What comes to your mind when sundials are mentioned? What if you wanted to buy a sundial? You may have a picture of the traditional flat stone, etched with hour lines, complete with a protruding needle to cast a shadow. This is how many people imagine a sundial, and a great many school children learning about the movement of the sun invariably learn how to build sundials as an experiment to tell the time.
Far from being relegated as mere simple timepieces, sundials today are becoming works of art, decorating gardens and the outdoors. Sundials today are crafted from different materials, are available is all sorts of shapes, colors and sizes, and would look right at home in your garden, patio or backyard.
As far as recorded history is concerned, the sundial is most likely the oldest known method for timekeeping. Recorded history shows us that the Egyptians were serious about keeping time as a culture, though arguably the Sumerians may have been doing the same long before the Egyptians did so; however, there is no proof as the Sumerians did not record any of their timekeeping activities, hence though interesting, this thought is considered speculative.
A sundial works primarily by noting the movement of the sun around the earth. It does so by casting a shadow on the surface that is marked with hour and minute lines.the shadow is cast by a device known as the gnomon which must point towards the North celestial Pole, close to a letter is also known as the North Star. The gnomon gives the impression that the sun rotates around it.
The sundial measures time by the position of the Sun. If you wanted to buy a sundial today, you could look at horizontal sundials which use the sun to cast a shadow from its style onto a surface premarked with hour lines indicating the different hours of the day. As the sun progresses through its daily path, the shadow that is generated aligns with hour lines marked on the plate. These designs need the style to be aligned with the axis of the Earth’s rotation. For this type of sundial to accurately provide the time, the style must be oriented such that it points toward the true North. Moreover, the style’s angle with horizontal must equal the geographical latitude of the sundial itself.
The accuracy of the sundial is directly proportional to the size of the sundial itself. A larger sundial is able to cast a thinner shadow line and consequently allowing the hour line to be divided into smaller partitions, translating into greater accuracy.
Of course, there is a point where some delegates to bake and you don’t get any more accurate each successive up size. I most definitely would not entertain building a sundial the size of your garage. Sundials have evolved over time, from its beginnings as a flat horizontal device to vertical instruments to more complex forms. Form and function have been behind these changes, as civilizations sought to make a more accurate sundial that was also a thing to behold. One of the later incarnations of the sundial takes the shape of a sphere. It is a sight to behold sundials today as I’m sure it was during its heyday. To buy a sundial today would most likely mean to use it as a decor first, and secondarily as a novel way to tell the time, as you enjoy the sun and your outdoor decor.