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Satellite Photo Shows Earth's Summer Solstice from Space

Summer Solstice Northern Hemisphere GOES-13 satellite
This full-disk image from NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite was captured at 11:45 UTC (7:45 a.m. EDT) and shows the Americas on June 21, 2012. (Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

Beachgoers, rejoice! The summer season for Earth's Northern Hemisphere officially began today (June 21) and a U.S. weather satellite has captured a spectacular view of our planet passing the annual milestone.

A photo released by the GOES-13 weather satellite reveals a sparkling blue Earth dotted with clouds to mark the northern summer solstice — the official start of summer in the north. The satellite is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This full-disk image from NOAA's GOES-13 satellite was captured at 11:45 UTC (7:45 a.m. EDT) and shows the Americas on June 21, 2012," officials with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., explained in an image description. "This date marks the start of astronomical summer in the Northern Hemisphere, making it the longest day of the year!"

During the summer solstice, the sun appears to shine farthest to the north of the equator, over the Tropic of Cancer, and begins its trip southward. The event marks the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and the start of summer. In the Southern Hemisphere, it marks the start of winter.

For northern observers, the sun's apparent peak in the daytime sky will gradually grow lower until it reaches its lowest point on Dec. 21, marking the winter solstice and start of northern winter. On Sept. 22, the sun will cross the equator, marking the autumnal equinox and start of the fall season in the north (and spring in the south).

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter.