Where is the Sun?

Where is the Sun right now?

Can’t see the Sun? Maybe there is something blocking it. Here is a list of 10 surprising things that can block the Sun.

IMAGE of floating/flying things overhead (in roughly size order) that can block all or part of the SUN: Flying animals (Bugs, Birds/Flying Mammals), Flying objects (Drones/Balloons/Airplanes/Helicopters/Rockets/Bombs/Blimps), Smoke/Clouds, Spacecraft (Satellites/Space Stations/UFOs), Asteroids, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Earth.
Wondering “Where is the Sun?” These are 10 things that block the Sun.

Where is the Sun during the day? On a clear day, this is a very simple question. The Sun is “up there” in the sky – it’s a big, bright, fiery ball and it’s generally a yellowish orange color. You just point to it – there it is, up in the sky, the Sun.

However, many things can block the Sun. Usually, it is clouds that block the Sun, but not always. Let’s take a tour of the astonishing number of things that can block the Sun.

A list of things on Earth and in space that can block the Sun

During a cloudy day you can’t always tell where the Sun is. The day goes by in a dull gray haze. In fact, some people who live in cloudy places like Seattle, Washington often wonder “Where is the Sun?” In fact, it’s cloudy in Seattle 308 out of 365 days of the year.

Sometimes other things besides clouds can block the Sun. These are mostly things that fly or float in air or space. There are small, flying animals like birds, bugs, and bats that can get in between us and the Sun.

Human-made objects like drones, balloons, airplanes, helicopters, rockets, bombs, and blimps can stop the light of the Sun from reaching us for a moment.

Smoke from a large fire, steam from a power plant, or ash clouds from a volcano will blot out the Sun for longer periods.

An asteroid can fly between the Earth and the Sun.

Most famously, the Moon can block the Sun in a total solar eclipse.

Image of the Total Eclipse August, 21, 2017 as seen from Folly Beach, SC
Image of the Total Eclipse August, 21, 2017 as seen from Folly Beach, SC – Image Credit Wyatt Cummings

The two inner planets – Mercury and Venus – will sometimes cross the face of the Sun (astronomers call this a “transit”). They seem very small against the disk of the Sun. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two most recent transits (photo composite by Ender Gökçebay).

A comparison of the sizes of the planets Venus versus Mercury as they transit the Sun. Venus is a lot bigger, plus it is a lot closer to the Earth.
A composite of Venus transit and Mercury transit showing relative sizes as seen from Earth. Credit: Ender Gökçebay.
Venus transit, Mercury transit. These two inner planets sometimes cross the face of the Sun. Here we see the size comparison of the planetary disk.
Image credit Guiseppe Donatiello – public domain Wikipedia

Finally, we come to the largest Sun-blocker of all: the Earth. The Earth blocks the Sun every single day! In fact, it happens so often that long ago humans gave it a special name: when the Earth blocks the Sun, people call this “night.”

Sunset on Earth from space - where did the Sun go? It's behind the Earth right now so it's night.
The Earth blocks the Sun. It is night.

Where does the Sun go at night?

During the night, this question of “Where is the Sun?” gets a little bit more complicated. The Sun still exists – it doesn’t “go out” like a candle or a fire. The Sun is hidden from our view at night by a very large planet – the Earth. We cannot see through the Earth so it blocks the light from the Sun. But if somehow we could see through the Earth, we would be able to look down at the ground and see the Sun.

Bonus! A list of planets that will not ever block the Sun

There is only one planet that might completely block our view of the Sun and cause you to ask “Where is the Sun?” And there are only two other planets that throw shade on the Earth (Mercury and Venus) because they orbit closer to the Sun than we do.

Here is the list of planets that will never, ever block the Sun:

Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.

These planets never get between Earth and Sun. They are all further away from the Sun than us. Sometimes these planets go behind the Sun and the Sun blocks our view of them! Think about that for a minute…

Last words of advice about the question “Where is the Sun?”

Still looking for the Sun? It’s most likely clouds or night. But, maybe it’s one of these objects…

Are your eyelids in the way? Please make sure your eyes are open – eyelids can block the Sun for a long time – even during the day.

Put your hand down – a hand is an effective Sun-blocker.

Are you lying down on a picnic blanket? A foot held up in the air can block the Sun.

So can a person standing above you – ask your friend to move.

Track the Sun with a Sun Tracker

Liked this article? In the next installment of the “Where is the Sun?” series we look at some primitive and scientific tools that you can use to track the Sun.

Merry-Go-Round Earth shows Seasonal Constellations

Welcome Starry Night event visitors! We built this fun, interactive model of the merry-go-round Earth on the evening of March 3rd, 2018 around a real campfire. Read on for the background and teaching method.

The Earth is like a Merry-Go-Round

Merry-Go-Round Earth model demonstrating how the seasonal constellations work
A Merry-Go-Round is a good model of daily Earth rotation.

The Earth is like a merry-go-round showing us seasonal constellations

That iconic childhood ride. Round and round each day we go, round and round each year we go, where we stop nobody knows! When we look out from the edge of the ride we can see the space beyond. Sometimes the Sun occupies that space, and sometimes that space is the night sky filled with stars.Click here to continue reading…

Moon Phase Emojis – A Review

Moon Emojis – and other space emojis

Emoji designers created a nice range of astronomy emojis and space emojis.  My favorite emojis are the Moon Phase Emojis. Space emojis to copy (these look different on each browser)

Here are the astronomy emojis and space emojis as real emojis that can be selected individually (or in groups) and copied. The moon emoji is my personal favorite.

Astronaut emojis

👩‍🚀 👨‍🚀

Earth globe emojis

🌎 🌍 🌏

Moon phases emojis in order from full moon to new moon to full moon

🌕 🌖 🌗 🌘 🌑 🌒 🌓 🌔 🌕

Moon emoji, Sun emoji, and Star emoji

🌚 🌝 🌞 🌛 🌜 🌙 💫 ⭐ 🌟 ✨

Explosion emoji, Comet emoji, Sun emoji, Rainbow emoji

💥 ☄ ☀ 🌈

Spaceship emoji, Satellite emoji

🚀 🛰

Map of earth emoji, moon viewing ceremony emoji, sunrise emoji, sunset emoji, shooting star emoji, city skyline with sun emoji, city skyline with moon emoji, and milky way emoji

🗺 🎑 🌅 🌄 🌠 🌇 🌃 🌌

Astronomy tools emoji, Telescope emoji

📡 🔭

Religions with moon and stars emoji

☪ ✡ 🔯

Abstract sun, earth, galaxy, star, and full moon emojis

🔅 🔆 🌐 🌀 *️⃣ 🎴

Horoscope emojis, Zodiac emojis

♈ ♉ ♊ ♋ ♌ ♍ ♎ ♏ ♐ ♑ ♒ ♓

Miscellaneous space symbol emojis

✳ ✴ ☾ 〰 ➰ ➿

Here is a screenshot of all of the moon emoji and space emojis as seen on Apple’s Mac “High Sierra” OS.

Bonus: this list shows the moon phase emojis in order – the correct order of the phases of the moon.

All of the astronomy and space themed emojis in one image
All of the astronomy and space themed emojis in one image

Emoji Variations

Did you know that Emojis look different depending on which type of device you are seeing them on?

Here is what the Full Moon Emoji looks like on Apple Macs

The Full Moon emoji as seen on Mac Computers - 3d, yellow, cratered, and glowing
The Full Moon emoji as seen on Mac Computers.

And here is what it looks like on Microsoft PCs

The Full Moon emoji as seen on Mac Computers - flat, orange, spotted, cartoon.
The Full Moon emoji as seen on Windows PCs.

References

Emojipedia has a catalog of all the variations of emojis including the Full Moon Emoji

 

 

Tilt Head to Tilt Earth

Physical Astronomy by Daniel CummingsTilt your head to tilt the earth and experi nice the seasons

Seasons are caused by a tilted Earth

Use this technique to understand how seasons happen on the Earth. The Earth is tilted. When the northern part (your forehead and eyes) tilts away from the Sun the season is winter. When the northern part tilts toward the Sun the season is summer.

The Earth is tilted as it spins daily – it is not straight up and down like a top, but more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa (if the tower could spin!). As it goes through its yearly orbit, the Sun hits the northern and then the southern parts of the Earth.

Tilt your head to tilt the Earth

In this model, when the northern part (your forehead and eyes) tilts away from the Sun the season is winter. When the northern part tilts toward the Sun the season is summer.

Did you like this season model? Any questions? Type in the comments to send me a message.

Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker

Physical Astronomy Tool by Daniel Cummings

Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker Lesson Plan
It’s Groundhog Day!

What better way to celebrate Groundhog Day than to Build your own Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker

Let’s do some Physical Astronomy. The experience will help you to understand the movement of the earth and sun through the seasons. You will build a scientific instrument that is also a fun garden decoration and you will be able to track the Groundhog’s Shadow all Spring!

Click here to continue reading…

A new star will appear in the sky in 2022

Binary star merge to form a new star - a star in a starAn amazing thing is about to happen! A Star in a Star will be born.

You  can witness the birth of a new star in the night sky.  The new Star already has a birthday: 2022!

According to scientists, the new star will form when two stars that are orbiting each other grow so close that they merge into one.

The new star will appear in the constellation Cygnus. You can see the approximate location marked by a red circle in the Stellarium screenshot here:

A screenshot of Stellarium showing the new star location under the constellation Cygnus's left wing

The image of the two blue stars on the home page of this Star in a Star site shows what scientists think it looks like now. This impressive video shows an artist’s rendering of the star merge.

In the pair, one star is larger than the other so in the end, there will be a new star…  A Star in a Star.

The Moon Dance – Learn Moon Phases

PHYSICAL ASTRONOMY BY DANIEL CUMMINGS

The moon dance helps you learn and understand the phases of the moonAt sunset.

Face the sun.

Point your right hand toward the Sun.

Now point your left hand toward the Sun.

Both hands should be pointing at the sun.

Now, turn a little bit to the left, keeping both hands pointing at the sun.

Swing your left arm out until it is pointing in the opposite direction from the sunset. Bring your hands together again and repeat this swinging motion.

Bring your hands together again and point them both at the sun. This time, instead of swinging, bounce your left hand, leftward, some number of times… (14 is perfect if you can do it) …until it is pointing in the completely opposite direction from the Sun at sunset. Your left hand should now be pointing East.

Was the moon at any one of those 14 hand bounce spots? That is the age of the moon in days.

Please post your questions in the comments!

What Looks Like Sunset

English: The sunset seen from Shwesandaw Pagoda in Bagan, Myanmar. Date 9 December 2014, 17:23:27 Source Own work Author Jacklee Camera location 21° 09′ 49.23″ N, 94° 51′ 58.11″ E Heading=76.098113207547° Is what looks like sunset really the sun – “setting”?

What is that thing that happens every day that makes it look like sunset?

Can you change your mind easily? Are you flexible enough to understand that the same set of observations and facts can lead two different people to two different conclusions?

For a long time, everyone on the Earth thought the Sun was moving and the Earth was staying still. This is just what it looks like and anyone who dared to suggest a different view might easily be considered odd, or worse, dangerous. Having the benefit of hundreds of years of scientific evidence and wisdom to back up my observations, I now have the luxury of believing that it is the Earth that is moving and that the Sun is the one standing still.

It is fun to imagine being carried through space on the surface of a giant ball. Definitely better than staying still while the sun careens through the sky each day. With this image in my mind, I feel the Earth is carrying me away from the view of the Sun.

Sunset should be called “away sun” and not “sun set” because it is me moving, not the sun. It is me being carried away into the shadows forming behind the bulge of the Earth, not the Sun setting. I am riding the Earth with its great round bulk between me and the Sun.

It’s NOT a sunset but me… rushing backwards… at 1000 mph as the bulge of the earth grows in between.

I propose “awaysun” as the new name for sunset and “towardsun” as the name for sunrise. These new names help solidify the idea that we are the ones moving.

What do you think?