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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

Morehead Sundial

The Morehead sundial, approximately 36 feet in diameter and 113 feet in circumference, is one of the largest in the world. The shadow-casting gnomon is approximately 24 feet long and 20 feet tall. Brass plaques provide data on the location of the sundial, how to tell the correct time based on the day of the year, and what time it is in other cities when it is noon in Chapel Hill. Inscribed around the circumference are two quotations: "Today is yesterday's tomorrow" and "It is always morning somewhere in the world." The sundial was designed by Joe Hakan, chief engineer for campus construction in the 1950s and 1960s, who also designed the WUNC-TV facilities. Benefactor John Motley Morehead assigned Hakan the task of creating a sundial so accurate that he could rely on it to catch a train; accordingly, Hakan stayed up nights pinpointing the location of the North Star, as sundials must point true north (towards the geographic pole and not magnetic north) to be accurate.