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Plotting the Position of the Sun

Print the city scape or worksheet one, then plot the positon of the sun at noon on the equinoxes and solstices.

When the students are finished, they will use worksheet two to plot the position of the sunset and sunrise on the solstices and equinoxes.

"When the sun comes back" teaches us that slaves knew how to use the sun as a calendar. During winter and spring the sun's altitude is higher and higher each day at noon. In fall and summer it is lower. This is because Earth has seasons. Seasons occur because Earth is traveling around the sun, and because Earth is tilted 23 and 1/2 degrees on its axis. When the North Pole is tilted towards the sun, the Northern Hemisphere receives more hours of sunlight per 24-hour period than the Southern Hemisphere.

During this period, December 21 to June 21, the sun is higher and higher in the sky each day at noon. Its maximum height occurs on June 21, the summer solstice. After this date, the sun seems slightly lower each day, and the Southern Hemisphere is beginning to receive more light. By September 21, the fall equinox, sunlight falls equally north and south of the equator. By December 21, the winter solstice, the South Pole is tilted toward the sun, and the Southern Hemisphere has its longest day, and the Northern Hemisphere its shortest. Then the pattern reverses, and by March 21, the spring equinox, sunlight falls equally north and south of the equator.

On December 21, those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere see the sun rise in the southeast and set in the southwest. On succeeding days, sunrise and sunset are a little further and further north. On March 21, sunrise and sunset are straight east and west. On June 21, they are in the northeast and northwest. Then the pattern reverses, and by September 21, sunrise and sunset again are due east and west.


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