Thursday, June 18, 2009

Summer Solstice Celebration at the UW Art Museum

Visitors line up to take a look through Ray Martin's filtered solar telescope at the Summer Solstice Event in 2007.

Join us at the Museum on Saturday, June 20 from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm for our Summer Solstice Celebration!

After Wyoming’s long winter, it is worth celebrating the longest day of the year and the official beginning of summer. This year we will celebrate the start of summer a day early! Every year on the summer solstice (the day of the year with the greatest daylight when the sun reaches its most northerly position in the sky), a solar tube in the ceiling illuminates a silver dollar in the center of the Rotunda Gallery at exactly 12 o’clock, noon. Join us for this fun event, and to view the sun through astronomer Ray Martin’s filtered solar telescope which will be set up on the terrace.

The spectacular architecture of the UW Centennial Complex, which houses the Art Museum and the American Heritage Center, was designed by internationally-acclaimed architect Antoine Predock with a focus on its harmonious relationship with the land around it. Predock consciously incorporated forms, textures, and colors that would remind visitors of typical Wyoming landscapes. He selected an asymmetrical cone shape—an “archival mountain”—to house the AHC and a cluster of shapes—“a village” at the mountain’s base—for the Art Museum galleries, a juxtaposition that alludes to an early day campsite, a trapper rendezvous, or a prototypical Rocky Mountain town.

One of the more extraordinary features is the rotunda. Inspired by a kiva (a Pueblo Indian ceremonial chamber), this circular space is oriented to the compass points (the museum’s main hallway runs along an east-west axis) and has twelve blue glass slots at the top of the wall that suggest both a clock and the calendar. These details can be observed on any visit to the museum, but only at noon on the solstice do we see the sun illuminate the center of the rotunda.

Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning "sun" + "to stand still." As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.
As a major celestial event, the Summer Solstice results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Northern Hemisphere celebrates in June, but the people on the Southern half of the earth have their longest summer day in December.

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