Light on the World

In order to see why the midnight Sun shines in Tromsø and not in [YOUR CITY], we will each need to look at a globe. The globe is a model of the Earth and this light can serve as the Sun. 

Fade the Sun and atmosphere off. Darken the sky for the following activity, which demonstrates the reason for the seasons.

Pass out the Earth globes (students may help). Turn up bright light in the center of the room, and darken all other lights.

The pole sticking through the globe represents the axis about which the Earth turns. To make our model accurate the pole should not point straight up and down. It should be tilted.

The Earth’s axis tilts 23° with respect to the plane of the Earth’s orbit. Exaggerating the tilt to about 45° makes this activity more effective.

In the summer the north part of the Earth’s axis is tilted toward the Sun. It is daytime on the Earth where the Sun’s light is shining. On the side of the Earth that is dark it is night. 

[Your city] is marked on your globe. 

Explain that at the equinoxes, the terminator (dividing line between night and day) is perpendicular to the equator giving days and nights of nearly equal length at all places on Earth.

What happens to [your city] as you spin your globe about its axis?

[It goes into the light sometimes and sometimes it is in the dark.]

Tromsø is also marked on your globe. 

What do you observe happening to Tromsø as the world turns?  

[As night approaches, Tromsø approaches the dark part of the Earth, but it stays in the light.] 

The “top of the world,” the region within the arctic circle is always lit by the Sun.

Half a year later it is winter and the Earth has gone half way around the Sun. Please stay right where you are and simply tilt the north end of the globes away from the Sun. 

What happens now?  

[As the Earth turns [YOUR CITY] still goes in and out of the light, but Tromsø never reaches the light even in the day time.] 

In winter in Tromsø, the Sun can not be seen for two months.