AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP)– Celebrate the official start of winter at the sunwheel at UMass-Amherst.

On the winter solstice, the sun rises and sets at its most southerly spots along the horizon, positions marked by the sunwheel’s southeasterly and southwesterly standing stones. This year winter solstice occurs at 4:48 p.m. EST on Dec. 21. After that moment, the sun begins moving northward, and the days start getting longer. 

UMass Amherst astronomer Stephen Schneider will explain the changing positions of the sun and moon as seen from Earth and how the design of the sunwheel helps to track these motions, as well as the history of other locations around the world with similar monuments designed to track the changing of the seasons.

The public is invited to observe sunrise and sunset among the standing stones on Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The UMass Amherst Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road (Amity St.) about one-quarter mile south of University Drive. Visitors should be prepared for freezing temperatures and wet footing. Rain or blizzard conditions cancel the events.

Learn more about the sunwheel using this link.