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Gallery 3

Seasons in a Spin

A model earth and sun showing shadows on the earth. They sit above a large round colourful information disc which has the different seasons displayed.
A model earth and sun showing shadows on the earth.

Seasons on Earth are caused by the angle at which sunlight hits the Earth's surface as Earth orbits around the Sun on its tilted axis.

How it works

A model Earth can be moved in orbit around a model Sun to show how Earth's tilt and angle of sunlight hitting Earth causes seasons.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

Seasons are not caused by how close or far away each hemisphere is from the Sun, but are actually caused by the angle at which sunlight hits the Earth's surface. Use the model to work out the angle at which the 'sunlight' hits the Earth's surface and the corresponding season.

Background

The Earth goes round the Sun once a year. The tilt in the Earth’s axis causes changes in climate as the Earth orbits the Sun. It is warm on Earth where the Sun is overhead. It is cooler on Earth where the Sun’s rays are at an angle and the available energy is spread over a larger area.

Finding the science in your world

Some areas experience four seasons of Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. However, areas closer to the equator tend to experience less defined seasonal change because sunlight strikes around the equator at less variable angles as the Earth changes position in its orbit around the Sun.