Compass Garden:
Tour

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  1. show slide Entering the Hominy Valley Elementary School Compass Garden.
  2. show slide Pavilion at center, topped with a directional weather vane.
  3. show slide Directions of the four triangular garden beds, oriented to true north.
  4. show slide NORTH bed, marked by an upright stone, points to 'true north' (= the direction of the Earth's axis and of Polaris, the North Star). A compass's measurement of North usually differs from true north -- in this location, its needle will point about 6 degrees to the east.
  5. show slide NORTH bed, looking due south (= directly south). If you stand here at 'true noon' (= midway between sunrise and sunset), you'll see the Sun directly above the pavilion, at the highest point of its daily arc. Just as north according to a compass isn't quite the same as true north, so noon according to a clock isn't quite the same as true noon, which usually varies from 12:00 pm by anywhere from a few seconds up to over an hour. You can calculate the time of true noon on any given day by looking up the local times of sunrise and sunset for that day and dividing the length of time between them in half.
  6. show slide NORTH bed, looking due south. No, it's not a UFO -- it's an 'analemma'! If you could stand here at 12:00 pm Standard Time (or 1:00 pm Daylight Savings Time) every day for an entire year and take a photograph of the Sun in the sky, then merge all your 365 or 366 photos together into one, you would see the Sun tracing out a figure-8 pattern much like this simulation. Many globes show an analemma marked with dates as a tool to estimate the times of sunrise and sunset. In the movie 'Cast Away', Tom Hanks uses an analemma he's traced on a cave wall as a primitive calendar.
  7. show slide EAST bed is the next one you see as you walk clockwise around the garden. The Sun rises in the exact direction to which this bed points on only two mornings each year -- on the Spring Equinox (around March 21) and the Fall Equinox (around September 21).
  8. show slide EAST bed was planted by the students in 2012 with squash, beans, and corn, the companion crops Native Americans called the 'Three Sisters' because of the ways they help one other to grow.
  9. show slide SOUTH bed, looking due south, with a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. When the Sun culminates overhead in the exact direction to which this bed points at true noon on a day that's on or near the Summer Solstice (around June 21), it is at the highest point in the sky that it will reach all year. (Another way to know when it is true noon on any day when the sun is shining is to watch for the edge of the shadow of the building that you see in the background of this photo to line up with the south point of this bed.)
  10. show slide SOUTH bed, looking eastward toward several rows of benches.
  11. show slide WEST bed concludes the tour. The Sun sets in the exact direction to which this bed points on only two evenings each year -- the Spring and Fall Equinoxes.