UMass Amherst Sunwheel Live Broadcasts to Welcome the Spring Equinox
Standing stones will mark the spring equinox at sunrise and sunset on March 20.
March 10, 2021
The UMass Sunwheel is a solar calendar made up of a stone circle, like England’s famous Stonehenge. Also like Stonehenge, the Sunwheel’s standing stones mark the location of the rising and setting sun during equinoxes and solstices. This unique calendar circle was designed by the late UMass professor of astronomy Judith Young, and has hosted public events celebrating the change of seasons since 1997.
Join UMass Amherst astronomers for live broadcasts from the Sunwheel to celebrate the spring equinox on Saturday, March 20. The webinar-format live streams will begin at 7 a.m. for sunrise and 6:30 p.m. for sunset. Each of these broadcasts will begin with a 20-minute introduction to the UMass Sunwheel, followed by an opportunity, weather permitting, to see the alignment as the sun rises and sets against the Sunwheel’s tall stones.
During the presentations Stephen Schneider will explain the changing positions of the sun, moon and Earth, and how the standing stones of the Sunwheel act as a calendar to mark the start of each season. He and other UMass astronomers at the webinar will be available to answer questions about the Sunwheel as well as questions about astronomy.
On the day of the March equinox, the sun crosses the celestial equator, passing from the southern to the northern half of the sky. This year, the crossing occurs at 5:37 a.m. ET, which marks the astronomical start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the start of autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. On this date, the length of day and night are nearly equal, which gives us the term equi-nox or equal-night.
Because of the COVID pandemic, the public is asked not to come to the Sunwheel during the equinoctial sunrise and sunset this year. Visitors are welcome at other times and should wear masks and be prepared for especially wet footing. The UMass Amherst Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road, or Amity Street, about one-quarter mile west of University Drive.
The public webinar will be hosted on Zoom. For more information on the Sunwheel, visit the UMass Department of Astronomy’s homepage.