Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience > Mathematical and Statistical Models > Mathematical and Statistical Models Examples > Sun Path: Interactive On-line Mac or PC
Explore Teaching Examples | Provide Feedback

Sun Path: Interactive On-line Mac or PC

Sun Path JAVA applet written by the Australia National University. Starting Point example and page by R.M. MacKay.
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


The Sun Path JAVA applet uses equations for a spherical Earth to calculate the sunrise and sunset times, the solar azimuth and solar altitude for any time of year and any latitude. The program can be run in yearly, monthly, daily, or hourly modes to create animations of the sun's path across the sky for different conditions and with different time resolutions. Sun Path "... models the Sun's path in a geocentric view, it calculates and visualizes the position of the Sun based on the latitude and the time. It allows to simulate the Sun's position and path during an hour, a day, a month and a year." Description from Australia National University site. The example activity provided has students use SunPath in the yearly mode to investigate seasonal changes in sunrise, sunset, length of day and sun altitude at their own latitude.

Learning Goals

Context for Use

This activity can be used as a homework assignment, lab activity, or for interactive lectures in an introductory Geoscience course with discussions related to seasons and the sun.

Teaching Materials

A sample Sun Path activity that will take students about 2 hours to complete is provided here: Sun Path Activity. Other activities can be easily created by the instructor.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity requires a working knowledge of a graphing program like Excel or some other software.

The Sun Path JAVA applet was tested and worked on both a Windows 98 PC operating system and Mac OS X. The JAVA applet may take some time to load and may not be practical to use over a modem line.


Successful completion of this interactive activity is a good measure of student performance.

References and Resources


Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Meteorology:Solar and terrestrial radiation, Geoscience:Lunar and Planetary Science, Physics:Astronomy:The Sun, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Meteorology:Seasonal patterns, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climatology :Orbital patterns

Resource Type

Activities:Lab Activity

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Atmosphere, Climate, Solar System and Astronomy


Climate, Solar system


Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Planetary Science, Atmospheric Science, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Weather, Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Climate Change

See more Mathematical and Statistical Models Examples »