Photo of The unique sundial in dark star park, Arlington, Virginia

Weekly Gem #205 Where Shadows Are Cast by a Dark Star

Published 7/25/2019

Location: This weekly gem is located at the intersection of Fairfax Dr and Fort Myer Dr in Arlington, VA (see the Clue Me! Map).

Here you will find a sundial unlike any other. The two spheres represent fallen stars, resting peacefully in the tiny park. The poles behind them mark the edges of these stars, the inside edges of the poles perfectly aligned with the outside edges of their stars. A perfect outline of the fallen stars and their poles is on the ground, as you can see in the photo.

Shadows are cast, going round and round every day. Each year on August 1, at 9:32 am, those shadows completely and perfectly fill the outlines, drawing people from far and wide to watch the fascinating event.

And it is certainly fascinating. You see, the artist (Nancy Holt) managed to create an interesting ‘solar eclipse’ effect. If you’ve ever seen a total solar eclipse, you must have noticed that there’s an instant where the eclipse goes from 99.9% of total (well, that’s neat) to 100% (WOW!). And you wonder, how can such a small difference make such a big difference?

On August 1, at 9:32, something similar happens here in Dark Star Park. The shadows come closer and closer, and then suddenly, everything lines up. One second it’s kind of fuzzy, the next second it’s perfect. The outlines are in shadow, everything else is in light. The transition from imperfect to perfect is quite amazing. And it’s so much more impressive when you see it in person than when you read about it. So, if you can … go!

Perhaps the only place where art is rocket science.


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


A Stardial?


The unique sundial in dark star park

Why It's Interesting

If you had everything marked, you could certainly tell the time from where shadows fall when our star shines on this art. Lacking the markings, we can at least set our watch once a year!

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