VLA Sundial Memorial Print
Posted: Thursday, 31 October 2013 14:43
Bracewell Memorial Sundial at VLA
Photo Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF

In 1961 Professor Ronald Bracewell at Stanford University created an X shaped array (called a “Chris-Cross array” for W.R. “Chris” Christiansen) using 32 10-foot diameter dish antennas to form a radio spectroheliograph nestled in the hills of Palo Alto, California.  The radio telescope, operating at a wavelength of 10 cm, produced daily maps of solar radio activity that NASA used during the Apollo moon landings.  Bracewell used the antenna piers as a novel “guest book,” handing visiting astronomers a hammer and chisel to carve their signatures into the concrete. He accumulated more than 200 of these signatures from many of the leading pioneers of radio astronomy.

Bracewell’s radio telescope, dismantled in the 1980’s, now has a second life as part of a sundial designed by Professor Woody Sullivan from the University of Washington. Dr. Sullivan is an avid dialist and member of the North American Sundial Society.  In 2012 donations from the Friends of the Bracewell Observatory Association, Associated Universities Inc., and the National Science Foundation provided funds to create a memorial to Dr. Bracewell who passed away in 2007.

The memorial is a horizontal gnomonic sundial at the entrance of the Very Large Array (VLA) of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) visitor center in New Mexico.  Ten of the 6-foot antenna piers with their historic signatures mark the hours.  They are positioned just northward of the winter solstice line.  As described by Dave Finley of the NRAO, “The central portion of the sundial is on a 46-by-35-foot concrete slab. Markers that indicate the time of day are embedded in the slab, where the shadow of a metal sphere mounted atop a post can fall on them. Visitors can walk around the sundial to find not only the time of day but the approximate time of the year. Other markers indicate important dates in the history of radio astronomy, and solar noon at other observatories. Unlike any other sundial, this one ... allows visitors to locate the approximate position in the sky of three celestial objects that played important roles in radio astronomy: two distant galaxies and the remains of an exploded star in our own Milky Way.”  Read more at:

9/11 Timeless Sundial Dedicated In Hampton, N.J. Print
Posted: Thursday, 12 September 2013 18:54

nass_news_2013_sep_hampton_dial-2nass_news_2013_sep_hampton_dial-1Tom Carpenter, a member of the Hampton fire company for 44 years, presented plans for a 9/11 memorial to the Borough Council at the beginning of 2012 and Councilman James Cregar began designing the memorial as a sundial using beams recovered from Ground Zero of the Twin Towers.

Last Saturday the beams, which had been transformed into a timeless sundial, was dedicated in a ceremony “… to the innocent victims of the attack on our country on September 11, 2001 and to all those who suffered responding to it.   By the Citizens of Hampton 9/11/2012”

Fire Company President Rob Walton, also a county Freeholder, served as master of ceremonies at the dedication.   Joining the volunteer firefighters were members of the Hampton Emergency Squad, some of whom went to Ground Zero immediately after the 9/11 Twin Towers attacks. Georgia Cudina of Lebanon Township assisted with the draping of the U.S. flag over the beam gnomon in memory of those who died, including her husband Richard who was among the many 2001 victims.

nass_news_2013_sep_hampton_dial-4Walton explained to an audience that overflowed into the nearby street that two bent pieces of steel from one of the towers make up the gnomon of the timeless sundial. Surrounding the gnomon there are no hour lines.  Rather, the dial base, shaped into a large Pentagon, has a floor of light and dark brick pavers creating the outline of the Twin Towers and the number 93 for the airline flight that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  Within the outline of the Twin Towers are pavers with engraved names and remembrances. Four plaques on the memorial wall catch the morning gnomon shadows to remember that infamous day’s events:

“American Airlines Flight 11 Strikes North Tower at 8:46am"
“United Airlines Flight 175 Strikes South Tower at 9:03am”
“American Airlines Flight 77 Strikes The Pentagon at 9:37am”
“United Airlines Flight 93 Crashes in Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03am”

nass_news_2013_sep_hampton_dial-3Keynote speaker Congressman Leonard Lance of Clinton Township noted that more than 700 New Jersey residents lost their lives in the 9/11 attack.  And Rob Walton said that the memorial should remind us all “to treasure time.”

Thanks to Tom Carpenter, Mayor James Cregar, Rob Walton, Rick Allen, and the committee of volunteers who worked so hard to create the memorial.  You can read about the dedication in Terry Wright’s article from the on-line Hunterdon-County-Democrat that includes many pictures of the dial and the ceremony. Visit http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2013/09/911_sun_dial_memorial_dediated.html

To raise funds, engraved bricks with names or short messages from the donors are still available - for details contact Tom Carpenter at 908-537-4521.

Bainbridge Island Equatorial Sundial Print
Posted: Saturday, 17 August 2013 21:55

The Battle Point Astronomical Association, founded in 1992, provides astronomical observing for science education and public enjoyment at Ritchie Observatory and Planetarium in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

The Association is designing a large equatorial sundial to excite curiosity and demonstrate the basic concepts of time and the motion of the earth.  A model of the sundial shows that it will be not only an accurate timepiece using an analemma shaped gnomon to tell civil time, but also will be a beautiful sculpture. “There currently is nothing like it on Bainbridge Island,” claims the Association.

The group has raised $13,000 towards the project's estimated cost of $30,000.  "Our community has a strong sense of stewardship of the public good. When you support the sundial, you’ll help create a significant and meaningful work of public art that will bring beauty as well as an appreciation of time and the day sky to the everyday life of our community.”  With your help the sundial will be installed in the Spring of 2014. Contributions for the sundial can be made at: BPAA Sundial Contribution at Indiegogo

In the video Professor Woody Sullivan, "Mr. Sundial", explains the enthusiasm for sundials in the Pacific Northwest and the goal to make Seattle the sundial capital of North America.  Contribute to the Battle Point Park Sundial and get a personal tour of the Seattle Sundial Trail from Professor Sullivan.

Read more at: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/battle-point-sundial-project

Oatlands Sundial on Endangered List Print
Posted: Wednesday, 14 August 2013 19:49


Photos Courtesy of Oatlands Historic House and Garden

Sitting peacefully in the garden of the Oatlands Historic House and Garden near Leesburg VA, is a beautiful, but sadly in need of repair sundial.  Each year the Virginia Association of Museums, comprising over 500 museums and historical sites within the state, receives nominations for conservation of Endangered Artifacts.  The Oatlands sundial is nominated to be considered for one of the Top 10 List of Endangered Artifacts for 2013. You can vote your concern for this sundial and donate to its restoration at:


Oatlands was an ante-bellum estate purchased as a “country home” by Edith and William Corcoran Eustis in 1903.  Edith collected artifacts from all over the world, including the sundial.  An early picture showed Edith standing in the garden with the sundial on its unmistakable pillar of pink marble balanced atop a large marble tortoise. See NASS sundial #255 (Virginia / Leesburg).  Unfortunately the dial is misaligned and the top marble plinth has come loose from the pillar.  The dial face and gnomon need restoration as well.

nass_news_2013_aug_Oatlands_fecitLori Kimball, Director of Programming and Education, provided NASS with detailed photos of the sundial showing the marks “FECIT” (Made by) with a symbol of a crown and the date 1717.  Analysis of the gnomon angle and dial face hour lines shows that the dial was designed for N 41 deg 54 min, the latitude of Rome.  This is consistent with Edith Eustis antique collecting from Italy and France.  But who made the sundial and is the date its true provenance?

Oatlands is raising funds to conduct a conservation assessment along with the sundial’s restoration. Kimball said she hoped the public would support Oatlands by voting to raise the visibility of the conservation work needed for the sundial.  Voting is open until the end of August.  The Virginia Association of Museums does not provide financial support - public donations such as yours are needed. The final Top 10  will be then selected by a panel of conservators and collections care professionals and announced mid-September.

Read:  Leesburg Today Oatlands Sundial on Endangered Artifacts List

A History of the Sky Print
Posted: Thursday, 25 July 2013 15:12

Kevin Murphy, artist and photographer, set up a time-lapse camera on the roof of the San Francisco Exploratorium to record the sky every 10 seconds, 24 hours per day for an entire year. The camera points due north at and elevation of 45 degrees, which means that you won’t see any dramatic sunrise or sunset, nor will you see a burning image of the sun. Even with the wide-angle lens, the sun is always kept just out of view. But what a wonderful view of the sky: Look closely at the video and you’ll see moving clouds, fog, rain, and differing colors of the sky.

Most stunning is the changing length of the day. Summer morning twilight begins about 4:10am (Pacific Standard Time) and evening twilight ends about 8:10pm, but you must be patient for the winter sky to appear. Winter morning twilight begins about 6:50am (PST) and evening twilight ends about 5:30pm. (There’s a small running clock in the bottom right corner to chart your progress). You’ll see the dramatic difference between summer and winter with days in darkness patiently waiting their turn at sunrise and conversely, the fast quenching of the blue sky into darkness well before the summer frames show any sign of paling.

Each frame is digitally photographed at 1024x768 pixels, that with compression, requires about half a terabyte storage per year. Kevin Murphy has been creative with the sky display: Thumbnail videos of each day of the year are collectively represented in a tiled mosaic 20 days wide by 18 days tall, showing 360 days of sky all at once. The images are arranged chronologically, and are synchronized by time of day, beginning before summer sunrise. Time is compressed in playback at 24 frames/second so that each second represents 4 minutes of time.

This is still a work still in progress: As the camera on the Exploratorium roof continues to collect images of the sky, they will be integrated into the daily montage. Therefore the video will vary from day to day, always displaying the most recent 365 days.

Visit http://www.murphlab.com/hsky/ for more information. Below is his video. It’s best played in full-screen HD resolution. Click the middle arrow to start, then click the bottom right frame box.

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:

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