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!

Contact me by clicking the blue bubble in the bottom right of this page.

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.

 

Shapes with Shadows – astrosketching Moon features with Alex Massey

Shapes with Shadows – what they can tell us

This the first of two special guest posts by Australian astrosketch artist Alexander Massey 

Live View Sketch of Moon craters Azrachel, Alphonsus, and Ptolemaeus by Alex Massey

Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus, and Arzachel… the names of three massive, interlocking craters on the Moon. These three craters tell the story of the ancient Moon’s creation and evolution. It’s a story of violent bombardments and oceans of lava. We can use light and shadows to reveal the shapes and deep history of these features.

Most people think of astronomy a science of light. But, light creates shadows when it hits things. Those features that lie in the shadows, the dark parts and seemingly just-in-the-way-of-the-light parts, are just as important as those that shine brightly. These dark shadows form most of the mass of all galaxies, house stellar nurseries, reveal old lava rivers on the Moon, and create curious plays of light and dark. These can play tricks on our eyes and make patterns appear.

Continue reading “Shapes with Shadows – astrosketching Moon features with Alex Massey”

Arms around the ecliptic

Learn to see the ecliptic

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings

Ecliptic Arms

The sun follows the same path through the sky every day.

Sun up. Noon. Sun down.

The sun starts the day in the east in the morning, rises high in the sky at noon, and settles down again in the west for a nap at night.

See the ecliptic

Here is an exercise to discover that path – the ecliptic.

Continue reading “Arms around the ecliptic”

Stars like ours – 9 bright “Life Stars”

Life Stars – Visible Exoplanets

Physical Astronomy by Daniel Cummings

Life Star in the night skyA “Life Star” is a visible star that could host life. This is a name I came up with in February 2017 (around the time of the TRAPPIST announcement) to describe visible stars with confirmed planets orbiting in the habitable zone. “Life Star” is easier to say and explain. I hope it catches on! Continue reading “Stars like ours – 9 bright “Life Stars””

Stars in Your Eyes

Graphic showing text and milky way galaxy of stars. Stars end their trips in your eyes

The light of a star…

…no matter how long it has been traveling through space, ends its journey in your eye. The light hits your retina and is transformed into thought. As long as you let that star light stream into your view, the star itself lands in you and settles its motion.

When I was 17 years old I went on a weekend retreat run by the Christian Brothers near Melbourne, Australia. It was a weekend of spiritual teaching, introspection and reflection.

Saturday night, one of the other boys at the retreat surprised me. As we stood outside under the stars, he spoke in that matter-of-fact way typical of Australians.

Continue reading “Stars in Your Eyes”

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!

Continue reading “Groundhog Day Shadow Tracker”

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!

The Moon Moves Toward the Dawn – a Mnemonic

The moon moves toward the dawn

Memorize this mnemonic: The moon moves toward the dawn. This phrase describes the day-by-day movement of the moon. With this simple phrase, you can understand the phases of the moon. You will actually begin to see the moon’s beautiful orbit traced out in the sky.

Repeat. The moon moves toward the dawn. The moon moves toward the dawn. 

The moon moves toward the dawn.
It rises higher in the dusky sky after each day. It sweeps over the hills.
It circles and rolls. It transits. It leaves the Sun, then chases the Sun.
The moon moves toward the dawn.
Look East! That’s where the moon wants to go.
Once arrived, it crosses the face of the Sun and once again moves toward the dawn.
The moon moves toward the dawn.

Hello world! Welcome to Physical Astronomy.

Daniel Cummings moon phase immersiveWelcome to Star in a Star!

There are many ways to learn about Astronomy and the sky. Some people learn best by reading books or websites. Some learn best by debate and discussion. Some learn by doing.

I like to learn about Astronomy by interacting with people, places, and things. I like to listen to children’s questions and wonder along with them. I like to create immersive real-world experiences – aka “Physical Astronomy” – that help to illuminate the answers – when there are answers – and create tools for thought and imagination.

In posts and pages and links and media I am going to show you how to learn (and teach) Physical Astronomy in this unique way. We will learn about how to foster deep scientific understanding through exercising a sense of place and presence in a space.

Most importantly, I hope to share my passion for Astronomy and share the joy I feel each time someone near me says those epic words of discovery: “Wow – I never knew that before.”

Daniel