Establishing Cardinal Directions

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Fall 2009-Day 2
Orientation to the Sky

In the parking lot, the instructor asks students to figure out which direction they are facing. Typically, the students come to some agreement on where North is, and they stand accordingly. The Physics 111 instructor confirms that the students are indeed standing toward the North direction. The instructor then asks them to think about how maps are arranged (From the person facing North, West is on the left, and East is on the right of a map). The students confirm that this is the way they typically look at maps. The instructor then asks if they can see the sun from where they are standing. The students respond with, “No.”

In order to view the sun's position, the students must turn around and face the South direction. After a warning not to look directly at the sun, the students turn around. The instructor points out that West is now on their right, and East is now on their left, the opposite from what they are used to seeing when looking at maps. The instructor explains that this is the way they should face to make observations of both the sun and the moon. At this time, the students pull out their sky journals make entries about what they see.


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