Time doesn’t stop.
It has been following me everywhere on a daily basis even on my way to lunch.
After exiting the Adrian building and climbing few stairs I looked around for a public clock and this is what I found:
Designed by Allan Mills and Ralph Jefferson under the Bain Clarkson fund, and installed since 1989 on the sidewall opposite the physic’s department; meet the University of Leicester’s astronomical clock.
When I noticed the white fleur-de-lis indicating 6pm at lunchtime, I decided to re-check and see if the hand moves. Unfortunately, not only the ‘time of the day’, but also all of the clock’s features seem to be on pause. This does not mean however that the structure is devoid of marvelous technical and aesthetic aspects.
The showpiece was in fact not only designed to measure 24 hours in a solar day, but also the month of the year in addition to a number of other astronomical phenomena. The Roman digits from I (1) to XXIV (24) on the inner circumference of the blue dial serve to determine the sidereal time, which corresponds to the rotation of Earth around its own axis. A sidereal day is slightly shorter than a solar day as it takes a full spin about 23 hours, 56minutes and 4.1 seconds to occur. Astronomers use this type of time measurement to observe constellations.
The golden ring surrounding the Earth model at the centre of the clock is a projection of the Sun’s movement against the background stars; also known as the ecliptic. In a functional astronomical clock, the Sun model completes an anticlockwise revolution along the golden ring once every year. The month of that year is consequently indicated by the sun’s migration throughout the emblazoned traditional zodiacs. If we look at the photo closely enough, we might also discern a small black sphere that represents the Moon. The rotation of that sphere models the Moon’s unique movement in respect to the Sun, the Earth and the traditional zodiac’s constellations.
Earth’s off-centre position in the golden ring represents its asymmetrical rotation around the Sun; also known as the ellipse. Counter-intuitively enough, we are closer to the sun when it is winter in the northern hemisphere (November to February). It is in fact the tilt of the Earth rather than its distance to the sun that accounts for seasonal variations.
Finally the motion of Sun, Stars and Moon as observed from our moving planet is a constant ‘rise and set’ cycle delimited by the horizon. The incomplete red circle portrays the rise on the left end, the set on the right end, and the clockwise migration across the visible sky in between.
Now the astronomical clock, if put back to action, will talk to us more.