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Summer Solstice 2011

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Yesterday was the summer solstice (in the northern hemisphere), known to humans for thousands of years as the longest day of the year. In ancient times, people celebrated this day as the center point of summer. Some still observe the solstice with ceremonies and prayers, gathering on mountaintops or at spiritual landmarks. Others greet the day with parades, or by simply going outdoors and soaking in the sunshine. Collected here are images of people observing yesterday's solstice in the northern hemisphere -- and in the southern hemisphere, where it marked the darkest day of winter. [26 photos]

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A couple celebrates summer solstice at the Kokino megalithic observatory, on June 21, 2011. The 3,800-year-old observatory was discovered in 2001 in the northwestern town of Kumanovo, 70 km (43 miles) north from Skopje, and is ranked the fourth oldest observatory in the world, according to NASA. (Reuters/Ognen Teofilovski)
A couple celebrates summer solstice at the Kokino megalithic observatory, on June 21, 2011. The 3,800-year-old observatory was discovered in 2001 in the northwestern town of Kumanovo, 70 km (43 miles) north from Skopje, and is ranked the fourth oldest observatory in the world, according to NASA. (Reuters/Ognen Teofilovski)
People raise their hands at sunrise during a winter solstice ceremony in Tiwanaku, 70 km (43.5 miles) from La Paz, Bolivia, on June 21, 2011. The solstice coincides with the Aymara Indian New Year. (Reuters/David Mercado) #
Aymara people attend the sunrise of the winter solstice ceremony in La Apacheta, El Alto in the outskirts of La Paz, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/Gaston Brito) #
People raise their hands at sunrise during a winter solstice ceremony in Tiwanaku, Bolivia, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/David Mercado) #
A reveler climbs stones during the summer solstice at Stonehenge, near Salisbury in England, on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) #
Revelers cheer as the sun finally breaks through the clouds more than a couple of hours after sunrise during the summer solstice at Stonehenge, on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) #
A druid prays for peace during incantations at the summer solstice ceremony at Stonehenge, on June 21, 2011. Stonehenge is a celebrated venue of festivities during the summer solstice - the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere - and it attracts thousands of revellers, spiritualists and tourists. (Reuters/Kieran Doherty) #
British police officers walk among revelers attending the summer solstice at Stonehenge, near Salisbury in England, on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) #
A druid plays a guitar during incantations at the summer solstice ceremony at Stonehenge, on June 21, 2011. Druids, a pagan religious order dating back to Celtic Britain, believe Stonehenge was a center of spiritualism more than 2,000 years ago. (Reuters/Kieran Doherty) #
Revelers hug a stone during the summer solstice at Stonehenge, on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) #
Yoga practitioners salute the sun while celebrating the solstice in New York's Times Square, on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) #
A large group of yoga practitioners salute the sun while celebrating the solstice in New York's Times Square, on Tuesday, June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) #
Aymara people prepare an offering to mother earth during the sunrise of the winter solstice ceremony in La Apacheta, El Alto in the outskirts of La Paz, Bolivia, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/Gaston Brito) #
Aymara witch doctors hold offerings of llama fetuses during a sunrise winter solstice ceremony in Tiwanaku, Bolivia, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/David Mercado) #
Llama fetuses are burned as part of an offering during sunrise of the winter solstice ceremony in Tiwanaku,Bolivia, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/David Mercado) #
Bolivia's President Evo Morales (center) celebrates the sunrise during a winter solstice ceremony in Tiwanaku, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/David Mercado) #
A couple kiss in the sunset during the start of winter solstice in Valparaiso City, Chile, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/Eliseo Fernandez) #
Mayan descendants pray during a ceremony in honor of the upcoming summer solstice at the Mayan archeological site of Tazumal in Chalchuapa, El Salvador, on Sunday June 19, 2011. In El Salvador, the solstice in June is referred to as winter solstice because it happens during the rainy season, which is considered the country's winter season. (AP Photo/Luis Romero) #
Mayan descendants pray during a ceremony in honor of the upcoming summer solstice at the Mayan archeological site of Tazumal in Chalchuapa, El Salvador, on Sunday June 19, 2011. (AP Photo/Luis Romero) #
Jose Erenesto Campos, of Mayan descendant, prays during a Mayan ceremony in honor of the summer solstice at the Mayan archeological site of Tazumal in Chalchuapa, El Salvador, on Sunday June 19, 2011. The summer solstice, which happens on Tuesday, marks the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and according to Campos, the Mayans hold ceremonies to help balance the energy of mother earth and ask for abundant crops. (AP Photo/Luis Romero) #
Jim Layden, right, and Nancy Bartlett, of Augusta, Maine, enjoy the first day of summer while watching a child play in the surf at Old Orchard Beach, Maine, on the solstice, Tuesday, June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach) #
A float depicting the Flying Spaghetti Monster makes an appearance at the famous Fremont Solstice Parade, in Seattle, Washington, on June 18, 2011. Original here. (Joe Mabel/CC BY SA) #
Cyclists, mostly naked and body-painted, lead the annual Fremont Solstice Parade on a drizzly Seattle day on June 18, 2011. Original here. (Joe Mabel/CC BY SA) #
Fremont Solstice Parade participants in the nuke contingent pass by on June 18, 2011. Original here. (Joe Mabel/CC BY SA) #
A man celebrates summer solstice at the 3,800 year old Kokino megalithic observatory in the northwestern town of Kumanovo, 70 km (43 miles) north from Skopje, on June 21, 2011. (Reuters/Ognen Teofilovski) #
The sun sets behind the skyline of Kansas City, Missouri, marking the end of the longest day of the year which occurred on the summer solstice, Tuesday, June 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) #

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