederick County, the Washington Post reports.

Exposure to sap produced by the giant hogweed plant can, in conjunction with sunlight and moisture, cause serious skin and eye irritation, blistering, scarring and even blindness, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Scientists, however, are urging Virginia residents to stay calm. The hogweed in Clarke County, at least, seems to have been planted intentionally by a previous homeowner, according to Virginia Tech researchers, and is unlikely to spread.

VDACS employees are working with the homeowner in an effort to eradicate the #GiantHogweed from the Clarke County site. https://t.co/xbXfRg6Ljm pic.twitter.com/56I1eBJamm

— VDACS (@VaAgriculture) June 19, 2018

“It’s a dangerous plant but I’m not overly concerned about it. This seems to be an isolated incident,” Michael Flessner, an assistant professor and extension weed science specialist at Virginia Tech, said in a statement.

While the situation in Virginia seems to be under control, hogweed, which is native to Asia and was introduced to the U.S. in 1917, can be found in quite a few East Coast states — it’s especially prevalent in New York — as well as a handful of others across the country.

Individuals who think they may have discovered giant hogweed, which is part of the United States Department of Agriculture’s noxious weeds list, should notify local environmental authorities, who can remove the pests using protective gear.

…read more

Source:: Time – Science

      

Why Trump’s ‘Space Force’ Won’t — and Shouldn’t — Happen

Good government is often unglamorous stuff—fixing pot holes, plowing snow, collecting trash. At a White House event on June 18, President Trump was supposed to deliver a brief address on the trash-collecting part. Yes, the junk in question is in space—the growing belt of debris that has been accumulating in Earth orbit since the very beginning of the space age and poses an increasing risk to satellites and other spacecraft. But it’s still just trash, and managing it was the focus of Trump’s latest Space Policy Directive—the third he has signed since taking office.

As Trump has been known to do, however, he riffed a bit in his address, veering off-script to a topic he has raised before: the establishment of a “Space Force” as a separate branch of the military, joining the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. Signing an executive order, Trump announced, “I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces. We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal.”

For observers who got past the regrettable “separate but equal” phrasing, redolent of the Supreme Court’s noxious 1896 Plessy v. Furgeson decision which legalized racial segregation, there was a lot to ponder in the idea of a Space Force. And none of that pondering leads anywhere good.

Let’s start with the fact that a Space Force, authorized by the President, already exists. Only the President was Ronald Reagan and the force was activated on Sept. 1, 1982. It is formally known as the Air Force Space Command, and, as its name suggests, it is not a co-equal branch of the military, but a division of the Air Force—which itself was once a division of the Army, Navy and Marines. But the Space Command’s somewhat lesser status doesn’t mean it’s not a robust organization, with more than 36,000 service people stationed at 134 locations worldwide.

Space Command’s work involves Earth surveillance, weather forecasting, communications, command and control of ground-based weapons and satellite security. And it has the money to execute that mission: The Air Force’s space-related budget request for 2019 included $8.5 billion for acquisition and development of new Space Command systems, which is itself just part of a $44.3 billion space hardware …read more

Source:: Time – Science