AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Tuesday marks the first day of summer and one way to celebrate is to watch the sun rise or set at the standing stones sunwheel at UMass.

Astronomers from UMass invite the public to observe the sunrise and sunset on Summer Solstice and learn how the sunwheel works, its significance in ancient cultures, as well as the astronomical explanation of solstices and equinoxes.

“Beginning of moving towards shorter days if you want to think about it that way and the sun is farthest to the north in the sky today,” said UMass Professor Stephen Schneider.

The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, when daylight is longest and nighttime is shortest. It will occur on Tuesday, June 21 at 5:13AM Eastern Daylight Time. At local noon in Amherst (about 12:52 pm EDT), the sun will be the highest it gets in the sky all year round, about 71 degrees above the horizon. 

On the date of the June solstice, the Sun rises and sets farthest north at spots along the horizon marked by tall standing stones. Other stones mark the position of the Sun at the equinoxes and winter solstice.

“Beautiful, really beautiful. As I was biking over, there were those horizontal lines of pink clouds, it was just gorgeous, the birds are singing… it’s a great day,” said Northampton resident Hilary Caws-Elwitt.

Two, hour-long events will be held on Tuesday, at 5 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to observe sunrise and sunset. The UMass Amherst Sunwheel is located south of McGuirk Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road (Amity St.). Visitors should wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and prepare for mosquitoes. The events will be canceled in the event of heavy rain. For more information visit the Sunwheel website.