The public is invited to echo the ancient custom of observing the annual winter solstice at the Okanagan’s own standing stone structure ‘Pen Henge’ on Munson Mountain in Penticton.
The event, which marks the Sun’s southernmost setting point, will take place on Dec. 21 with interested people gathering around 2:45 p.m. in anticipation of sunset at 3:27 p.m.
“For most of the year the structure simply illustrates the enormous range along the western horizon where the Sun sets. Most people subconsciously know of this, but they are quite fascinated to see the idea laid out so graphical,” said Purton.
Pen Henge designer Chris Purton, who is a retired scientist at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory at White Lake, noted that the gathering time of 2:45 p.m. will allow the group to prepare to mark the sunset phenomenon when the rays of the setting sun will extend from the winter solstice stone to the heel stone.
The actual time of the solstice will be at 8:28 a.m. on Dec. 21. The solstice gathering is being organized by the Penticton meeting group of the Okanagan Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (OCRASC) and members will be on hand to answer questions as well as describe the significance of what is taking place.
The Pen Henge standing stone array is located at the top of Munson Mountain above the Penticton sign on the east side of Okanagan Lake. The array consists of four stones that delineate the sunset points on the four cardinal dates of the year. Anchored by the Heel Stone, the Equinox Stone points to the Sun’s sunset point at both the Spring and Fall Equinoxes, while the other two stones mark the Winter and Summer Solstice setting points respectively.
A brass plaque with a brief explanation of the array is permanently attached to the top of the heel stone.