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.
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.

3 Replies to “Where is the Sun?”

  1. Thanks for the comment, John! This article is a lighthearted look at things that block the Sun, but it can be a gateway into some serious astronomical science.

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