Celebrate the arrival of fall at UMass sunwheel


AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – UMass Amherst offers a celestial event that marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall.

Two public events will be held at the Sunwheel Campus standing stones to watch the sunrise and sunset on Wednesday, September 22, the fall equinox. The equinoxes (vernal equinox in spring and autumnal equinox in fall) mark the astronomical change of seasons when days and nights are nearly equal around the world. Gatherings will be held in person at 6.30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

UMass Amherst astronomer Stephen Schneider will explain the design of the sun wheel and compare it to ancient calendar sites around the world, and discuss the astronomical cause of the change in the sun’s position, the seasonal positions of the Earth, of the sun and the moon and mythology.

The change of seasons occurs when the sun crosses the celestial equator from the northern hemisphere from the sky to the southern hemisphere. This year, the exact minute of the fall equinox is 3:21 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on September 22, when fall begins in the northern hemisphere and spring begins in the south. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and stays up for 12 hours and sets for 12 hours.

It also marks the start of six months of daylight at the South Pole and six months of night at the North Pole. This is the origin of the word equinox, which means “equal night”.

The UMass Amherst Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road (Amity St.) about a quarter mile south of University Drive. Visitors to the Sunwheel should be prepared to walk on wet feet, and mosquito repellent is highly recommended. Heavy rains cancel events, but lectures will be given if there are clouds or light rain.

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