We’ve all heard that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but for 363 days of the year, that’s not quite true. Its place in the sky changes throughout the year and only on the spring and fall equinoxes does the sun rise directly due east and set directly due west. On these two days in Chicago, the sun lines up with our east-west streets, creating our own version of Stonehenge — Chicagohenge — where the rising or setting sun is visible between the tall downtown buildings.
The spring equinox is March 20, with sunrise at 6:53 a.m. and sunset at 7:02 p.m. To view Chicagohenge, head to an east-west street with a clear view of the sky through the buildings. You can test out your spot a day or two before the equinox — the sun won’t be perfectly aligned yet, but it will be pretty close.
Chicagohenge is just one way to experience the spring equinox with your family. You can mark the start of spring with viewing spots in your neighborhood or by making your own “henge!”
Go for a walk and look for objects due east if you want to watch the sunrise or west if you want to watch the sunset. They could be manmade, like the notches at the west trailhead of the 606 or natural, like a gap between trees.
To make a henge, use building blocks, sticks, rocks or even the ingredients for s’mores (s’moreshenge!) to create a gap for the sun to pass through. Then, find a spot to place your henge that is aligned with the sunrise or sunset and enjoy!
However you decide to watch the equinox, be sure to take a picture or encourage your kids to make a drawing. Tag @AdlerPlanet using #Chicagohenge on social media!
Escape to the Stars and re-discover everything Adler Planetarium offers when it finally reopens to the public March 4. What else can you find in Chicago’s sky this spring?
- March: Spot Venus, Mars and Saturn in the southeastern sky before sunrise. Keep watching through the month and you’ll see them getting closer and closer together.
- March 18: Full Moon
- April: Venus, Mars and Saturn will spread out. By the end of the month, they’ll be in a nearly straight line, with Jupiter joining them.
- April 16: Full Moon
Sarah Smail works with schools and families at the Adler Planetarium, which (not coincidentally) is her 13-year-old daughter’s favorite place to hang out. Smail started her museum career as a teen in Ohio, taught middle school STEM in Louisiana and has called Chicago home since 2013. Read on with her suggestions to enjoy space in Chicago this spring.
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