Winter Solstice Sunwheel and Sky-Watching
December 21, 2016
UMass Amherst Campus
The public is invited to witness sunrise and sunset associated with the winter solstice among the standing stones of the UMass Amherst Sunwheel. Heavy rain or snow will cancel the events.
Sunwheel events mark the astronomical change of seasons. The winter solstice occurs when nights are longest and days are shortest in the Northern Hemisphere and the sun rises and sets at its most southerly spot along the horizon, over the southeasterly and southwesterly stones in the Sunwheel, respectively.
At the hour-long gatherings, UMass Amherst astronomer Stephen Schneider will discuss the astronomical cause of the solstice. He will explain the seasonal positions of Earth, the sun and moon, why the earliest sunset occurs about two weeks earlier and the latest sunrise about two weeks later. He will also describe how the Sunwheel was built and the design of other calendar sites such as the Temple of Karnak in Egypt and Chankillo in Peru.
The UMass Amherst Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road (Amity St.) about one-quarter mile south of University Drive.