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The van der Heide sundial

Photo: Planétarium de Montréal (Sophie DesRosiers)

What is it?

The sundial is the work of Dutch artist Herman J. van der Heide (1919-1998). It was offered to the City of Montréal in 1967 by the citizens of Rotterdam, Netherlands, for the 325th anniversary of the founding of Montréal. Its base is 2.8 meters high, its dial face has a diameter of 2.68 meters, and its style is 2.8 meters high. Made of steel and aluminum, it weighs 2.6 metric tons.

The oldest clock

The sundial is one of the first objects designed to measure time using the Sun’s position in the sky. It consists of a base, a plane known as a dial face, which is parallel to the equator, and a style that is perpendicular to the dial face. Hour lines are drawn onto the dial face, and the shadow cast by the style shows the solar time. Here, the shadow cast by the style on the hour lines of the dial face indicates Eastern Standard Time. Our sundial is a variation of the equatorial sundial. Its particularity? It is inclined 15 degrees in comparison to the usual orientation.

From one planetarium to another

Originally set up in front of the Montréal Planetarium, it stayed there until the Montréal Planetarium closed. In October 2013, the sundial was moved and set up in front of the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium, where visitors can continue to appreciate it.

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