UMass Sunwheel Creater Judy Young Dies

A UMass-Amherst astronomer who built a sunwheel on campus has died.

Judy Young was known in academic circles for her work on the molecular gases of galaxies, but locally, she’s recognized for creating the UMass sunwheel — a giant stone arrangement that mimics pre-historic monuments to the sun’s seasonal shifts. UMass astronomer Steve Schneider says her idea seemed crazy at first.

“A lot of people were thinking, ‘why build an ancient instrument like Stone Henge in the 1990s.’ So she fought an uphill battle to get it put in,” Young says. “But she recognized it would be a great teaching tool.”

He says over the next fifteen years, Young brought at least 10,000 visitors to the sunwheel, where she gave talks on the earth’s connection to the sky. Young died last week of cancer at the age of 61. Her memorial takes place next week at the UMass-Amherst sunwheel.