Stonehenge summer solstice live stream pulled after people defy travel advice

Many people visit Stonehenge on the summer solstice to see the sun rise (Photo: Getty Images)Many people visit Stonehenge on the summer solstice to see the sun rise (Photo: Getty Images)
Many people visit Stonehenge on the summer solstice to see the sun rise (Photo: Getty Images)

A live feed of the summer solstice sunrise at Stonehenge was pulled by English heritage after people defied advice not to travel to the site.

The organisation said safety reasons were behind the lack of available footage of the neolithic Wiltshire monument at sunrise at 4.52am.

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Solstices have been celebrated at Stonehenge for thousands of years. When the skies are clear, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone, the ancient entrance to the stone circle, and rays of sunlight are channelled into the centre of the monument.

Cancelled due to Covid

Up to 30,000 people usually gather at Stonehenge for the summer solstice to watch the sun rise over the stones on the longest day of the year, but the celebration was changed to a virtual event for the second consecutive year, with English Heritage calling on people to watch their live-streams.

The event was initially due to go ahead this year, but people were asked not to travel to the site after the government announced a delay to the lifting of restrictions in England.

However, the live feed was pulled after people disregarded advice not to travel to the site, with video from the scene showing around a hundred people inside the stone circle and a banner reading “Standing for Stonehenge”.

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Thousands of people tuned in to English Heritage’s Facebook and YouTube pages for the solstice and saw pre-recorded footage of the stones, with the feed returning at around 5am showing largely cloudy skies.

Apologising for the outage, host Ed Shires said: “I must say we have been disappointed that a number of people have chosen to disregard our request to not travel to the stones this morning and that is the reason why we haven’t been able to bring you the pictures that we would have liked to have done.

“It is disappointing to see that happen but unfortunately in those kind of situations we have to put the safety of our staff members first and that’s why we have had some interruption this morning.

“We have been told by police that people have now been dispersed and the situation is under control.”

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English Heritage did not elaborate on how the attendance of people at the site prevented it from showing a live feed of the sunrise.

What is the summer solstice?

The summer solstice - also known as midsummer - takes place between 20 and 22 June every year, when the sun travels along its northernmost path in the sky.

This year, the solstice falls on Monday 21 June, when the UK will enjoy 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight, with the sun rising at around 4.45am and setting at 9.26pm.

It takes place when the Earth arrives at the point in its orbit where the North Pole is at its maximum tilt toward the sun and is directly above the Tropic of Cancer.

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This results in the longest day and shortest night of the calendar year, and marks the beginning of the astronomical summer, which ends with the autumn equinox on 22 September.

The day signals the moment the sun’s path stops moving northward in the sky, with the days gradually becoming shorter afterwards as we move towards winter.

However, the days won’t become noticeably shorter for a while, with the shortest day of the year not due until Monday 21 December, known as the winter solstice.

There are two solstices each year, with one occurring in the winter and the other in the summer.

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During the winter solstice, the Earth's axis is tilted furthest away from the sun directly over the Tropic of Capricorn bringing only a few hours of daylight.

In the southern hemisphere the dates of the two solstices are reversed, with the winter solstice occurring on the same day in June and the summer solstice the same day in December.