nass news 2024 mar Seiko equatorialWhen is a watch not a watch? When it unfolds into an equatorial sundial.  The watch, designed by Yu Ishihara is called a "Watch Exclusively for Sunny Men" and was part of a contest sponsored by Seiko to "help reimagine what a watch can be", aimed at creativity and perhaps for eventual production. Read about it at

The image at right was selected from a number of images of the Seiko "Sunny Men" watch to show the fall-winter-spring face rather than the common view of the spring-summer-fall face.  On either side is a longitude adjustment and as can be seen there is a bubble level for alignment.

No price was quoted.  It is a one of kind timepiece (at least for the present).  Watches of this class typically sell for $27,000.

nass news 2023 july houston arch sundial pavillion A sundial or performance center or solar generator? It's all three. Called the Arco del Tiempo (Arch of Time), the design by Berlin architect Riccardo Mariano provides the projection of the sun's rays onto the ground through tinted glass apertures spanning the length of its arching ceiling. The elliptical shaped spots change every hour, telling "the solar time each day and delight visitors with a slowly evolving spectacle that bridges the terrestial and the celestion," said Land Art Generator, who commissioned the structure.  Mariano designed the arch as a pavillion with a photovoltaic skin to store energy for night-time illumination (equivalent to powering 40 average homes). During the day, it is billed as the "world's largest sundial". According to Ellen Eberhardt of DeZeen on-line magazine, "A combination of trichord truss arches, rub trusses, and purlins will support the tilted steel structure, which will be clad in a layer of galvanized metal decking and covered with custom-fabricated photovoltaic modules."

Eberhardt explains that,"The Arch of Time will serve as a "gateway" to Houston's Second Ward neighbourhood and will connect Guadalupe Plaza Park to Buffalo Bayou Park as a part of the city's ongoing initiative to provide greater access to greenspace and mitigate flooding through the design of urban parks."

nass news 2023 july houston arch sundial inside The images are courtesy of Land Art Generator Initiative.

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According to (, construction of the Sun Tower exhibition building and outdoor theater is underway in the Chinese city of Yantai. The tower is being constructed by a French firm, Ducks Sceno and the engineering firm Arup, raising to 50m (164 ft) gracefully into the sky.  The tower symbolizes the historic watch towers of the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644 CE). Yantai literally means "Beacon Tower", named for the watch towers that look out over the coastline to warn of impending attack from the sea.

Update from NewAtlas: "Structurally, the building is made up of white concrete, which has been carefully shaped to respond to the Sun's trajectory. Round holes on its exterior are connected to a series of tubes, which channel natural light into the interior during the daytime. At night, its windows will be illuminated in a way designed to look like a starry sky. In addition to the building itself, its landscaping is very complex and will respond to the Northern Hemisphere's Spring and Fall equinox....The Sun Tower's basic structure is now complete – indeed, with excellent timing, OPEN [architects] actually carried out the topping out ceremony during the Northern Hemisphere's recent Summer Solstice. Work is ongoing to finish it off and it's expected to open to the public sometime in 2024.."

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nass news 2023 jun sun tower yantai

nass news 2022 feb sun tower yantai

Adam Williams, author the the Sun Tower article of 16 Feb 2022 notes: "The concave form of the building will amplify sounds from the sea... Additionally, its shape has been created following careful studies of the sunlight during the times of the equinox in both the spring and fall. The main body of the tower will work with a plaza surrounding the building to track each equinox, a little like the Shanghai Astronomy Museum, by Ennead Architects. A water channel will cut across the plaza – a ruler of time – this is the straight line that the shadow of the Sun Tower will follow on the day of the equinox. A series of elliptical rings are set in the pavement pattern [with] the intersections between the rings and the water channel marking the building shadow's footprint at specific hours on the equinox day. At one of the outer rings, a series of fountains were designed to celebrate the 24 Solar Terms of the Traditional Chinese Calendar; on normal days they are synced with high and low tides."

nass news 2023 jun Point of InfinityJulie Baumgardner in The Art Newspaper of Jan 13, 2023 reports on the construction project of Point of Infinity, a nearly 70 foot (21m) hyperbolic cone will reach toward the sky as part of a 50 million dollar park development on Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island.

In a competition held by the San Francisco Arts Commision on behalf of the Treasure Island Development Authority, Hiroshi Sugimoto's design won over 500 other submissions with a hyperbolic cone stretching upwards into a needle. "Point of Infinity is not an arbitrary title—the work is based on the mathematical formula for infinity. According to the artist's project proposal, the starting point was not to ‘make’ a sculptural shape but to ask myself what should be ‘given’ to this very specific place'. [Hiroshi] set out to explore the limits of human memory and invention, conceiving 'a hyperbolic curve that would suggest both infinity and eternity: two converging curved lines, getting closer and closer but never meeting."

The sculpture also serves as a meridian seasonal marker, "[evoking] the Tower of the Sun, the centrepiece of the 1939 World's Fair in San Francisco, for which Treasure Island was originally constructed. A large stone will be etched with the position of the sun’s shadow on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes at noon. 'The creation of the pyramids is shrouded in mystery. By contrast, this tower will act as a symbol expressing humanity’s yearning for the infinite even 50 centuries in the future,' the artist writes. "

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nass news 2023 mar Light Times ArshamIn the Swiss mountains near the resort of Zermatt just beneath the Matternhorn, Stir World reports that "famed luxury Swiss watchmaker Hublot announced Daniel Arsham as its new ambassador, with a compelling piece of temporary land art. Aptly titled "Light & Time", the work is a Hublot-inspired 20-metre sundial resting in the shadows of the Matterhorn mountain."

This sculptural is billed as an ephemeral horological installation "to merge the roots of timekeeping with the craftsmanship in land art." The central gnomon oblisk is surrounded by 6 symmetric markers of ice. However, to call it a sundial is going a bit too far. Yes, the tip of the gnomon shadow could be capable of telling time if hour marks were created and drawn correctly. Instead, there are size large ice cubes. There's a lot of hyperbolae in the description of this installation, such as Daniel Arsham's own statement: "Physically, the temporary installation will capture something of how fleeting time can feel, but it will also be lasting, creating a memory that transcends the passing of the seconds, minutes, hours and days in all those who make the journey up the mountain to see it." Perhaps more humbly, "When you see the installation, it’s made of ice and snow. Not only is it this thing that tells time and captures time, but it will also disappear and be erased by it."

Photo at right: courtesy of Hublot.

Read more, see more photos, and watch several videos at:

nass news 2022 dec santafe dialSklar Bixby and Jeremy Meel, students at Santa Fe College in Florida took on a project to design and 3D-print a new sundial for the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium in Gainesville Florida (located on Santa Fe's Northwest Campus). Under the guidance of Dr. Philip Pinon, Sklar and Jeremy took on a semester long project as part of the Exploring Honors Mathematics class. They designed a horizontal sundial with noon gap, included a table of the Equation of Time, and added a motto Post Tenebras Spero Lucem (After the darkness I hope for light). The December 13, 2022 NewSFeed News from Santa Fe College quotes James Albury, manager of the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium, saying “I am very grateful for this wonderful gift that Dr. P., Skylar and Jeremy have given to our community. Thanks to them, Gavin Yurchisin’s Eagle project has found new life!”

nass news 2022 jun smallest sundial nrlDr. Jeremy Robinson, (Naval Research Laboratory, Electronics Science and Technology Division) combined efforts with his father-in-law, Prof. Woodruff Sullivan (Univ. of Washington Dept. of Astronomy) to construct the World's Smallest Sundial. The competition was sponsored by Cadrans Solaires pour Tous and their record is being entered into the Guiness Book of World Records.  

The sundial is not the traditional design that uses a gnomon to cast a shadow onto a dial.  In this sundial, the sun's image is projected through a small aperture through a transparent refractive medium onto a lithographically fabricated dial on the opposite side.  The dial has hour lines from 8AM to 4PM, and the seasonal lines of the winter and summer solstice limits of the sun and the equinox.  The sundial is too small to be read directly.  Instead, the assembly is mounted directly onto the image array of a webcam so that the sundial can be viewed on a monitor.

In 2004 Dr. Sullivan and Jim Bell with the support of The Planetary Society and Bill Nye, "The Science Guy" turned a camera color calibration wheel on the two Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity into sundials. 17 years later the University of Copenhagen created a similar dial for the Martian rover Perseverence, with the motto  “Two Worlds, One Beginning”, which nicely refers to Spirit and Opportunity ’s  motto “Two Worlds, One Sun”.

Thanks for Eric Snow of the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club (NOVAC) for bringing this sundial feat to our attention.

nass news 2022 may sundial on grain of ricePerhaps the smallest sundial goes to IBM with the printing of a sundial in a corner of a computer chip.  However it lacked a gnomon and could not really tell the time.  However, Chen Fong-shean, a Taiwanese miniature craftsman, was challenged by the French astronomical society to beat the Guiness World Record for smallest sundial held by an Italian.  The Italian dial created in 1999 measured 6.5mm x 5mm.

After failing a number of times Chen succeeded, carving a sundial on a grain of rice and setting a new world record of 5mm x 3mm.  Reported in the Taipei Times, "Chen said that the secret of making a sundial out of a rice grain lies in securing the position of the grain during the process. He used tools such as a steel needle and writing brush to write tiny Arabic numbers from 6 to 18, covering the period between sunrise and sunset. Chen said that with the help of a magnifying glass, he wrote the numbers and drew lines on the sundial while holding his breath. The spacing of each number had to be carefully arranged since the rice grain was so small, he added. Chen said he found the work meaningful because it was an act of people-to-people diplomacy."

nass news 2022 may  zweibrüken observatory

Hochshule KaiserLautern Observatory.  HSKL Photo

When is an astronomical observatory not an observatory? When it's playing the roll of R2-D2. 

According to Atlas Obscura, "A university in Germany [Hochschule KaisersLautern, University of Applied Scieces Kaiserslautern at the Zweibrücken campus] has transformed its hilltop observatory into the charming likeness of RD-D2. The blue and white building looks like an oversized replica of the beloved Star Wars robot. The project that transformed the building into this pop culture homage was led by Dr. Hubert Zitt, an immense fan of the franchise who even gives lectures on the films. He and his students were quickly able to paint the observatory and turn it into the quirky attraction it is today."

"The building itself is a small public observatory that holds a 14-inch reflector with a myriad of filters and attachments. The place, though part of the university, is not used for science and is instead used for public showings."

Atlas Obscura link: