Gathering marks solstice

It’s hard to believe that days are about to get shorter, but the sun is about to reach its summer solstice on Saturday, June 21.

It’s hard to believe that days are about to get shorter, but the sun is about to reach its summer solstice and the longest day of the summer on Saturday, June 21.

To mark the event, a gathering will take place at the Pen Henge standing stone array on Munson Mountain in Penticton that evening.

The public gathering is being organized by the Penticton meeting group of the Okanagan Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and it will feature safe solar viewing through filtered telescopes.

If skies are clear, participants will gather at Munson Mountain at around 8.30 p.m. in anticipation of seeing the shadow cast by the sun over the summer solstice stone extending gradually toward the central heel stone. Sunset will take place at approximately 8:58 p.m.. The actual time of the solstice will be at 3:51 a.m.

The Pen Henge standing stone array is a project spearheaded by Chris Purton and the Okanagan Astronomical Society which later became part of the Okanagan Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and which was supported by Penticton City Council and its Parks Department.

The installation, which is located at the top of Munson Mountain above the large Penticton sign on the east side of Okanagan Lake, consists of four stones that delineate the sunset points on the four cardinal dates of the year.

Anchored by the Heel Stone, the Equinox Stone points to the sun’s sunset point at both the spring and fall equinoxes, while the other two stones mark the winter and summer solstice setting points respectively.

Photos of the array and earlier observances can be viewed at www.ocrasc.ca  through the Image Gallery link and the Pen Henge folder.

Chris Purton, a retired scientist at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory at White Lake said, “For most of the year the structure simply illustrates the enormous range along the western horizon where the sun sets. Most people subconsciously know of this, but they are quite fascinated to see the idea laid out so graphically.”