Orientation & Geography

Europe, France, Hautes-Alpes

A sundial is a device that measures time by the position of the Sun. In common designs such as the horizontal sundial, the sun casts a shadow from its style onto a surface marked with lines indicating the hours of the day. The style is the time-telling edge of the gnomon, often a thin rod or a sharp, straight edge. As the sun moves across the sky, the shadow-edge aligns with different hour-lines. All sundials must be aligned with the axis of the Earth's rotation to tell the correct time. In most designs, the style must point towards true celestial north (not the north magnetic pole or south magnetic pole). That is, the style's horizontal angle must equal the sundial's geographical latitude. Unfortunately, it is common for inexpensive decorative sundials to have incorrect hour angles, and these cannot be adjusted to tell correct time.