SHERMAN, TEXAS—A feature of the Austin College IDEA Center will be “in action” this weekend as the fall equinox arrives Sunday afternoon, September 22. The building itself serves as a large astronomical observatory that displays the movement of the Sun across the building’s atrium to mark the winter and summer solstices and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes along a meridian line in the floor. The event is free and open to the public.
At 1:00 p.m. Sunday in the atrium of the IDEA Center, David Baker, professor of physics, will provide an overview of the ancient astronomical measuring system of the gnomon hole. In this case, with Daylight Saving Time in place, solar noon actually is at 1:19 p.m., in Sherman, and at that moment the beam of light should fall on the fall equinox marker, the Chinese symbol for the Sun.
Success is important; the system is permanently in place in the atrium’s terrazzo flooring. During the summer solstice in June, the sunbeam of light fell exactly as expected upon the marker—and faculty and students are looking for a repeat experience.
The summer solstice is marked by the Greek/Macedonian symbol for the Sun, recognizing Western contributions to knowledge of the universe. The equinoxes are marked by the Chinese symbol to recognize Asian contributions and the winter solstice is marked by the Mayan symbol to recognize Native American contributions.
Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives.