Although we think of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west each day, it only does this around the two equinoxes in March and September. During summer, at our latitude, the sun actually rises in the northeast and crosses due east on its way to a noon peak in the southern sky. During the afternoon, it continues its circular path, crossing due west in the late afternoon or evening, before setting north of west. This roundabout maneuver is how we get days longer than the nights during summer.

Now, with the autumnal equinox just a week away, the sun is rising fairly close to due east and setting close to due west, and solar noon is still in the southern sky, but not as high as it was in summer. By the time of the winter solstice, the sun will rise in the southeast and traverse a pitifully short portion of the southern sky before setting in the southwest.

Newsletter signup for email alerts