The Phenomenon of “Lahaina Noon”


There's always one — and only one — point on Earth that's closest in distance to the sun. At this point, the sun is directly overhead and its rays land exactly perpendicular to the earth’s surface. This is called the subpolar point and it circles the globe every day. At one time or another, the subsolar point hovers somewhere between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, Hawaii included. The subsolar point in Hawaii has been nicknamed the “Lahaina Noon. Since the sun is directly overhead and the rays fall perpendicular to the ground, a strange thing happens when it comes to the shadows of objects that stand straight up — they disappear. The Lahaina Noon term was coined in the 1990s by the Bishop Museum in Hawaii based on “la haina” meaning “cruel sun” in the Hawaiian language. This occurs twice a year in Honolulu — on May 26 at 12:28 p.m. and July 15 at 12:37 p.m. World-renowned artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi decided to take full advantage of the astronomical phenomenon by creating a sculpture called Sky Gate, which has a bendy, bumpy ring that drastically changes height as it goes around. For 363 days of the year, it will make a curvy, twisted shadow, but when the sun is directly above it during Lahaina Noon, the height-changing ring casts a perfect circle on the ground.