Southwind Park to get 20-foot Tall Dial Print
Posted: Saturday, 15 June 2013 18:02

Southwind Park in Springfield Illinois is a National Model Park.  It got its start in October 2004 when trustees accepted the donation of 80 acres of land just off South Second Street.  Their website states "Our unique state-of-the-art park serves as a national model by proving a new dimensions of inclusion for all people."  A park without boundaries that accomodates people in wheelchairs and visitors with special needs. 

nass_news_2013_jun_Selvaggio_ArchesAlong the 2 1/2 miles of concrete paths are accessible playgrounds, fishing piers and even a tree house. One of the more striking features is the Selvaggio Arches, remounted in the park from the 1892-1893 Columbian Exposition of the Chicago World's Fair.  This structure alone would make an interesting sundial.

The Rotary Club chapters throughout Springfield raised $60,000 for a 20-foot tall sundial.  As reported by John Reynolds in the State Journal-Register, "Brian Barstead, past president of the Rotary Club of Springfield-Sunrise Club, said the sundial will be at the center of a garden and will be topped with a flower with a giant bumblebee. At noon, the shadow of the bee will mark the date of the year."

It appears that the sundial will be a horizontal dial using the bee as a nodus and the date marks placed on the north noon line.  In addition to the main sundial in the garden, an analemmatic or "human" sundial will be constructed to allow interactive participation by children and their parents to tell time using their own shadow.

According to the State Journal-Register, "The five Springfield Rotary  chapters are marking 100 years of service in Springfield this year. The sundial donation is part of that celebration." Barstead continued "If you look at what Rotary is all about, it’s about people using their time to do good things. If you look at the sun dial, it’s a symbol of time that goes back forever."

The dials should be completed by the end of the summer. Read more at:

Sundial Moved with Hidden Treasure Print
Posted: Saturday, 15 June 2013 15:10

nass_news_2013_jun_PanamaCitySundial_1963Many sundials do not survive the raveges of time.  Buildings are destroyed and the sundial goes to oblivion.  However, Panama City Commissioners had a different view of the sundial once located across from the Marina Civic Center.  

William Whitson, Director of the Community Redevelopment Agency addressed the public during its recent meeting, as and recorded by Zack McDonald of the News Herald, "We always knew the sundial would be part of the redevelopment. But recently some of the info we've unearthed is pretty unusual."

Underneath the sundial, encased in concrete, was a section of a periscope captured from a German U-Boat.  It was made into a 600-year time capsule, filled with nitrogen to protect its contents. The capsule, 6 inches in diameter and 18-inches long, was deposited beneath the sundial on Armed Forces Day May 18, 1963 to be opened 600 years hence in 2563.

The News Herald reported that "In 1963 the personnel of the Navy Mine Defense Laboratory gifted the sundial and the time capsule to the city. The sundial was chosen because of its timeless character in depicting the enduring relationship between the city and Navy."

The 9-foot diameter terrazzo sundial has a large "USN" on the North East quadrant edge of the concrete dais.  On the off-white surface is a bronze tapered gnomon moved slightly to the south of center. Hour lines radiate from the gnomon foot and small arabic numerals grace the outer top edge of the dais. The sundial and its plaque of the Equation of Time is being moved to a new location near the Panama City "splash pad".  The 600-year time capsule will presumably be once again located underneath the sundial.

Read More at the News Herald:

Seattle - Sundial Capital of North America Print
Posted: Thursday, 16 May 2013 22:37

Read The Seattle Times article of May 14, 2013:

nass_news_2013_may_Sullivan_DialIn the May 14, 2013 edition of The Seattle Times University of Washington professor Woody Sullivan was honored as ‘Mr. Sundial’ for his persistence in declaring Seattle as the Sundial Capital of North America. Dr. Sullivan has worked on more than a dozen dials in Seattle, including the large 20x30 foot vertical dial on southwest wall of the Physics and Astronomy building at UW and the elegant 11x17 foot reflection sundial painted on the ceiling of his garage at N 47° 41.232, W 122° 21.562.  A small circular mirror outside the south facing window reflects a spot of light onto the ceiling.

The reflection sundial was a labor of love taking over 3 years to create.  Woody marked over 700 locations on the ceiling that allowed him to draw the local solar time, dates, hours of daylight, solar azimuth and altitude, analemma, and even hours to dawn.  And being a radio astronomer, he marked the transit sidereal time for two radio sources.  The dial was painted with marvelous beauty by a local mural artist, Jim Noonan.  The sundial is very personal to Woody, showing time marks for the date he married to the birthdays of himself, his wife, and two daughters.  The zodiac painted along the ecliptic has a local touch, representing Pisces by a pair of sockeye; Cancer by a Dungeness crab; and Capricorn as a mountain goat. There is even a compass rose.

nass_news_2013_may_UW_dialFred Sawyer, president of the North American Sundial Society (NASS) is quoted by Erik Lacitis, Seattle Times staff reporter, saying “it’s likely true that Sullivan’s garage sundial is one of the best in North America.”  When the NASS visited Seattle for the 2011 annual sundial conference, they visited Woody’s Reflection Dial and a marker was added to it for the date and time of itsofficial dial dedication held on Saturday 22 August 2011. “We toasted the sundial with an appropriate wine, ‘Wehlener Sonnenuhr’ by Joh. Hos. Prum, the fine Mosel Kabinett from the German vineyard with a large vertical sundial.” said Roger Bailey, the society’s secretary.

Among Dr. Sullivan’s accomplishments in the world of sundials began in the early 1990’s when the University of Washington’s Physics and Astronomy Building was being designed.  He suggested a large vertical (southwest declining) sundial.  The dial was completed in 1994 and Woody was hooked. He also helped design sundials used on the Mars exploration rovers Sprit and Opportunity that landed ion the Martian surface in 2004.  A campaign to build sundials all around our world ensued with the motto “Two Worlds One Sun”.  [photos from NASS]

Building Gone - Dial Lives On Print
Posted: Thursday, 18 April 2013 10:35
[photo courtesy of Kathleen Gust, Terman Engineering Library, Stanford Univ]

In 1995 Professor Emeritus Bracewell designed a vertical declining dial for the south face of the Terman Engineering Building at his Stanford University home campus in Palo Alto. But the building was torn down in 2011 and by March 2012 nothing but landscaping of the new Terman Park remained.  Fortunately Prof. Ronald Bracewell’s sundial once again casts its solar time on the south wall of the Stanford Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center.  Both the Huang and old Terman building have similar south-south-west alignments allowing the dial to be remounted without adjustment. [].

Bracewell described the sundial in the March 1997 issue of Stanford’s Civil Engineering Newsletter [ ].  It is a vertical declining dial 15 degrees to the west, approximately 72 x 80 cm in size and made from aluminum  In a plaque prepared by Bracewell and installed beneath the sundial, he states that his dial was modeled after the vertical dials that still faintly adorn the Tower of the Agora in Athens.  The Tower of Agora, also known as the Tower of the Winds, was designed by Andronikos of Kyrrhos, and built in the early Roman period ~1st century BC.

Instead of a typical gnomon, Bracewell chose to use an oculus: a disc with a central hole.  Standing 8 cm in front of the dial, the disc creates a shadow with a bright dot of sunlight in the center for telling both time and season.  The hour lines are offset by 2 min 40 sec to account for the longitude of the Stanford campus and the hour lines themselves are laid out not as straight lines, but as analemma curves (the figure 8 pattern of the sun’s seasonal movement), with spring colored in green, summer in red, autumn in orange, and winter in blue.  The analemma corrects for the “Equation of Time” allowing Bracewell to create an accurate clock-telling sundial.

The motto “Caelum Scruntando Leges Motus Didicmus” translates to “We learn the laws of motion by studying the heavens”.  And with a bit of subtle math, “d/dt ≠ 0” on the dial plate, one could interpret this to mean “Time changes all things”.  While Dr. Ronald N. Bracewell designed the sundial, his son Mark C. Bracewell constructed it.  Both their initials can be found at the bottom of the dial.

FileDescriptionFile size
Download this file (CENL0397.PDF)Bracewell SundialProf. Bracewell Describes his Sundial 1997300 Kb
Paper Sundials and More at Sundial Atlas Print
Posted: Sunday, 24 March 2013 14:05

nass_news_2013_mar_SundialAtlasPaperdialsNeed a small sundial for your display or science project?  Want to show how different sundials cast shadows?  Need a simple cut-out science exercise for your students?  Fabio Savian of Milan Italy has the solution.  For a number of years he has managed the Sundial Atlas website, ever increasing the number of sundial photos from around the world.  Over the last several years he has worked very hard to create the gnomolab that includes a solar compass map of the earth, cloud software for creating analemmatic (human shadow) sundials, and a section for making paper sundials to your specification.  The analemmatic dial measurements and papger dial designs are created as download PDF files.  Four of those dials were created by the North American Sundial Society.  Enjoy. Sundial Atlas Paper Sundials

Planetary Society Brings Back Earth Dial Print
Posted: Wednesday, 20 March 2013 22:08

nass_news_2013_mar_EarthDialThe Planetary Society and Bill Nye, The Science Guy, are bringing back the Earth Dial, which is a simple to make gnomonic horizontal sundial reminiscent of the sundial incorporated into the Mars rovers Spirit, Opportunity and now Curiosity.  Their original and fundamental purpose is to serve as test patterns for the rover cameras, but they also provide an opportunity as unique shadow casting sundials.

“Since we had shadows being cast on Mars, I suggested it be a sundial… I admit I was quite enthusiastic about it. Steve Squyres, the Principle Investigator on the Spirit and Opportunity missions, made the call, and the Mars Dials were created. He received the [Planetary] Society’s Cosmos medal a few years ago, for his wonderful leadership of the project.”

 The Earth Dial project was started in 2004 and now, nearly a decade later, is being brought back.  Visit the Planetary Society website Planetary Society - Earth Dial for details and download the attachment below to construct your own Earth Dial.

FileDescriptionFile size
Download this file (EarthDials-2013.pdf)Earth Dial Print Out Design-2013Make your own Earth Dial with a dial drawn for your latitude (16 to 54 deg)923 Kb
13th Century BCE Ancient Egyptian Sundial Discovered Print
Posted: Saturday, 16 March 2013 20:24
[photo Courtesy University of Basel]

Professor Dr. Susanne Bickel and her archeological team from the University of Basel found one of the oldest sundials in the world during this year’s excavation in the Valley of the Kings.  A limestone sundial was found near tomb KV61 during a survey of the surface rubble. The location of the dial corresponds to an area where there are remains of workmen’s huts dating to the Ramesside Period of the 13th century BCE.

The dial was most likely a vertical, south facing sundial. The horizon line of the dial is about 16 cm across with a hole at the mid point to hold a simple horizontal metal rod or wood stick gnomon, indicating that the gnomon displayed shadows of temporal (seasonally uneven) hours. The limestone dial has a black painted semicircle.  On each side of the vertical noon line are 6 segments of about 15 degrees each, representing morning and afternoon temporal (seasonally uneven) hours.  Small dots in the middle of each hourly segment serve for even finer timing.  Nevertheless, the hour lines are not drawn with precision.

 The archeologists speculate that since the subdivision of the solar cycle in hours was a key aspect of depictions on the walls of the royal tombs where illustrated texts describe the nightly journey of the sun god through the underworld, the sundial could have supported the observations and visualization of this journey.  Or the sundial could have been used as a simple clock by the workmen that toiled away digging and decorating the Ramesside tombs.

Read more at: University of Basel News Release 14 March, 2013

NASS Plans 20th Anniversary Conference Print
Posted: Saturday, 02 March 2013 16:29
[photo of the Lienhart Miller 1629 sundial from the CHSI  collection by permission]

This year’s NASS Conference will be held Aug. 22-25, 2013 in Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts at the Courtyard by Marriott. Be sure to mark your calendar for this special event celebrating the Society’s 20th year.  Details on the cost of the conference and accommodations will be posted when details are finalized.

In a departure from the usual agenda of having a bus tour excursion of area sundials, on Aug. 23rd members will focus on two exhibits at Harvard – the primary one being the exhibit “Time and Time Again” curated by Dr. Sara J. Schechner long time NASS member holding the position as the David P. Wheatland Curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. Featured objects will include portable sundials and precision clocks, calendars from different cultures and epochs, time charts shaped like animals, Mesopotamian, Native American, and African ritual objects, fossils, and metamorphosing creatures.  Visit for more exhibit details.

NASS attendees can add their own outlooks on time and sundials by making presentations on the varied arts of sundials and displaying their creative works.  Contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to sign up for presentations and display space.

Carmichael's Monumental Sundial Print
Posted: Saturday, 02 March 2013 16:27
[photo courtesy of John Carmichael]

In 2002, the North American Sundial Society recognized John Carmichael with the Sawyer Dialing Prize as an eminent artisan who creates a wide variety of sundials, principally in stone and glass. In recognition, John received a small brass equatorial sundial made by the renowned British artisan Tony Moss.  But for nearly a decade the sundial remained on John's workbench never seeing the full light of day.

Recently Mr. Carmichael completed a 24:1-scale model railroad in his back yard ( Now his Sawyer Dialing Prize sundial finally sits in the Arizona sun as a miniature "Monumental Sundial" at the Trolley Station.  At the 24:1 scale, the 3-inch dial assumes the proportion of a large 6-foot equatorial sundial. You can see John Carmichael's dials at

Historic Replica Dial for Holland College Print
Posted: Saturday, 02 March 2013 16:17
[Photo courtesy of Holland College]

In 2009 Holland College on Prince Edward Island began a major $17M renovation and expansion program, including a large open-space quadrangle. Vice President Michael O'Grady was commissioned Tony Moss of Lindisfarne Sundials [now retired] to make a replica sundial Captain Samuel Holland had given to Dartmouth College, New Hampshire in 1773. Tony undertook the work to create a copy of the dial, redeclinating it to the new site in Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island with the proviso that he "might replace the original ... chapter ring scrolls with some of my own design." Tony further commented, "I think the engraver was indulging an apprentice with the less-critical parts of the job..."

The full story of the making of this sundial will appear in the Bulletin of the British Sundial Society and in an article of The Compendium of the North American Sundial Society.

Meanwhile read more of the history behind this sundial:

World's Largest Sundial Cracks Print
Posted: Saturday, 02 March 2013 16:12

nass_news_2012_dec_JaipurObservatorySudhanshu Mishra reports in Mail-Online-India that the World Heritage Site at Jaipur, the Jantar Mantar astronomical observatory is in severe decline because of neglect.

Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, also known as Singh II, directed several the building of a astronomical observatories at Ujjain, Varanasi, Jaipur, Mathura, and Deli.  From his research, Jai Singh II concluded that accuracy of observation could only be obtained with large, stationary instruments. The giant Jaipur observatory consisting of 16 different instruments took 15 years to build and was completed in 1734.

Most famous at Jaipur is the Brihat Samrat Yantra (translated as “large sun instrument”) a giant equatorial sundial with a polar gnomon height of 89 feet 9 inches.  It’s thickness of 8 feet is wide enough for a stairway to the top.  The overall dimension of this dial occupies a square 146 feet on a side to hold not only the gnomon but the equatorial band, called the Zodiac Circle (Rashivalaya), for reading the sun’s shadow to a phenomenal accuracy of 2 seconds of time. [1]

nass_news_2012_dec_JaipurCracksBut the equatorial circle has worrying fractures and chemical treatments may have hastened structural disintegration.  According reports in Mail-Online-India, “Superintendent of the Jantar Mantar, Om Prakash Sharma, said the matter of cracks and decay came to notice only recently and corrective measures would be taken soon.”   “Jodharam Babar, deputy director in the state's archaeology and museums department, said the matter would be referred to experts before any corrective measures are taken.”

And to date, indeed, no action has been taken.  India is letting the world’s largest sundial, a World Heritage Site, disintegrate before our eyes.

[1] Brandmaier, H. “Famous Sundials of India”, North American Sundial Society’s The Compendium,  Vol. 2 Nr. 4 pp. 4-9,  Dec. 1995

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