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Sun Clock Sundial DIY Educational Science Experiments Teaching Aids


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A sundial is a device that tells the time of day by the apparent position of the Sun in the sky. In the narrowest sense of the word it consists of a flat plate (the dial) and a gnomon which casts a shadow onto the dial. As the sun appears to move across the sky, the shadow aligns with different hour-lines which are marked on the dial to indicate the time of day. The style is the time-telling edge of the gnomon, though a single point or nodus may be used. The gnomon casts a broad shadow; the shadow of the style shows the time. The gnomon may be a rod, a wire or an elaborately decorated metal casting. The style must be parallel to the axis of the Earth's rotation for the sundial to be accurate throughout the year. The style's angle from horizontal is equal to the sundial's geographical latitude.

In a broader sense a sundial is any device that uses the sun's altitude or azimuth (or both) to show the time. In addition to their time-telling function, sundials are valued as decorative objects, as literary metaphors and as objects of mathematical study.

It is common for inexpensive mass-produced decorative sundials to have incorrectly aligned gnomons and hour-lines, which cannot be adjusted to tell correct time

Equatorial sundials:

The distinguishing characteristic of the equatorial dial (also called the equinoctial dial) is the planar surface that receives the shadow, which is exactly perpendicular to the gnomon's style. This plane is called equatorial, because it is parallel to the equator of the Earth and of the celestial sphere. If the gnomon is fixed and aligned with the Earth's rotational axis, the sun's apparent rotation about the Earth casts a uniformly rotating sheet of shadow from the gnomon; this produces a uniformly rotating line of shadow on the equatorial plane. Since the sun rotates 360° in 24 hours, the hour-lines on an equatorial dial are all spaced 15° apart (360/24).

H_{E}=15^{{circ }}times t(hours)

The uniformity of their spacing makes this type of sundial easy to construct. If the dial plate material is opaque, both sides of the equatorial dial must be marked, since the shadow will be cast from below in winter and from above in summer. With translucent dial plates (e.g. glass) the hour angles need only be marked on the sun-facing side, although the hour numberings (if used) need be made on both sides of the dial, owing to the differing hour schema on the sun-facing and sun-backing sides. Another major advantage of this dial is that equation of time (EoT) and daylight saving time (DST) corrections can be made by simply rotating the dial plate by the appropriate angle each day. This is because the hour angles are equally spaced around the dial. For this reason, an equatorial dial is often a useful choice when the dial is for public display and it is desirable to have it show the true local time to reasonable accuracy. The EoT correction is made via the relation :

Correction^{{circ }}={frac {EoT(minutes)+60times Delta DST(hours)}{15}}

Near the equinoxes in spring and autumn, the sun moves on a circle that is nearly the same as the equatorial plane; hence, no clear shadow is produced on the equatorial dial at those times of year, a drawback of the design.

A nodus is sometimes added to equatorial sundials, which allows the sundial to tell the time of year. On any given day, the shadow of the nodus moves on a circle on the equatorial plane, and the radius of the circle measures the declination of the sun. The ends of the gnomon bar may be used as the nodus, or some feature along its length. An ancient variant of the equatorial sundial has only a nodus (no style) and the concentric circular hour-lines are arranged to resemble a spider-web.

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