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?
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.
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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.
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.
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!
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.