Dozens Mark the Summer Solstice at the UMass Amherst Sunwheel
Dozens of people joined UMass Amherst astronomers at the UMass Sunwheel on Sunday, June 20, at 5:15 a.m. and 7:45 p.m. The Sunwheel’s standing stones marked the sunrise and sunset of the longest day of the year, and UMass’s astronomers answered the public’s questions and explain the astronomical cause of the solstice.
The astronomical start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere is the moment the sun reaches its northernmost position relative to the stars as seen from Earth. This occurred at 11:32 p.m. EDT on June 20, marking the 20th solstice day in the United States. There are more hours of daylight on the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere than on any other day.
The Sunwheel’s standing stones mark the changing positions of the sun and moon throughout the year, much like ancient calendar-stone sites such as England’s Stonehenge and Chankillo in Peru. On the date of the solstice, the sun rises and sets farthest north at spots along the horizon marked by the Wheel’s tall standing stones. Other stones mark the position of the sun at the equinoxes and the winter solstice.
During the few days on either side of the solstice, which means “stationary sun,” the sun’s northerly position changes so gradually that it rises and sets at almost the same position for more than a week. Sunwheel visitors who stop in on their own between June 15 and 25 will be able to see the sun rising and setting over the summer solstice stones.
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. Visitors to the Sunwheel should be prepared for wet footing and mosquitoes. For more info, visit the Sunwheel website.