Logo for Sunwheel Project


Sunwheel in Winter


  • Saturday June 21
  • 5:00 a.m. & 7:30 p.m. (EDT)

The public is invited to witness the passing of the seasons by joining Drs. Judith Young and Steve Schneider 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 Summer Solstice of 2014. The sunrise & sunset events will be held on Saturday June 21. Visitors for the sunrise viewing should arrive @ 5:00 a.m., and visitors for the sunset viewing should arrive @ 7:30 p.m. These Sunwheel gatherings celebrate the Summer Solstice 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 solstices & equinoxes, 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 & wet ground. The gatherings typically last 1 hour, and are held in all weather except rain & blizzards. 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 Summer Solstice (in the Northen hemisphere):
At the time of the June solstice, or Summer Solstice in the Northern hemisphere, the days are longest, the nights are shortest, and the Sun rises and sets at its most northerly azimuth (location along the horizon), over the tallest stones in the Sunwheel. Any observer located on the Tropic of Cancer (latitude = +23.5°) during the Summer Solstice will have the Sun pass directly overhead at local noon and will cast no shadow. The word 'solstice' means standstill of the Sun, and refers to the fact that at solstice, the Sun appears to rise in a fixed NE direction for ~10 days (and set in a fixed NW direction for ~10 days), as well as achieve the same mid-day altitude in the sky for ~10 days. So even though the instant of the Summer Solstice, when the Sun is most northerly in the sky, is on June 21 @ 6:51 a.m. EDT, there is very little change in the Sun's position for ~10 days, and visitors to the Sunwheel will be able to see the Sun rising and setting over the tall summer solstice standing stones from roughly June 16-26. The astronomical cause of the Sun's standstill is one of the topics which will be explained during the Sunwheel gatherings.

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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