It’s common for people who are geographically lost to exclaim ‘Where in the world are we!?’, but less common to wonder where in the solar system (everything that circles our sun due to its gravity) we are. If you understand how our solar system works you will understand why we see the sun when we do, and why our night skies are different throughout the year.
Online Orrery, Where Are We?
I wondered about this question a few weeks ago, perhaps prompted by the opening of mistYmuse 2019/20 (#mYm2019), and found this great online orrery showing where our planet currently is, and where it is a month either side.
Our planet Earth is at the top of the ‘solar system clock face’ now, as if the end of our year is like the end of an hour, but we are going anti-clockwise!
So each night (when we are facing away from the sun, in whatever part of the planet we are, with each rotation of our Earth taking a day) we look out at the ‘northern night sky’.
Then, when the planet spins us around to face the sun again at different times (the morning sunrise), we face ‘south’ again. The way we see the sun at different locations, south/east to north/west, can be shown by these sunrise times at the moment, that are roughly on the same latitude, with their times converted to GMT for clarity (Vilnius is two hours ahead in their time, and Copenhagen one):
Vilnius 6.41, Copenhagen 7.37, Leeds 8.22, Belfast 8.45
In six months we’ll be at the opposite side of the sun, and so will have a better view of our Milky Way galaxy, as our solar system is on the north-west edge of it, so we have a better view of it when we are ‘south’ of the sun. That was featured in the Sky at Night review of the year (only available in UK).
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