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why does the sun appear lower in the sky in winter

Posted on 2012-03-22
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Hello

why does the sun appear lower in the sky in winter? I can see from this diagram that the angle at which the sunlight hits the earth changes because of the tilt of the earth, and this makes the days hotter/colder in summer/winter but I can't visualise why the tilt of the earth changes how high/low the sun appears in the sky

http://www.science-resources.co.uk/KS3/Physics/Earth_and_Beyond/Earth_Seasons.htm

thanks
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Question by:andieje
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6 Comments
 
LVL 74

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by:sdstuber
ID: 37753749
the angle of the earth relative to the sun is everything

as you read this text  tip your head up, don't lock on it with your eyes.

The text will be come lower in your field of vision.

exact same thing with the sun, except it's not just your head, it's your entire body that has the angle shifted with the earth
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by:Lonbox
ID: 37753964
The sun will hang lower in the sky on winter months when compared to the summer. This is because the Earth's axis is tilted 23.5 degrees from the vertical toward a distant star called Polaris. It results in fewer daylight hours and cooler temperatures.

Winter Solstice
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Expert Comment

by:tliotta
ID: 37754317
Find a globe of the Earth that's mounted on a tilt similar to the Earth's tilt relative to the Sun. Use a beachball or soccer ball or any ball if necessary. Just make sure you mark north/south poles and can maintain a tilt of the ball relative to the ground. A mounted globe is best because it will maintain its tilt while spinning freely.

With whatever spherical object you use, a flashlight can be used to emulate the 'Sun in the sky'. The flashlight should shine its light parallel to the ground as it shines on your "earth". The tilt of your "earth" should clearly show how the light from your "sun" hits the surface at different angles for different latitudes.

When the tilt of the "earth" is pointed towards the "sun", you can see how more of the northern hemisphere is lighted and less of the southern hemisphere. That's basically summer in the north and winter in the south. And when the tilt of the "earth" is pointed away from the "sun", you can see how less of the northern hemisphere is lighted and more of the southern hemisphere. That's basically winter in the north and summer in the south.

When that is demonstrated, you can mark a spot on the globe and look at how that spot relates to the 'apparent' position of the sun in summer and in winter.

Tom
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LVL 10

Expert Comment

by:abbright
ID: 37754698
Here are some links and videos explaining the effect: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice
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Thibault St john Cholmondeley-ffeatherstonehaugh the 2nd earned 2000 total points
ID: 37755221
In that link you posted look at the lower two spinning Earths.
Imagine yourself in the northern hemisphere at about 45 degrees latitude.
In the left hand picture, as you reach midday the sun is directly overhead.
Now keeping yourself at the same latitude look at the right hand Earth. As it reaches midday the sun is way off down almost at a tangent to the surface of the earth. So if you were standing there, the sun would only just reach above the horizon at its highest point during the day.
Those pictures exaggerate the effect, but should give the right idea.
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Author Closing Comment

by:andieje
ID: 37779080
when you link it to the horizon like that it makes perfect sense
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