With all the interest surrounding ancient sacred sites aligned to the sun and exploring new local ones, I thought to highlight a quick tool called SunCalc for looking up alignments at solstices and equinoxes.
There is a myriad of ancient sacred sites around the world and more are being discovered regularly, yet not all of these sites have been studied from the perspective of archeoastronomy — which can sometimes make it difficult to figure out if a site has any connection to solstices and equinoxes. One quick way anyone can do an initial check on solar alignments at a specific site on their own is to run it through SunCalc.net and see what comes up — which can be helpful to see before visiting a new sacred site, for example, to understand where its solstice or equinox alignments can be best observed.
SunCalc uses Google Maps to map out the sun’s rising and setting points on specified days throughout the year. Sites can be looked up simply by searching for their name or the general location and then zooming in and moving the marker onto the spot of interest, or by looking up specific GPS coordinates.1 This provides a basis upon which hypotheses about solar alignments can be made and further studied and/or observed in person.
Note: keep in mind that solstice and equinox angles shift over time due to variations in the earth’s tilt due to the precession of the equinoxes. So when looking at very ancient sites the alignment angles currently shown can be slightly off.
An Example of How SunCalc Can Be a Useful Tool for Exploring Ancient Sites
Some time ago my husband and I visited an ancient complex called Ratu Boko,2 situated on a mountain peak in Java, Indonesia. This complex featured a lovely gate that was a key attraction, and which we were told was commonly used as a backdrop to watch beautiful sunsets by visitors. This made us wonder if perhaps this site was aligned to solstices or equinoxes.
As it’s a lesser known site, we could not find any information discussing its solar alignments. While there, we could however tell that some of the structures at the complex were aligned in a particular orientation. Given the gate’s focus on sunsets, we guessed that if the site is indeed aligned to solstices or equinoxes, it’s more likely to be related to the autumn equinox, or possibly the summer solstice, since celebrations of these events typically involve watching the sunset.
At the time we weren’t aware of the existence of SunCalc yet, but had we known about it in advance it would have saved us a lot of guesswork. After our visit we were able to search for Ratu Boko on this solar calculator, which showed that the sun gate aligns to the equinox sunset.
This alignment can be seen on the map below (the pointer is where the gate is, and the red line shows the sunset alignment):
Using SunCalc for Creating a Sacred Site
This tool can also be useful in creating sacred sites and has been previously recommended on the Guide to Creating a Sacred Site Aligned to the Sun. It can be handy, for example, for having a visual reference and coordinates of sunrises and sunsets from the chosen location for the site.
- Note: it can be easier to understand the sunrise and sunset alignments on SunCalc.net if the legend on the right side of the screen is changed to the “more detailed” version.
- More information about this site will be available in a separate future article.