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Summer solstice: Thousands gather at Stonehenge for longest day

Google is marking the start of summer with a new Doodle dedicated to the 2018 summer solstice.

The longest day of the year for people in the Northern Hemisphere - the summer solstice - is Thursday, June 21.

The summer solstice festival dates back thousands of years and is one of the most important dates in the pagan calendar.

A solstice is an astronomical event during which the sun is at its greatest northerly or southerly distance from the equator. The further north you go, the longer the day, with daylight lasting 19 hours and 21 minutes in Anchorage, Alaska, and the sun never setting in Prudhoe Bay in far north Alaska. Six months from now the sun will reach its southern extreme and pass overhead for people on the Tropic of Capricorn, and northerners will experience their shortest days of the year, at the winter solstice.

What are summer solstice greetings?

Among the rituals that take place at Stonehenge, white cloaked and hooded "modern druids" stand among the stones to welcome the first rays of the sunlight for the summer.

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The sun's angle relative to Earth's equator changes so gradually close to the solstices that, without instruments, the shift is hard to perceive for about 10 days.

Up to 25,000 people were expected to attend the overnight celebration of the longest day of the year at the World Heritage Site.

At its winter solstice, the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the sun, so it gets less sunlight and the sun takes a shorter path through the sky.

Even today, visitors flock to see the solstice at Stonehenge.

What Are Solstices and Equinoxes?

About 9,500 people gathered at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, to watch the sun rise over the Neolithic stones.

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