Some students think that the equator is closer to the Sun than the north pole is

Earth and Space

Misconception RESEARCH REVIEW

This may be because their idea of the tilt of the Earth’s axis is incorrect. Some confuse it further by thinking the North pole is always pointed towards the Sun.

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

  • The movement of the Earth and the seasons  (11-14)

    Ref - SPT ES04 TA06

    This is a simple but effective demonstration of the daily and annual movement of the Earth.

    The first activity is essential to grasp the point that the axis of rotation of the Earth is tilted at 23.5 ° to the plane in which it orbits the Sun. This means that the angle of incidence of the Sun's rays will vary between winter and summer.

    The major point of the second pair of activities is to show that if you change the angle of incidence of the Sun, it makes a major difference to the amount of energy received locally at the Earth's surface and explains the seasonal variation in temperature.

    View Resource
  • Model of the celestial sphere  (11-16)

    Ref - Practical Physics / Astronomy / Observational astronomy / Model of the celestrial sphere

    Making a model that shows the apparent motion of the Sun and stars around the Earth.

    • The model: The Earth support rod represents the axis round which the Earth spins.
    • The plane of the celestial equator is at right angles to the ‘Earth’s support’ rod through to the Pole Star. 
    View Resource

References

The following studies have documented this misconception:

  • Victor, R. L., () How Different Variants of Orbit Diagrams Influence Student Explanations of the Seasons Science Education, 94,

    985-1007.

    Review sheet

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