As the sun sets Tuesday on the shortest day of the year, there’s one place in Chicago specifically designed to mark the moment.
A steel ring atop the Exelon Observatory at the western edge of the 606 Bloomingdale Trail is notched at precise points to frame sunsets on the summer and winter solstices, as well as the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. The trail’s designers were inspired by the ancient Thirteen Towers solar observatory in Peru, which aligns with solstice sunrises.
Joe Guzman, aka the Chicago Astronomer, will host a public observation session 3-5 p.m. Tuesday to not only celebrate the winter solstice but also to treat people to a bit of (safe) sun gazing.
Though looking straight into the sun with the naked eye is strongly discouraged due to the potential for retina burns, Guzman will use filters and special telescopes that reduce the intensity of the sun’s brightness. His equipment includes a hydrogen-alpha scope, which allows people to see a fair amount of detail in the sun, including features such as ribbon-like filaments; bright areas around sun spots, known as plages; and clouds of hot hydrogen gas, called prominences.
The 606 observatory is located at 1801 N. Ridgeway Ave.