I believe in the sun even when it isn't shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in God even when He is silent.
At left, current hourly He II 304 Å image. At right, current hourly XV 284 Å images (from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center). . Heraclitus was right, "the sun is new each day."
The image below is Mercury orbiting the Sun. Click the image for a time lapse clip of a one hour transit compressed to about seven seconds. After the clip, hit your browser's "back" button to return.
Responsible site planning is based on a buildings response to its environment and the dominant influence is usually the sun. This is very old practice and should be a cornerstone of national energy policy. The ancient Greeks had a renewable fuel economy based on wood. By 6 B.C., goats had eaten virtually all the trees in Greece. The government put a tax on wood fuel to conserve and extend its use. The Greeks also realized that buildings were a major consumer of energy. The first formal site-sensitive planning I have found, which takes solar influence into consideration was a housing development built in 5 B.C. in Olynthus. The Greek playwright Aeschylus said this was normal for greeks and a sign of modern and civilized society, as opposed to buildings built by primitives and barbarians who, "though they had eyes to see, they saw to no avail; they had ears, but understood not. Without purpose, they wrought all things in confusion, lacking knowledge of buildings." Aeschylus was not alone. In 1 B.C., Vitruvius, chief architect of the roman empire said, "We must begin by taking note of the climate in which buildings are to be built if
our designs for them are to be correct". "One type building seems appropriate for Egypt, another for Spain, one still different for Rome, and so on with lands and countries of varying characteristics." 2000 years later we re-discover what we should have been doing all along.
Of course, we have to know where the sun is in order to determine its effect on structures. That is another discussion but telling time with the sun is an offshoot of architectural solar response and there are interesting ways of employing sundials in design.
An excellent sundial site is http://perso.orange.fr/blateyron/sundials/shadowspro/gb/index.html. It was recently translated from French and has a very good sundial design program call SHADOWS available for free download. SHADOWS let's you plot points and print data for dials of any size and orientation.
Here is a shot of one of our vertical sundials located on the north wall of an intimate rooftop courtyard. It is carved into the Exterior Insulation Finish System and uses a chrome ball as a gnomon.