The longest night of the year is nearly here, and marking it will be a gathering at the Okanagan’s own Penhenge.
The winter solstice, the longest night of the year, is on Dec. 21 and the annual event is set to draw a crowd to the Penhenge standing stone array on Munson Mountain outside Penticton.
Penhenge designer Chris Purton, a retired scientist at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory at White Lake, will be on hand to explain the array of stones and how to follow the Sun’s annual migration from the South back to the North.
He recommends a gathering time of 2:45 p.m. to allow people to climb the hill, and possibly observe the sunset phenomenon of the rays of the setting sun extending from the winter solstice stone to the heel stone of the stone array. It will be chilly, so dress warmly.
Sunset is anticipated at 3:27 p.m.
The Penhenge array consists of four stones that mark 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.
The actual time of the Winter Solstice, the moment of this year that the Sun’s rays hit furthest south on the Earth, will be at 1:48 pm on the 21st. Purists may want to be on the hill to help ring the bell for that moment.
Each day after the 21st, the Sun will set a little later and rise a little earlier and a little higher, making each day a little longer, and each night a little shorter. And each day the sunset position of the Sun will move north of its southernmost position on Wednesday.
This solstice gathering is being organized by the Okanagan Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (OCRASC) and members will be on hand to answer questions as well as describe the significance of what is taking place. There will be a small Bonfire and hot chocolate on private property at the base of Munson Mountain.
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