Logo for Sunwheel Project

THE STORY OF BUILDING THE U.MASS. SUNWHEEL



THE IDEA: Summer 1992

  • INSPIRED by a Sunwheel at the Blacktail Ranch in Montana, former Blackfeet Indian territory
THE BEGINNING: 1992-93
  • SELECTED empty field on campus
  • OBSERVED sunrise and sunset on SOLSTICES and EQUINOXES
  • used ROCKS for markers
  • field was mowed & rock markers destroyed
  • TIME TO START OVER
BEGINNING AGAIN: 1993-94
  • SENT MEMO to the Dean requesting permission to use field
  • AGAIN OBSERVED sunrise and sunset, used taller wooden markers
  • memo was lost, field was mowed again
  • TIME TO START OVER AGAIN
AND AGAIN: 1994-95
  • TRIED to collaborate with landscape architects on campus (they weren't interested)
  • LEARNED proper University channels for permanent changes to campus
  • SUBMITTED PROPOSAL for Sunwheel to Faculty Senate Committee for Physical Planning
  • proposal was APPROVED UNANIMOUSLY on Oct. 17, 1995
  • TIME TO RAISE MONEY
THE OBSERVATIONS: 1996
  • SELECTED CENTER of Sunwheel
  • OBSERVED sunrise and sunset on solstices and equinoxes
  • DETERMINED true N, S, E, and W from the Sunwheel center using surveying equipment (with help of colleague Steve Schneider)
  • INSTALLED SIMPLE EXHIBIT
THE PRELIMINARY SUNWHEEL: 1997
  • RECEIVED start-up funding with a Healey Foundation Grant from U.Mass.
  • RECEIVED start-up funding from NASA
  • PURCHASED 8 small boulders, each 2'-4' high, from the Goshen Stone quarry
  • HIRED local excavating company to move the stones on site
  • in 2 hours, the PRELIMINARY SUNWHEEL WAS COMPLETED !!
  • TIME TO RAISE MONEY FOR BIG STONES
OUTREACH BEGINS: 1998
  • OVER 300 K-12 students and teachers visit the Sunwheel
  • 200 PEOPLE attend the PUBLIC GATHERINGS at sunrise and sunset on the solstices and equinoxes
  • SURPRISE -- the Sunwheel provides a gathering spot for people to learn basic astronomy and enjoy the sky together
NSF FUNDING ARRIVES: 1999
  • National Science Foundation funded my proposal to add tall stones to the Sunwheel
  • 14 BEAUTIFUL STANDING STONES were located at the Chester Granite Company in East Otis, MA
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering faculty at U.Mass. began MONITORING THE WATER LEVELS on site
  • THE LARGEST GATHERING YET -- winter solstice sunset attracted 142 people to the Sunwheel!!
CONSTRUCTION: 2000
  • for the story of ADDING THE BIG STONES, click here



  A project conceived by Dr. Judith S. Young
 Professor of Astronomy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
 e-mail: Judith Young at young@astro.umass.edu

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