Stay home this solstice, Stonehenge urges revelers

Amy Woodyatt, CNNUpdated 20th June 2020
AMESBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 21:  Visitors celebrate summer solstice and the dawn of the longest day of the year at Stonehenge on June 21, 2019 in Amesbury, England. Visitors and modern day druids gather at the 5,000 year old stone circle in Wiltshire to see the sunrise on the Summer Solstice dawn in a tradition dating back thousands of years. The solstice sunrise marks the start of the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
(CNN) — As the evening of 20 June approaches, so too does summer solstice.
But this year, the coronavirus pandemic has cast a shadow over the event, which marks the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and the official start of summer.
One of the world's largest solstice celebrations in the world usually takes place at the sarsen rocks of Stonehenge in England, but this year, the organization which manages the site in Wiltshire, southwestern England, has asked revelers to stay home and tune in online.
Usually tens of thousands would gather at the site, but English Heritage has renewed its pleas for people to enjoy the occasion from the comfort of their own homes after declaring the site closed for the celebration back in May.
"Stonehenge is currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic so please do not travel to site for summer solstice," English Heritage said on Twitter on Saturday.
Mass gatherings are still prohibited in the UK, which is tentatively easing lockdown restrictions after suffering one of the highest death tolls in the world so far.
Even so, authorities are struggling to keep up with hastily organized parties springing up around the country, some attracting thousands of people at a time.
Instead of congregating at the site, English Heritage is encouraging viewers to tune into a live streamed sunset on June 20 and sunrise on June 21, broadcast live from the precisely arranged giant stones, which date back to around 2500 BC.
The June 20 sunset is at 9:26 p.m. local time, and sunrise takes place at 4:52 a.m. local time.
Though the purpose of Stonehenge remains unknown to modern archeologists and historians, the layout of the famous stones is positioned in relation to the solstices and the sun's movements.
Gathering at the site on the summer solstice is an age-old tradition that, under normal circumstances, thousands still observe every year.
Those wanting to visit the sarsen stones won't have to wait for much longer -- according to English Heritage, the site should be open to visitors with advanced bookings from July 4.