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MIThenge evokes ancient rituals.

MIThenge evokes ancient rituals.

MIThenge, among the time-honored rituals of campus life, is as close to sun worship as the campus community gets. In mid-November and late January, the circular path of the sun crosses the axis of the Infinite Corridor. The setting sun can then be viewed from the far end of the corridor, evoking the mysterious wonder of Stonehenge. It’s a little bit of campus magic—and it has rolled around again.

The next sighting of this seasonal phenomenon is set for this Monday and Tuesday. If you are nearby, swing by the Infinite Corridor and see it in person.

  • January 30, 2012: from 4:46:00 p.m. to 4:52:30 p.m.
  • January 31, 2012: from 4:47:30 p.m. to 4:53:30 p.m.

For others, here’s how to celebrate from afar.

Visit the revised MIThenge site webpage, originally prepared by Ken Olum PhD ’97, now a Tufts faculty member, and maintained by Keith Winstein ’04, MNG ’05, back on campus as a CSAIL grad student. Go the site for viewing tips, get an update on the azimuth controversy, and see photos from the November 2011 sighting as well as older images.

Read the Slice of MIT post to find out how MIThenge got its start. Hint: the phenomenon was only discovered, calculated, and publicized in 1975-76.

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MIThenge photographed in 2009; courtesy Wikipedia.

MIThenge photographed in 2009; courtesy Wikipedia.

As sun worshipers come out in northern climes, Slice is mulling a venerable sun ritual we can look forward to in the cold months—MIThenge. The twice annual event—mid-November and late January—is now a campus tradition, but it was only discovered, calculated, and publicized in 1975-76. And the discovery came from the architecture department.

Want to see MIThenge—the two-minute phenomenon that floods sunlight down 825 feet of the Infinite Corridor? Watch a short video.

A Sky and Telescope article traces the origins of MIThenge to the fall of 1975 when then architecture research affiliate Tom Norton heard comments about how sunlight occasionally flooded the Infinite Corridor. Curious about how far the sunlight could reach, he worked with two colleagues, Timothy E. Johnson and Sean Wellesley-Miller, who made the calculations a project in an architecture class. Several students found that a solar alignment occurred twice a year. Norton decided to publicize the event and created a poster that reported the phenomenon and included the student calculations and photography pioneer/MIT professor Doc Edgerton’s silhouette of Stonehenge. “MIThenge” was born when Norton plastered posters all over campus just before the next sighting in January 1976. Ever since, students have crowded the optimal viewing area—third floor of Building 8, looking west—twice a year.

That was not the end of the calculations, however. When Ken Olum PhD ’97, now a research professor at Tufts Institute of Cosmology, was working in his graduate degree, he saw the poster and noticed a problem with the numbers. He found an error in “rounding the azimuth to the nearest degree and having the corridor slant upward an unrealistic amount,” the article reported. His response was a new calculation that he posted in 1997 with predicted dates through 2100. Although there are caveats about those calculations, you can find the dates in the MIThenge website.

Learn more in the Sky & Telescope article—and mark the date for the next MIThenge.




After 1,193 posts over three years, five months, and one day, the Slice of MIT blog is celebrating its one millionth page view. During that time, we’ve covered visits to MIT by Lady Gaga and, a $40,000 cup of coffee, a banana piano, a catalog of hacks, and all things surprising, insightful, and quirky from MIT.

Our most popular and milestone posts are listed below, plus “Editor’s Choice” picks from Slice staff.

Do you have a favorite Slice story? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.

Ten Most Popular Posts (Total views as of June 13, 2012)
10. “‘Smoot’ Enters the Dictionary” (6,170 views)
9. “What’s It Like To Be 75 Years Old? Try This On.” (8,304 views)
8. “Richard Feynman: Still Lively on Scribd” (8,847 views)
7. “No. 1: MIT Ranks at the Top” (10,386 views)
6. “Staying Healthy Thanks to MIT Medical” (13,582 views)
5. “Gen. Petraeus Commissions His Son and 11 Other ’09 Graduates” (14,787 views)
4. “1948 Mayor to MIT: Use Flamethrowers to Melt Snow?” (28,151 views)
3. “Slice of MIT…Anyone Have a Slice of Cheese?” (34,134 views)
2. “Renewable Energy: Paper Tiger or Green Giant?” (44,587 views)
1. “Hmmm Chocolate….Science” (67,443 views)

Milestone Posts
First post: “Grab a Slice of MIT” (Jan. 13, 2009)
50th post: “Test the Next Big Thing in Instant Messaging” (Mar. 18, 2009)
100th post: “Crossword: How Well Do You Know MIT?” (Apr. 25, 2009)
500th post: “Repairing Kendall Band–the Video” (May 19, 2010)
1000th post: “Angry Birds Catapult to Life at MIT” (Nov. 15, 2011)

Editor’s Choice Selections
Nancy Duvergne Smith
“How MIThenge Got Its Start”
“Arrrrr! MIT Pirates Certified”

Amy Marcott
“Four Sloanies Take On a Daily Show Correspondent”
“The Rings that Return to Their Masters”

Jay London
“When Linsanity Reigned Over MIT”
“What If a Highway Ran Through the Infinite Corridor?”

Check out guest blogs by Professor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70, and view the photos of the week by Owen Franken ’68. Thank you for reading. Here’s to a million more views (tentatively scheduled for spring 2015)!

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