Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Equinox: Missing the Point of the Sun Triangle

For years, I have wanted to visit the Sun Triangle sculpture on the equinox. It was designed by a geophysicist named Athelstan Spilhaus and it is supposed to line up with the sun at noon. The sculpture is an the Avenue of the Americas right across from Rockefeller Center. It is in front of one of those brutal skyscrapers that loom along the avenue. I have never managed to get there at noon, or the equinox was cloudy. This year everything fell into place.

Equinox light is usually pretty harsh and midday is blindingly bright. On Sunday, though, the light was actually quite pretty.

The stained glass panels at the Myrtle Avenue station were illuminated which is rare. Most of the time they are inky black as there is very little direct sun on the station.

I probably should have done a little google search before rushing off. I was not sure what would line up with the sun. I thought I would figure it out when I got there. But it was not obvious. I was misled by the oval maps of the northern and southern hemisphere near the sculpture. I figured that the triangular shadow would line up with the southern hemisphere in the fall and the norther hemisphere in the spring representing the sun passing the equator. 

I was wrong. In fact the longest side points to the sun at the spring and fall equinoxes, the steepest side points to the sun at the summer solstice and the shortest side points to the sun at the winter solstice. The maps are a red herring. I would not have been able to enjoy the moment in any case as the sunken plaza was closed off for Sunday.

I could go back at the solstice, but I am not sure I will. It is not as exciting as Manhattanhenge, unfortunately.

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