Sun Path Activity (Archived Version)

Robert Mackay, Clark College

The Sun Path exercise helps students gain an understanding of the movement of the sun throught the day, month and year. 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. The example activity provided has students use Sun Path in the yearly mode to investigate seasonal changes in sunrise, sunset, length of day and sun altitude at their own latitude. Students learn to graph data, estimate their shadow length for their height and the sun's altitude and use trigonometry to check their shadow length results. This Starting Point page includes teaching notes and tips, teaching materials, assessment idea and additional resources and references.

Part of the Starting Point collection. The Starting Point collection includes resources addressing the needs of faculty and graduate students designing, developing, and delivering entry-level undergraduate courses in geoscience.

Starting Point
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Grade Level: College Upper (15-16), College Lower (13-14), High School (9-12)
Topics: Climate