- Associated Press - Sunday, December 21, 2014

AMHERST, Mass. (AP) - Observers of the winter solstice will gather around a sun wheel built by a University of Massachusetts-Amherst astronomer to mark the shortest day of the year.

Sunday’s celebrations were organized around the UMass sun wheel, a Stonehenge-like outdoor circle whose standing stones line up with the locations on the horizon of the rising and setting sun at the times of the solstices and equinoxes.

The Dec. 21 winter solstice marks the date when nights are longest and days are shortest in the Northern Hemisphere and the sun rises and sets at its most southerly location along the horizon.

UMass Amherst astronomer Stephen Schneider said a solar telescope would be used to safely observe the sun’s surface if the weather is clear before sunset.

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