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Washington State University Builds Human Sundial for Winter Solstice

22 DEC 2015
Career Path : Education News
Rachel Daws' Garden

Today marks the shortest day of the year—the Winter Solstice—and campuses all over the world are celebrating in their own ways.

The University of Oregon invited its students to solstice events at its own Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Nearer to Stonehenge, a popular site for solstice celebration, Oxford University is hosting its own winter festival activities. But the University of Washington (UW) may have had this year’s brightest solstice idea.

UW’s campus in Vancouver, Washington, is now home to a human sundial, designed by the campus’ master gardeners. UW joined forces with Bryan Preas from the North American Sundial society to create a horizontal sundial using precise applied math and engineering.

Sundials traditionally tell the time using a thin pole or wedge (what Preas calls a “gnomon”) to cast a shadow onto one of the numbers arranged around the dial’s circular rim. For this human sundial, a person is meant to act as the gnomon, and their shadow is used to tell the time, based on its relationship to the plants and rocks arranged like a giant clock on UW’s campus.

Because sundials measure the “true local time” based on solar positioning, the shadows cast in UW’s sundial will likely slightly differ from our standard time, as our watches are set to standard mean times within global time zones. For those with their eyes on their watches in Washington tonight, winter solstice will hit at 8:49pm—when the year’s longest night will officially begin.

Source: The Oregonian