Mars Sundial to Help Teach Kids About Time, Sun

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EarthDial Construction

The Planetary Society, Nye, and Sullivan are encouraging school children, community organizations, and individuals around the world to build their own sundials and display them on the Internet using 24-hour webcams.

The organizers hope to post a broad sample of sundials to a single webpage, illustrating the difference in shadows between time zones as well as between the northern and southern hemispheres. As people sweep their eyes across the page, they'll get a sense of time across the globe.

Instructions for how to build an EarthDial are posted to the Web site of The Planetary Society, which will also host the project Web site at least throughout the life of the Spirit and Opportunity missions.

The cost to participants is anticipated to be no more than U.S. $50 for building materials in addition to the cost of acquiring and maintaining a webcam with an around-the-clock Internet connection that refreshes the image regularly.

Each EarthDial will be about 32 inches (81 centimeters) in diameter, or about ten times the size of the MarsDials on the rovers. Like the MarsDials, each EarthDial will have the motto "Two Worlds, One Sun," but in the native language of its owners.

And while the project organizers want the EarthDials to be similar in functionality and appearance, they want individuals to decorate the perimeter of each dial with personal touches and expressions of local culture.

"We want a nice degree of uniformity as you scan across the page so you can be oriented, but we also want some variety," said Sullivan.

Sullivan has already gotten considerable feedback from potential participants in North America, Chile, Holland, Spain, Australia, and even the South Pole. He is hoping that the project will also attract participants from geographically isolated places like the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

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