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What is Lahaina noon?

In Hawaii over the weekend we experienced Lahaina Noon, a pretty cool tropical solar phenomenon. What is Lahaina noon? Great question, you may have heard it referred to as the 'subsolar point' and Hawaii is the only State in the USA to experience it. In short because the Hawaiian islands lay in the tropics twice a year (May and July) when the sun reaches it's zenith at solar noon it passes directly overhead and so Hawaii is perpendicular (90') to the sun's rays.

In May the sun is heading north towards the Tropic of Cancer and then it starts its journey back south to the Equator and so we get another Lahaina Noon in July. 'Lahaina' actually translates from Hawaiian as 'cruel sun' and it did actually feel pretty hot stood under the beating rays of the sun coming straight down.


I had only learnt about Lahaina Noon recently and thought it was a pretty neat concept and made a note on the calendar. Online you will see many photos of vertical items casting no shadow and so I wanted to try out my own experiment. When the day came I was armed with our Vornado tower circular fan (!) and decided to take a few photos and see what happened. Below are my pre, during and post Lahaina Noon photos.


It was in fact a little odd and lasted longer than I had expected, I need not have rushed snapping my photos all in a minute or so as the time of 'no shadow' lasted more like an hour! The kids were pretty intrigued with what I was up to so we had a random home-school lesson on shadows and the sun and how it travels in the tropics. They wondered where their shadows had gone to, just a small circle under their feet, and even lifted up our Vornado to find out where it's shadow had gone! The clouds soon rolled in so the after photo shadow is not as pronounced.


A bit more impressive than my Vornado in the yard is the 'Star Gate' sculpture in Honolulu that was built in 1977. It does the opposite and instead of having no shadow twice a year on Lahaina noon it casts a perfect circular shadow on the ground below. Hats off to the artist for creating that one!


I feel lucky to have experienced Lahaina Noon and share the story of it with you and will be waiting for the sun to pass back overhead in July. Aloha, Lyall