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The Apparent Path of the Sun

The apparent path of the Sun through the sky is easily observed : every day, it rises in the East, reaches its highest point above the horizon  at solar noon,  and then in the evening it sets in the West. In reality, it is the rotation of the Earth on is axis which is responsible for these observations.

The path of the Sun through the sky varies from latitude to latitude, and from season to season.

Let’s place ourselves in the Northern Hemisphere, midway between the Equator and the Pole – in, for example, Montreal or Chicago .

At the Winter Solstice, the Sun rises in the Southeast, climbs to its lowest peak point of the year and sets in the Southwest. This is the shortest day of the year. It lasts only 8 hours.

The lengths of shadows are at their maximum.

The path of the Sun grows longer until the Vernal Equinox,  when the length of the day equals that of the night, which is to say 12 hours. That is the meaning of the word equinox. On this day, the Sun rises due East and sets due West.

The path of the Sun continues to lengthen until the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. The Sun rises in the Northeast, reaches its highest point of the year in the sky, and sets in the Northwest. The lengths of shadows are at their shortest.

The Sun then gets lower in the sky and the days grow shorter until the Winter Solstice.

(…) and the whole cycle begins again. 

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