Tuesday, 05-Mar-2024 04:59:33 EST6 March, 2024
When Wooster Hall at SUNY New Paltz was remodeled (2014-2016), architect Randy Croxton and his colleagues at Croxton Collaborative Architects, P.C. added a three-story atrium with a staircase which is perfectly aligned in the north-south direction, along with skylights that illuminate part of the staircase each day at solar noon. Depending on the season, the high sun of summer lights the upper staircase, while at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes the base of the stairs is brightened and the shadows align perfectly with markings on the floor.
Provided the sky is clear, New Paltz students, faculty and staff gather in the Wooster Hall atrium at solar noon on the Equinoxes and on the Summer Solstice to celebrate the sun, the seasons, and this special feature of the building.
It is important to keep in mind that the skylight illuminates the stairs at solar noon every day between the spring and fall equinoxes. You don't have to wait until a particular day to see it. The stairs are illuminated at the top on the Summer Solstice and at the bottom on the Equinoxes, and they are illuminated somewhere between the top and bottom throughout spring and summer.
You should, however, keep in mind that the time of solar noon is slightly different each day, and the sun does not care about Daylight Savings Time. The time for solar noon today is at the top of this page. The times for solar noon throughout the year can be found here, though you will need to offset by an hour due to DST. A copy of that timetable is also posted near the staircase.
What happens at the Winter Solstice? The architects did not make any plans for it, but obviously something has to happen. But what? The campus is very quite then, because the students have left for the winter break, but it has been observed, though there are some remaining mysteries.
Sky conditions are also available here via Astrospheric.
Here are links to more information about the Wooster Hall staircase:
Stellarium is software which can show you the night sky at any time from any place on the surface of the Earth (and even some planets). It's used in the John R. Kirk Planetarium at SUNY New Paltz, and in other planetariums around the world, but you can also run it on your own computer. It is a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can get Stellarium from http://stellarium.org.
Stellarium can be customized to display a 'landscape' around the horizon, which can help you get oriented and show you what parts of the sky might be blocked by terrain or trees. This screen-shot is an example for SUNY New Paltz, and it includes Wooster Hall:
You can download a custom landscape for the SUNY New Paltz campus and other nearby locations. Installation is straighforward - just follow these easy instructions.
There are also versions of Stellarium for iOS and Android devices (see above). While Stellarium itself is open-source software, these apps are not free; paying for them rewards the developers for porting the software to mobile platforms.
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