armillary sundial

Armillary sundial reads summer solstice by a ball shadow at noon

At the summer solstice the armillary sundial casts a shadow of the ball at noon

At summer solstice the ball on the upper tropic ring casts its shadow exactly onto the opposite ring below. The upper tropical ring is the tropic of Cancer and lower ring is Capricorn.

The armillary sphere dates back to ancient times when astronomers created their own vision of the earth and the heavens. The idea still works today and our own design creates a sundial with a special feature of two balls that mark the passage of the seasons by their shadows. One of the balls reads summer solstice. This is the high point of the year when the sun is highest in the sky.

The balls are carefully positioned at the meridian point on two tropical rings, the upper one on the Tropic of Cancer and the lower one on the Tropic of Capricorn. When the sun is at noon, the highest point of the day, the ball on the Tropic of Cancer casts its shadow right across the sundial to the opposite tropical ring, exactly at summer solstice. This year the actual time of the solstice is 9.13am GMT (10.13am BST) on 21st June 2022. You will find a full explanation of summer solstice at the Royal Museums Greenwich.

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Armillary sundial shadow one month on from winter solstice

Armillary sundial shadow one month on from winter solstice

The shadow of the ball on the sundial follows the sun all year round. The sun is low in the sky in winter, and it reaches its lowest point at the Winter Solstice on 21st December. This photo is one month later on 20th January. The sun is already higher in the sky, and the ball’s shadow has moved down.

Sundials catch a shadow from the sun. It is such a simple idea. The shadow on the sundial shows the sun’s position in the sky and the sundial reads it out as time, usually the time of day and often the time of year as well. Our armillary sundial is a special one with two balls that give the time of the year measured by the height of their shadow at noon. One ball casts a shadow in the winter months and the other one in summer. Continue reading

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Restoration of an Atlas figure armillary sundial

Armillary sundial and Atlas figure after restoration

After years of gradual deterioration outdoors the sundial was in poor condition. The Atlas figure was hard to recognise. This is an Art Deco design from the 1930’s. It has now come back to life as a working armillary sundial after complete restoration.

This armillary sundial was once in poor condition. It had been outside in the garden for a long time, and the owners asked us to restore it for them. The Atlas figure that supports the rings, and the arrowhead and tail, were badly tarnished. Continue reading

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