Quiz – Can we see the Sun at midnight? Where is it?

Can we see the Sun at midnight?

Yes. We can see the Sun at midnight. But, only if we are at one of the polar regions during the Summer season.

Image of the Sun's rays hitting the Earth. The Earth is tilted 23.4 degrees. Summer is when the northern hemisphere is titled toward the Sun. The summer Sun never sets - not even at midnight - if you are north of the Arctic Circle.
You can see the Sun at midnight! If you are at the North Pole in summer.

A quiz – seeing the Sun at midnight – don’t scroll til you try to answer!

When you see the Sun “rising” in the morning at dawn you are facing the east.

When you see the Sun “setting” at the end of the day you are facing the west.

Assuming you are not above the Arctic circle and not too close to the equator… if you could look right at the Sun (when the night is exactly half over) – by looking through the Earth – which cardinal direction would you be facing? East, West, North, or South?

Looking north or south to see the Sun at midnight?
A compass rose showing the cardinal directions.

Answer and Explanation

This quiz tests an observer’s ability to think about cardinal directions at the same time paying attention to meridian, time, and hemispherical location.

When we see the Sun “rising” in the morning at dawn we are facing the east.

When we see the Sun “setting” at the end of the day we are facing the west.

When we look at the Sun at noon in the northern hemisphere we are facing south.

SPOILER ALERT — And when we look at the Sun – as if the Earth were transparent – at midnight in the northern hemisphere we are facing north.

In the southern hemisphere sunrise and sunset appear in the same cardinal directions (East and West). But as we pretend that we can look through the Earth at the Sun… at midnight… we are facing south. See the diagram below.

Image of 2 stick figures on the the earth - one in the northern hemisphere, one in the southern hemisphere - looking through the Earth to ward the Sun at midnight
Observers in the northern hemisphere face North at midnight to “see” the Sun. Those in the southern hemisphere face south.

I welcome any and all observation and feedback on this quiz!

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“Star In a Star” Translated into 90 languages

Translation of Star In A Star Physical Astronomy articles

All of the articles about Physical Astronomy here at Star In A Star can be automatically translated. This amazing Google Translate widget lets you choose any language.
Google translate widget providing translation of Physical Astronomy teaching material to a global language audience
Google Translate widget can be used to translate these articles into any language.
Try it out!
For a bit of fun today… Here is a list of languages and the phrase “Star In A Star” in that language. I particularly like the languages where the word “star” changes slightly if it is inside another star (in Bosnian: zvezda u zvezdu). Also, I am fond of non-roman script languages – just for how beautiful they look ( this is Lao: ດາວໃນດາວ ).
Afrikaans: ster in ‘n ster
Arabic: نجمة في نجم
Azerbaijani: bir ulduzda ulduz
Belarusian: зорка ў зорцы
Bulgarian: звезда в звезда
Bengali: একটি তারকা তারকা
Bosnian: zvezda u zvezdu
Catalan: estrella en una estrella
Cebuano: bituon sa usa ka bituon
Czech: hvězdička ve hvězdě
Welsh: seren mewn seren
Danish: stjerne i en stjerne
German: star in a star
Greek: αστέρι σε ένα αστέρι
English: star in a star
Esperanto: star in a star
Spanish: estrella en una estrella
Estonian: star täht
Basque: izar bat izar batean
Persian: ستاره در یک ستاره
Finnish: tähti tähteä
French: étoile dans une étoile
Irish: réalta i réalta
Galician: estrela nunha estrela
Gujarati: સ્ટારમાં તારો
Hausa: star a star
Hindi: स्टार में स्टार
Hmong: star in a star
Croatian: zvijezda u zvijezdi
Haitian Creole: zetwal nan yon etwal
Hungarian: csillag egy csillagban
Armenian: աստղ աստղում
Indonesian: bintang di sebuah bintang
Igbo: kpakpando na kpakpando
Icelandic: stjörnu í stjörnu
Italian: stella in una stella
Hebrew: כוכב בכוכב
Japanese: 星の星
Javanese: bintang ing sawijining bintang
Georgian: ვარსკვლავი ვარსკვლავი
Kazakh: жұлдызға жұлдыз
Khmer: តារាក្នុងផ្កាយ
Kannada: ನಕ್ಷತ್ರದಲ್ಲಿನ ನಕ್ಷತ್ರ
Korean: 스타의 스타
Latin: star in a star
Lao: ດາວໃນດາວ
Lithuanian: žvaigždė žvaigždė
Latvian: zvaigzne zvaigznīte
Malagasy: kintana amina kintana
Maori: whetu i roto i te whetu
Macedonian: ѕвезда во ѕвезда
Malayalam: ഒരു നക്ഷത്രത്തിൽ നക്ഷത്രം
Mongolian: одтой од
Marathi: तारा तारा
Malay: bintang dalam bintang
Maltese: star fi stilla
Myanmar (Burmese): ကြယ်အတွက်ကြယ်ပွင့်
Nepali: स्टारमा तारा
Dutch: ster in een ster
Norwegian: stjerne i en stjerne
Chichewa: nyenyezi mu nyenyezi
Punjabi: ਸਟਾਰ ਵਿਚ ਸਟਾਰ
Polish: gwiazda w gwiazdce
Portuguese: estrela em uma estrela
Romanian: stea într-o stea
Russian: звезда в звезде
Sinhala: තරුවක තරුවක
Slovak: hviezdička v hviezde
Slovenian: zvezda v zvezdi
Somali: xiddigta xiddig
Albanian: yll në një yll
Serbian: звезда у звезду
Sesotho: naleli linaleli
Sundanese: béntang di béntang anu
Swedish: stjärnan i en stjärna
Swahili: nyota katika nyota
Tamil: நட்சத்திரத்தில் நட்சத்திரம்
Telugu: స్టార్ లో స్టార్
Tajik: ситораи дар ситора
Thai: ดาวในดาว
Filipino: bituin sa isang bituin
Turkish: bir yıldızla yıldız
Ukrainian: зірка у зірки
Urdu: ایک ستارہ میں ستارہ
Uzbek: yulduzli yulduz
Vietnamese: sao trong một ngôi sao
Yiddish: שטערן אין אַ שטערן
Yoruba: Star ni irawọ kan
Chinese: 明星在一个明星
Chinese (Simplified): 明星在一个明星
Chinese (Traditional): 明星在一個明星
Zulu: inkanyezi kwenkanyezi

Physical Astronomy – Definition of a New Way of Teaching

Definition of Physical Astronomy

Physical astronomy definition using Leonardo DaVinci's Vitruvian Man drawing surrounded by moon phase images
Vitruvian Man with Moon Phases

Physical Astronomy is a new way of teaching astronomy that emphasizes the human body and its relationship to other moving objects in space. The goal is to bring geometric and scientific awareness to a child’s everyday sky observations. Kids learn easily visible sky motions at a “kid’s eye level.”

The Sun does not move… we move

One of the first steps in Physical Astronomy is to forget you ever heard the words “Sunset” or “Sunrise.”  These words (while rife with history, beautiful in their own right, and descriptive) are scientifically wrong. These words obscure the truth of our trip around the Sun. We are on the Earth, the Earth is spinning; the Sun appears to be moving, but it is us moving. 

From the outset Physical Astronomy challenges you to reconsider long-held perceptions. It challenges you to trade them for curiosity, scientific thinking, and observation.

Foundations of Physical Astronomy

Physical Astronomy means learning basic astronomy concepts with a Kinesthetic approach: your body is on the Earth but traveling in space. While we are actually traveling in many directions at the same time the daily perception of our direction is of traveling “under the sun.” Through imagination and knowledge, you can see your place within the motions of the Earth, Sun, Moon, stars, and galaxies.

Science and the Scientific Method are the foundations of Physical Astronomy. Teaching methods, tools, and models scale Astronomy concepts to human size. Imagination transports us beyond our current understanding.

The Future of Physical Astronomy

I would like each child to get a little bit closer to understanding advanced but fundamental physical concepts like light speed, orbits, phases, star distance. The goal is to offer very early involvement with physics and motion. This early exposure to the idea of the speed of light can give a future adult a natural base of understanding.

For most of human existence we earthlings did not know that we lived on the surface of a giant sphere. My goal with this new way of teaching astronomy is to bring curious young minds fun, high-quality, experiential, developmentally tuned lessons for getting involved in the process of scientific discovery.

My intent is to build a strong and scientifically accurate conceptual foundation in a child’s mind. This will bring a passionate and articulate dedication to astronomy specifically, and science in general.

The next Halley, Herschel, Hubble, Einstein, or Hawking.

I have always been captivated by the sky. And I’ve come to realize that even though everyone has some knowledge of what’s “up there” (no matter how much absolute knowledge someone possesses) they always want to know more. The study of the sky is endless! There are so many ways to bring that sense of depth to more and more kids. Let’s continue so that we nurture the development of our next Halley, Herschel, Hubble, Einstein, or Hawking.

I have a big goal with my Physical Astronomy education programs: to encourage people to see the world from a new perspective and to transform them.

We do this by offering repeatable experiences – personal science experiences – that shape the way we perceive our particular place in the universe.


Galaxy Rise

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings

A still more glorious dawn awaits Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise A morning filled with 400 billion suns The rising of the milky way.

The Sun rises. The Moon rises. Stars rise. The Galaxy rises – twice.

Each day the Earth rotates and sky objects (seem to) rise in the Eastern sky. The Sun, the Moon, the Stars, and the Galaxy rise at various times.

The Sun “rises” once-a-day at the start of the day.

The Moon “rises” once-a-day at different times of the day and night depending on the moon’s orbit around the Earth (its phase).

The Stars “rise” once-a-day – all night long, one after another and in groups.

The Milky Way Galaxy “rises” twice a day – once on its bright (center) side and then 12 hours later on its dim (outer arm) side.

We can orient our bodies to the rising of the Milky Way. And we can experience our daily movement as “plunging through” this flat disk of stars.

Continue reading “Galaxy Rise”

Walk to Mintaka

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings
Mistakable rises toward the zenith as you walk toward the equator
As you walk toward the equator, Mintaka appears to rise higher in the sky.

In this post we will learn how to use one bright star of Orion’s belt to visualize the Earth’s equator.

Mintaka is a Star in Orion’s Belt

When you look up at the winter sky in the northern hemisphere, Orion and his famous belt are impossible to miss. The belt is made up of three stars of equal brightness.

One of these stars is called Mintaka and it is a guidepost for finding the Earth’s equator in space. Continue reading “Walk to Mintaka”

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.

The Moon is Upside Down

The Moon is Upside Down

The moon is upside down (as seen from the Southern Hemisphere)
The moon as seen from the Southern Hemisphere. source: Wikipedia.

When you are in the southern hemisphere, the moon looks upside down.

When I came back to the US from living in Australia for 4 years, I published a poster with a picture of the moon on in and I placed it “upside down” – someone pointed it out and I looked at the moon and said “the moon is upside down.” This was true – in the Northern Hemisphere – but to people living in the Southern Hemisphere the moon appears “upside down.”

I was shocked, but the claim was true – in the Northern Hemisphere! But to Australians and other people living in places in the Southern Hemisphere the moon appears “upside down.”


Train your Brain – See the shape of the solar system

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings.

Train your Brain - See the solar system disk

See the solar system from Earth

Most people, when they look up at the night sky can easily see stars and identify some familiar groups of stars (asterisms and constellations). Some people can even find and name some planets – Venus, Jupiter, and Mars are all bright and easy to see.

But, there are many invisible wonders in the sky – and some of them can be seen without a telescope. In fact they are so big that a telescope is not the right tool to use; we have to use something even more powerful… imagination!

Using visualization and imagination, I am going to show you how to find and “see” a very large structure in our sky: the solar system disk itself.

Continue reading “Train your Brain – See the shape of the solar system”

Night is…

“‘Night’ is not what time it is… it is where you are.” – Daniel Cummings