Rotating Question Curious About Astronomy? Ask an Astronomer

Why does the Sun's apparent path through the sky change throughout the year?

I do not know anything about astronmy; but, I am curious about the sunset. Sitting on the porch in the late afternoon when the sun is going down, it appears to set in different locations. I see large changes over night, but it appears to be on top of my hill over the road then a few weeks later it appears to be in the middle of the field. Why? Is the sun moving or are we the ones moving?

We are the ones moving. What you see each day when you look at the Sun moving across the sky is the effect of the Earth rotating on its axis. Because the Earth spins on its axis, it looks like the Sun is moving across the sky.

But there's another effect at work that makes the Sun's apparent path different each day. The Earth is also revolving around the Sun, so each day of the year, the Earth is at a different point in its orbit. So because the Earth is facing the Sun at a different angle each day, the "path" the Sun makes in the sky will be different each day of the year.

In fact, the different paths that the Sun makes is what causes the seasons.

This is illustrated here.

October 2002, Christopher Springob (more by Christopher Springob) (Like this Answer)

Still Curious?

Get More 'Curious?' with Our New PODCAST:

Related questions:

More questions about The Sun: Previous | Next

How to ask a question:

If you have a follow-up question concerning the above subject, submit it here. If you have a question about another area of astronomy, find the topic you're interested in from the archive on our site menu, or go here for help.

Table 'curious.Referrers' doesn't existTable 'curious.Referrers' doesn't exist

This page has been accessed 62568 times since October 4, 2002.
Last modified: November 6, 2002 11:14:02 AM

Legal questions? See our copyright, disclaimer and privacy policy.
Ask an Astronomer is hosted by the Astronomy Department at Cornell University and is produced with PHP and MySQL.

Warning: Your browser is misbehaving! This page might look ugly. (Details)