Observing Solar Cycles Using Sundials
Equatorial Sundials and the Sun's Apparent Path Across the SkyYou can learn a lot more than the time of day by looking at an equatorial sundial!Graphic courtesy The CoVis Project and The USA Today Weather Book by Jack Williams. Summer Solstice
Every day, shadows are shortest at noon, and longest at sunrise & sunset. On June 21, noon shadows are the shortest of any day during the year (for northern mid-latitude locations), and vice-versa on December 21 (see solstice/equinox diagram). Due to the geometry of equatorial sundials, the gnomon shadow is the same length for the entire day (although its length varies from day-to-day according to the annual cycle of change in the declination of the Sun). Note that it is incorrect to say that the Summer Solstice is the "longest day" of the year. The fact of the matter is that the day is still 24 hours long--no longer than any other day of the year! However, it is correct to say that the number of hours of daylight is greatest (notice that the red dashed line is longest on the Summer Solstice diagram). Further, it is more correct to refer to the "Summer Solstice" as the "June Solstice," since the seasons are reversed in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Winter Solstice
Note that it is incorrect to say that the Winter Solstice (more correctly referred to as the December Solstice) is the "shortest day" of the year. It is correct to say that the number of hours of daylight is least (notice that the red dashed line is shortest on the Winter Solstice diagram).
Me and My Shadow - Making the Sun-Earth Connection | SCSA Home |