Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Letters to the Editor

April 9, 2014

Earth’s tilt is reason for the seasons

— — Why do we have winter, spring, summer and fall? We have seasons because the Earth’s axis is tilted and the tilt always points in the same direction in space. This “same direction” thing is the critical part.

Pretend you’re out in space watching the Earth go around the sun. Make a fist with your left hand and hold it out in front of you. This is the sun. With your right hand about a foot to the right, point to where the far wall meets the ceiling. You will always point at this particular spot. Your fingernail on your pointing finger is the North Pole and the tilt of your finger is the tilt of the Earth’s axis. This is the first day of fall. Next, move your right hand counter clockwise to the far side of your sun while pointing to that same spot. This is the first day of winter. Continue around until your right hand is beside your left and you’re at the first day of spring. When your pointing finger is between you and you sun, you are at the first day of summer.

A more precise answer to why we have seasons is that the Earth’s axis is tilted 23 and a half degrees from a perpendicular to the ecliptic plane and always points in the same direction in space. But, we don’t really need that, do we?  

Charles J. Gatchell

Princeton

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