Q:

What changes happen in the sun's position in the sky over the course of a year?

A:

Quick Answer

The sun's path through the sky moves farther north as the calendar year progresses from January to June before going south for six months. In late March and late September, the sun follows the celestial equator. After the vernal equinox of March, residents of the northern hemisphere notice the sun gradually moving northward until the summer solstice. The sun then moves southward until the winter solstice.

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Full Answer

The sun rises higher in the sky during the summer at 41 degrees north latitude. From this vantage point, the sun rises in the east-northeast part of the sky and then sets in the west-northwest during hotter months. During the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, the sun rises directly to the east and sets directly to the west. During the winter months, the sun rises in the east-southeast and sets in the west-southwest. The sun appears lower in the sky during winter months.

The sun's motion over a year makes a figure eight in the sky. This effect is called analemma. The reason the sun rises and sets in different locations throughout the year is due to the Earth's axial tilt at 23.5 degrees with respect to the ecliptic, or the plane of Earth's orbit around the sun.

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