Sundial Accuracy
Ingleside Terraces, San Francisco
How accurate is a sundial?
The diameter of the sun as seen from the earth is about 0.5 degrees. As there are 15 degrees longitude per hour, light from the west side of the sun arrives about two minutes earlier than light from the east side of the sun. This limits sundial accuracy to about a minute or two.  But is the Ingleside Terraces sundial that accurate?
The photos below shed some light on this question.


sundial accuracy

This is IMG_20210123_115351231, taken, as its name indicates, on 1/23/2021 at 11:53:51. Suntime, as shown by the edge of the shadow in the photo, is 11:30 A.M. The blue-green index card increases contrast making it easier to see the edge of the shadow in the one-half hour groove in the concrete. The NOAA correction for this date, at latitude 37.72468, longitude -122.46876, is 21 minutes, 52 seconds. As the leading edge of the shadow is used, another minute can be added to correct to the middle of the sun. Adding the correction to suntime gives 11:52:52, which is 59 seconds behind clock time on the cell phone.


sundial accuracy

This is IMG_20210119_134936701 taken on 1/19/2021 at 1:49:37 P.M. Suntime, as shown by the edge of the shadow in the one-half hour mark in the concrete, is 1:30 P.M. The NOAA correction for this date and location is 20 minutes, 46 seconds. As the following edge of the shadow is used, a minute can be subtracted to correct to the middle of the sun. Adding the correction to suntime gives 1:49:46, which is 9 seconds ahead of clock time on the cell phone. In either morning or afternoon, the umbra, the darkest part of the shadow, is used to read suntime.

CONCLUSION: The Ingleside Terraces Sundial can be read within a minute for suntime in the middle of a sunny day.

EOT correction
The seven page article on DIAL and DIALLING from the Encyclopædia Britannica 1911 edition (two years before the Ingleside Terraces sundial was built) explains the need for the one minute adjustments to the equation of time.

sundial accuracy

The Ingleside Terraces sundial has two metal rods at 12:00 and one at each of the other hours. The outer concrete curb has hourly, 15, 30, and 45 minute grooves; the inner concrete curb has hourly and half-hourly grooves. The colors have been retouched in this photo. Suntime cannot be read from this photo, as in the morning, the left side of the shadow from the gnomon is read. In the afternoon, the right side of the shadow of the gnomon is used.

sundial accuracy

This 1911 Scientific American article describes a sundial that was claimed to give correct time to the minute.

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Robert Karis
Ingleside Terraces Sundial links:
Google map, directions to the Sundial
Ingleside Terraces Sundial, Then and Now Photos
Ingleside Terraces Giant Sundial
Kite Aerial Photographs
Sundial History
Alphabetical index
Geographic north
Ingleside Terraces Sundial
IT Sundial factoids
Sundial plaques
Sundials EOT tables
The North American Sundial Association has a registry of over one thousand sundials in North America, including the Ingleside Terraces Sundial, which is number 82.