About three dozen revelers gathered at Solstice Park in West Seattle to view the Spring Equinox sunset Saturday evening. Sadly, despite beautiful, clear, sunny skies for most of the day, the clouds rolled in and the Sun was not to be seen as it set at 7:22 p.m.
The gathering was sponsored by NASA Solar System Ambassador Alice Enevoldsen, the proprietor of the outstanding local astronomy blog Alice’s Astro Info. It was an informative event despite the disappointing non-appearance of the guest of honor. Enevoldsen used a walking stick and several small children to illustrate the Earth’s movement around the Sun and explain just what an equinox is, anyway.
The equinox–the moment when the Earth’s axis is pointed neither toward nor away from the Sun, which appears directly overhead at the equator–occurred at 1:32 p.m. PDT March 20. Thus spring had begun by the time we gathered to not watch the first sunset of the season.
Solstice Park is designed interestingly. The main feature is a circle, along which points are marked for where the Sun sets at the spring and fall equinox, and at the summer and winter solstices. Opposite these markers are three paths into the circle, which both mark the path of the Sun on those special days and give viewers a sight line to the markers for the sunsets. It’s like a mini Stonehenge without the enormous pillars of rock!
Part of Enevoldsen’s reason for holding the party was to get photographic evidence of the point of sunset. She suspects that the markers in Solstice Park may be somewhat off. But there was no such evidence to be obtained last night. She promised to be back for the summer solstice. See you on June 21!