Finding your direction - orienting yourself

Finding your direction - orienting yourself


Does the Sun rise in the East, as we were told when we were children?


ONLY at equinox Sun rises due east, and sets due west.

At all other times SUN DOES NOT RISE IN THE EAST.


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During Equinox, throughout the world the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Even at the poles.

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Finding directions is a most confusing thing that we never talk about for fear of shame. 

That is why the general rule that "the Sun rises in the East and to turn north you turn left", is a useful way of finding directions in day to day life. 

But now that we know that the Sun does NOT rise in the east EXCEPT on those two particular days of Equinox we have to improve our rule a little.

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As astronomers we are better at finding directions at night using stars. But day time is another matter though it is still astronomy when we use the Sun and the inclination with the plane of our solar system.

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For general directions and driving google maps is very useful. 

But I am more concerned about directions in your own neighborhood.  Most people don't know their orientation. This is very important when locating constellations and stars at short notice when you are told about something interesting that you want to observe.

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It is important to get correct orientation from where you live or where you work or from where you do stargazing. 

That is why I mentioned that you go out in the morning at sunrise or at sunset in the evening and mark the points at which the Sun rises or sets on Equinox day. 

It is quite confusing, so you have to choose a SPECIFIC place from which you can note (describe) the horizon directions of sunrise and/or sunset on Thursday 22nd September. Write this down in a notebook because it is easy to forget exactly where you stood and which object you saw in the horizon at the position where the Sun sets. 

Then you have to wait for 3 months until the solstice on December 21 when you will again mark similarly the position of the southern solstice which will be the 23.5 degrees south point in your horizon that you will note in your notebook. 

After that you will wait for another three months for the next equinox on 20 March and confirm your observation of exact East and/or West. 

Again you will wait for another three months until 21 June when you will again mark similarly the position of the southern solstice which will be the 23.5 degrees north point in your horizon that you will note in your notebook. 

You can now see why it is very confusing to know your direction properly. And the need to write your observations in your notebook. 

While waiting for the three months between observing the extremes of the Sun's positions you can extend your observations to be more regular and note the horizon positions of the Sun at regular intervals and actually see the shifting of the Sun and how fast or slowly the position changes. At the extreme north and south it shifts slowest while at Equinox it changes rapidly. 

In the process you will have marked the Sun's analemma from your location. Compare this with what you simulate using the Stellarium software.


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