In this video, learn how Earth’s rotation and the angle of sunlight interact to create different seasons.
Did you know that the Sun’s light shines differently on Earth at different times of the year? In this visualization watch as the Earth orbits the Sun, rotating, like a slightly tilted, spinning top. This rotation changes the angle at which sunlight hits the surface of our planet, creating the different seasons we experience here on Earth. Can you see how sunlight at different times of the year changes the productivity of life on land and in our oceans?
- ESS1.A: The Universe and Its Stars
- (6-8) Patterns of the apparent motion of the sun, the moon, and stars in the sky can be observed, described, predicted, and explained with models.
- ESS1.B: Earth and the Solar System
- (5) The orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around the Earth, together with the rotation of Earth about an axis between its North and South poles, cause observable patterns. These include day and night; daily changes in the length and direction of shadows; and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year.
- (6-8) Earth’s spin axis is fixed in direction over the short-term but tilted relative to its orbit around the sun. The seasons are a result of that tilt and are caused by the differential intensity of sunlight on different areas of Earth across the year.
- LS1.C: Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms
- (6-8) Plants, algae (including phytoplankton), and many microorganisms use the energy from light to make sugars (food) from carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water through the process of photosynthesis, which also releases oxygen.
- (9-12) The process of photosynthesis converts light energy to stored chemical energy by converting carbon dioxide plus water into sugars plus released oxygen.
- LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems:
- (6-8) Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors.
- (6-8) In any ecosystem, organisms and populations with similar requirements for food, water, oxygen, or other resources may compete with each other for limited resources, access to which consequently constrains their growth and reproduction.
- PS3.D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life:
- (5) The energy released [from] food was once energy from the sun that was captured by plants in the chemical process that forms plant matter (from air and water).
- (6-8) The chemical reaction by which plants produce complex food molecules (sugars) requires an energy input (i.e., from sunlight) to occur. In this reaction, carbon dioxide and water combine to form carbon-based organic molecules and release oxygen. Cellular respiration in plants and animals involve chemical reactions with oxygen that release stored energy. In these processes, complex molecules containing carbon react with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and other materials.
- (9-12) The main way that solar energy is captured and stored on Earth is through the complex chemical process known as photosynthesis.
California’s Environmental Principles and Concepts
- Principle III: Natural systems proceed through cycles that humans depend upon, benefit from, and can alter.
- Concept a: Students need to know that natural systems proceed through cycles and processes that are required for their functioning.
- carbon dioxide: a colorless, odorless gas that is present in the atmosphere, formed during respiration, produced during organic decomposition, used by plants in photosynthesis, and formed when any fuel containing carbon is burned
- orbit: the path described by one celestial body in its revolution about another
- orbital period: the time taken for a given object to make one complete orbit about another object; the Earth takes 365 days to orbit the sun.
- photosynthesis: the process by which a cell captures energy in sunlight and uses it to make food
- primary producer: an organism, such as a plant, that can make its own food
“I would love to use some of the videos and guiding questions as a way to provide connections to real-world phenomenon.” -High School Life and Physical Science Student Teacher from Berkeley, CA
Have an idea you’d like us to post on this page? Email us.
Visualizations based on aggregated data provide the unique opportunity to engage your students in various Science Practices highlighted in the Next Generation Science Standards, including asking questions, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations. As an example, Academy educators developed sample activities such as this one and this one.
You’d be surprised by how much astronomy you can learn with a light source, some painter’s tape, and a can of play doh. This collection features nine of our most popular activities.
Why do we have seasons?
This NASA webpage addresses the misconception that the distance of the Earth and the Sun is the reason for the seasons and explains the Earth’s tilt is the true reason.
This interactive will help students recognize the reason for the seasons as they manipulate time and the Earth’s tilt.
The Reason for the Seasons
This website gives background information of why we have seasons and visualizes the angle of sunlight one of the reason of the seasons.
Earth’s Orbit around the Sun
This Universe Update article provides background information on the orbital mechanics of the Earth-Sun system and how that contributes to why we have seasons.
Phytoplankton Bloom Imagery
Land Productivity Data
NASA Modis Land Science Team, NASA Earth Observatory Team
Ocean Productivity Data
Michael Behrenfeld, Professor Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University, www.science.oregonstate.edu/oceanproductivity
NASA Visible Earth