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Path of the Sun

Every day, the Sun rises in the East, makes its journey across the sky, and then sets in the West. And then, just a few hours later, the whole process happens again. But did you know that the Sun doesn’t take the same path every day? That’s because the Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees compared to the plane of the Sun’s rotation.

During summer in the northern horizon, the Earth is tilted towards the Sun, and the Sun’s rays hit the Earth more directly. And then during winter in the northern horizon, it’s the opposite situation. The Sun’s rays hit the Earth at a much more steep angle.

And the path of the Sun changes as the seasons change, from summer to winter. During winter, the Sun takes its lowest path across the sky. Each day after the winter solstice, the Sun’s path gets a little bit higher each day. On the spring equinox, the length of day and night are exactly the same, and the Sun takes a path that’s on exact opposite sides of the sky. Then on the summer solstice, the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky, and takes a path that keeps it in the sky for the longest time. This is why summer days are longer.

If you go out and capture an image of the Sun at the same point every day for an entire year, you would see that the Sun traces a figure-8 pattern in the sky. Astronomers call this pattern an analemma, and there are many beautiful pictures of analemmas captured from different parts of the Earth.

Another thing you can do is find a tall pole that leaves a very precise shadow. At the same time every day, go out and mark the tip of the shadow on the ground. It will trace out the same figure-8 analemma on the ground over the course of the year.

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