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Sunwheel in Winter


  • Monday September 22, 2014
  • 6:45 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. (EDT)

The public is invited to witness the passing of the seasons by joining Dr. Judith Young of the U.Mass. Dept. of Astronomy to watch the Sun rise and set over the tall standing stones in the U.Mass. Sunwheel for the Autumnal Equinox of 2014. The sunrise and sunset events will be held on Monday Sept. 22, 2014. Visitors for the sunrise viewing should arrive at 6:45 a.m., and visitors for the sunset viewing should arrive at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. These gatherings will celebrate the Equinox and also 17 years of Sunwheel seasonal events for the public, which have attracted over 10,000 visitors.

For those interested in learning about the sky, the gatherings will include a presentation which describes the significance of the equinoxes and solstices, the cause of the seasons and phases of the Moon, the story of building the Sunwheel, and other calendar sites around the world such as Stonehenge & Callanish in the UK and Chichen Itza in Mexico. There will also be an explanation of the Moon's 18.6-year cycle, also called the Major Lunar Standstill. Come gather in community and connect with the sky -- bring your questions, your curiosity, and be prepared for cool temperatures when the Sun is down, including waterproof footwear. The gatherings typically last 1 hour, and are held in all weather except rain. Please note: The sunrise event will be more ceremonial and participatory in nature, including elements of ritual, personal reflection, poetry, song, and meditation, along with teachings on the astronomy of the seasons.

Donation: A $3 donation is requested to help with the cost of the additional sitework and future events which are planned. Sunwheel T-shirts & sweatshirts will also be available for purchase.

About the Autumnal Equinox (in the Northen hemisphere):
This year, the precise instant of the Autumnal Equinox, when the Sun is located in the sky directly over Earth's equator, is @ 10:29 p.m. EDT on Sept. 22, 2014. The Autumnal Equinox marks the first day of Autumn in the northern hemisphere. It is also the day the Sun disappears from view for 6 months (i.e. sets) as seen from the North Pole, and the day the Sun rises into the sky to be visible for 6 months as seen from the South Pole. On the equinox, observers located on the Earth's equator will see the Sun pass directly overhead at local noon, and they will cast no shadow at noon. For all observers on Earth (excluding the North and South poles), the Sun on the Equinox rises due East and sets due West, is up for 12 hours and down for 12 hours, illuminating all latitudes. Given that the Sun's position in the sky changes substantially from day to day at the time of the Equinox, only on the precise day of the Equinox are the above properties observed. From the Sunwheel here in Amherst, we observe a very beautiful sight as the equinox Sun rises and sets through the stone portals located toward the East and West directions.

Location: The UMass Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road. The Sunwheel can easily be reached from the center of Amherst, following Amity St. to the west, on the right hand side of the road about 1/4 mile after crossing University Drive.

More Information: For more information on the U.Mass. Sunwheel, click here. For more information on the Moon's 18.6-year cycle, click here. For information on other programs offered by Dr. Judith Young, click here.


For directions from out of town, click here.

For a map showing the Sunwheel on the UMass Amherst campus, click here.


For the dates and times of Sunwheel gatherings, click here.

  A project conceived by Dr. Judith S. Young
 Professor of Astronomy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
 e-mail: Judith Young at young@astro.umass.edu

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