A SUNWHEEL is a SOLAR CALENDAR and OBSERVATORY; perhaps the best known
example of a Sunwheel is Stonehenge. A Sunwheel is an
outdoor stone circle whose standing stones line up with the locations on the horizon of the rising and setting Sun at the times of the
solstices and equinoxes. A Sunwheel on our University campus will provide an
EXPERIENTIAL basis for University
students, for school children, and for the
general public to learn about and
understand the cycles exhibited by the Sun throughout the year.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A SUNWHEEL?
For thousands of years, human beings
have been intrigued by the cycles in
nature. Astronomically, these cycles
include the daily rising and setting of the
Sun, Moon and stars, the monthly cycle of
phases of the Moon, and the yearly cycle
of the seasons. The long-term
repeatability of these cycles provided an
indication to human beings throughout
time of the presence of order in the
Universe. Cultures which depended upon farming learned how to use the Sun as a
calendar, and in particular, to mark the seasons through observations of the
location of sunrise and sunset along the horizon (cf. Hawkins 1965;
Willimason 1984). Some cultures also used these observations of the Sun to indicate the proper times for ceremonies. Indeed, circles of standing stones with solar alignments, and occasionally lunar alignments, are found throughout the world (Zink 1979). These stone circles were constructed with a detailed knowledge of astronomy, and they represented the importance of the Sun and Moon for peoples of a wide variety of cultures on Earth, dating as far back as 4,800 B.C. (Zink 1979). Even in the technologically advanced age in which we live, and whether we pay attention or not, the pattern in the locations and times of the rising and setting of the Sun and Moon continue.
THROUGH THE SUNWHEEL, which concretely illustrates the variations in the Sun's position on the horizon during the year, VISITORS WILL GAIN A GREATER AWARENESS AND
UNDERSTANDING OF ASTRONOMY.
Furthermore, the Sunwheel provides not only a scientific learning experience, but also a cultural, historical, and social one as well. It is a compelling symbol of the connection between our
modern society and our past. At the same time, the Sunwheel represents the present-day connection between our planet Earth and the expansive Universe which we see around us.
To see photographs taken at the Sunwheel between 1997 and 2000,
To see photographs of the Sunwheel since the tall stones were added,
click here and