The Noontime Altitude of the Sun

The combined effect of the Earth's annual motion around the Sun and the tilt of its axis cause the seasons and the variations in the altitude of the Sun at local noon.

  • At Ithaca, the Sun is higher in the sky at noon in the summer than in the winter

  • This also means that the rising and setting times of the Sun vary.


    At different locations on earth, the noontime altitude of the Sun will be quite different on any given day.

    Plotted here are the variations in the noontime altitude of six different locations. Can you figure out which is which?

    • Ithaca New York: latitude 42 North

    • Kiruna, Sweden: latitude 67 North

    • Mt. Palomar, California: latitude 33 North

    • Mauna Kea, Hawaii: latitude 19 North

    • Bosccha, Indonesia: latitude -6 South

    • Cerro Tololo, Chile: latitude -31 South