Again this year the public is invited to echo the ancient custom of observing the annual winter solstice at the Okanagan’s own standing stone structure Pen Henge on Munson Mountain in Penticton.
The event, which marks the sun’s southernmost setting point, will take place on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 21 with interested people gathering around 2:45 p.m. in anticipation of sunset at 3:27 p.m.
Pen Henge designer Chris Purton, a retired scientist at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory at White Lake, said this year the actual time of the solstice will be at 3:03 p.m., just a short time before the sunset time around 3:27 p.m.
The earlier gathering time of 2:45 p.m. will allow the group to mark the actual moment of solstice as well as the sunset phenomenon when the rays of the setting sun will extend from the winter solstice stone to the heel stone.
The solstice gathering is being organized by the Penticton meeting group of the Okanagan Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and members will be on hand to answer questions as well as describe the significance of what is taking place.
The Pen Henge standing stone array is located at the top of Munson Mountain above the large ‘Penticton’ sign on the east side of Okanagan Lake.
The array 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 on the OC RASC website at: rascoc.zenfolio.com/p500357414.
“For most of the year the structure simply illustrates the enormous range along the western horizon where the sun sets,” Purton said.
“Most people subconsciously know of this, but they are quite fascinated to see the idea laid out so graphically.”
A brass plaque with a brief explanation of the array is permanently attached to the top of the heel stone.