Today is the summer solstice. This is the longest day of the year. And so it is that I made my way in the frying-pan heat to the Piazza of St. Peter’s Basilica for the one day of the year when I could shoot some interesting photos.
The obelisk casts a shadow on the stones of the piazza, of course, and the length of the shadow is measured by marble markers with dates and indications of the zodiacal signs. Most of the marks have two dates, since the shadow of the obelisk’s summit passes twice during the course of the year. Two of the markers have only one date. One is where the longest shadow of the year at the winter solstice extends and, as today, one where the shortest shadow of the year falls close to the obelisk itself.
I looked at the Vatican’s calendar today for the precise time of solar noon. Solar noon is not to be confused with "regular" noon. First, there is "daylight savings time" and then, the obelisk is some degrees east of the place with
"civil" noon occurs. The solar noon time on the calendar, which alway includes interesting astronomical information, gave the time for the solstice as 13:26. Knowing the Vatican, however, I decided to go early, both so as to fight through the hordes that were at the general audience and also to have time to clear chairs away from the marker if necessary. There were a couple other fellows there with cameras as well! It was good at I went, since solar noon actually occured at around 13:11. The Vatican calendar was wrong, which didn’t surprise me at all.
Here we go!