Listen to today's episode of StarDate on the web the same day it airs in high-quality streaming audio without any extra ads or announcements. Choose a $8 one-month pass, or listen every day for a year for just $30.
You are here
A sculpture in Florida that looks like an alien metallic flower will cast a shadow around a plaque today. The plaque commemorates the possible first sighting of Florida by European explorers, on this date in 1513.
The sculpture is named “Solar Rotary.” It’s on the campus of the University of Southern Florida in Tampa. It’s one of many sculptures around the country that have special solar alignments.
One is the Soleri Bridge in Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s a pedestrian bridge with tall pylons at its end. The Sun shines through a narrow gap between the pylons at certain times, lighting a stripe on the bridge. The pylons cast no shadow at noon on the summer solstice.
Another, in Honolulu, is called Sky Gate. It’s a wavy ring atop three legs. The Sun stands directly above it at local noon on two dates each year. At those moments, the sculpture casts a perfectly round shadow on the ground below.
Solar Rotary was created by artist Nancy Holt. A campus astronomer calculated the site’s precise latitude and longitude, and the angle of the Sun on key dates.
The sculpture is 20 feet tall. It consists of eight steel legs. They all curve inward and meet at a seven-foot ring near the center.
At the summer solstice, the ring forms a circular shadow around the base of the sculpture. It encircles five small plaques on other dates, which are important in local history. That includes the first visit by Europeans — marked with the help of the Sun.
Script by Damond Benningfield