Visitors can still visit Sunwheel at UMass Amherst for summer solstice, despite pandemic

At the solstice, the sun’s rising and setting positions barely change for more than a week, according to UMass Amherst astronomer Stephen Schneider.

This 2017 file photo shows people gather for a Sunset winter solstice celebration at the U-Mass Amherst Sunwheel.
This 2017 file photo shows people gather for a Sunset winter solstice celebration at the U-Mass Amherst Sunwheel. –(Barry Chin/Globe Staff)

AMHERST , Mass. (AP) — UMass won’t be holding its usual presentations at the Amherst campus’ Sunwheel for the summer solstice this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the public is still invited to visit the site at sunrise and sunset this week.

Visitors should wear face coverings, employ social distancing and be prepared for the possibility of wet footing and mosquitoes, according to a statement from the university.

At the solstice, the sun’s rising and setting positions barely change for more than a week, according to UMass Amherst astronomer Stephen Schneider.

“From June 15 to 25, the shift of the sun will be less than one-fifth its own size. That’s barely detectable without astronomical instruments, so any of those days would be great to visit the Sunwheel to see the alignment of the standing stones with the rising or setting position of the sun,” he said.

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The astronomical start of summer is at 5:43 p.m. on June 20, the moment when the sun reaches its farthest northerly position in the sky, making that the longest day of the year.

The UMass Amherst Sunwheel is located just south of the football stadium.

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