Astronomy department head hosting sundial and sky-watching event

By Megha Srinivasan

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Stephen Schneider, University of Massachusetts astronomy professor and department head, will be holding events at the standing stones of the UMass Sunwheel during both sunrise and sunset to mark the autumnal equinox. The sunrise event takes place today at 6:45 a.m. and the sunset event at 6 p.m.

Each event will be around an hour long and Schneider will discuss topics such as the cause of the sun’s changing position and the seasonal positions of the sun, moon and Earth. He will also answer questions from the public pertaining to astronomy and the causes of the equinox.

If the skies are clear in the evening, attendees can expect Schneider to bring telescopes for public use.

The Sunwheel was constructed in 1997 by Judy Young, an associate professor of astronomy at UMass who for over 15 years led seasonal sunrise and sunset gatherings before her death in 2014. The University recognized Young’s work with the Distinguished Academic Outreach Award in 2000.

Schneider said that the purpose of the event is, “to learn a bit about what goes on astronomically and why we say it is the beginning of autumn. It is also to teach people about how the sun is in the sky and why the seasons are around.”

According to Schneider, “The stones have been set up so (the person) is in the center, and the sun will rise and set over some of the stones. The sun rises on the eastern stones and in the evening it sets on the western stone marking where it is on the equinox. Over the year the sun moves north and south a lot.”

Schneider has been conducting this event for several years along with the winter solstice, spring equinox and summer solstice.

The Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Stadium, off of Rocky Hill Road and south of University Drive.


Megha Srinivasan can be reached at [email protected]