Some students deduce that the Earth must go around the Sun each day

Earth and Space


They might use this as an explanation as to why it gets dark at night.

Diagnostic Resources

The following worksheets may help to identify whether students hold this particular misconception.

For more information, see the University of York BEST website.

Resources to address this

  • Why do we get day and night? (5-11)

    Ref - SPT HS03 TL03

    Unhelpful starting points - Earth orbiting the Sun: Here the Sun is stationary and the Earth is in orbit around it. According to this view, day-time comes when your side of the Earth faces towards the Sun and night-time when it faces away from the Sun. It's the orbiting of the Earth around the Sun that is used here to explain day and night. For this model to work, the Earth must orbit the Sun once per day and also maintain the same orientation (facing the same way) in space, with no spinning. Here is a caricature of this suggestion.

    View Resource
  • Day and night: how do we know?  (11-14)

    Ref - SPT ES04 PN03

    Although the Earth spinning explanation is relatively straightforward, justifying it is not so simple. The common-sense notion is that it is the Sun that moves. After all, we do not appear to be moving and if we jump up we land on the same spot on the Earth's surface.

    View Resource


The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Dunlop, J., () How children observe the universe, Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 200 (17)


    Paper digest

  • Frede, V., () Pre-service elementary teacher’s conceptions about astronomy, Advances in Space Research, 38,


    Paper digest

  • Baxter, J., () Children's understanding of familiar astronomical events, International Journal of Science Education, 11 (5)


    Key paper digest

  • G. Sharp, J., () Children's astronomical beliefs: a preliminary study of Year 6 children in south‐west England, International Journal of Science Education, 18 (6)


    Key paper digest

  • Slater, E. V., Morris, J. E. & McKinnon, D., () Astronomy alternative conceptions in preadolescent students in Western Australia, International Journal of Science Education, 40 (17)


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