Monthly Archives: April 2016

Coming alive in the solar system

Over the past few weeks, as the Earth moved through the time of spring equinox, I found myself once again slipping into a three-dimensional “sense of place in space” —the physical experience of being on the surface of the spherical earth, and of earth’s body being in motion around the sun.  It’s all there in the classic textbook illustration that shows our planet’s seasonal path around the sun:

Surely you remember the basics: our northern hemisphere tilted toward the sun in summer, away from the sun in winter, and momentarily sideways to the sun at the spring and fall equinoxes (the tilt remaining constant in space, the north pole always pointing at distant Polaris).  But how do these moments in the life of the planet look and feel from the vantage point of a human body in the noontime sun or under the slowly-turning panorama of a starry night?

The perspective from our local landscape out toward the sun, an awareness of the earth’s tilt, and our view from here out into the galaxy, can all come alive within an expanded version of this image, stretched to the size of the “real world” around us and fleshed out by our own physical experiences here on Earth, alongside the sun and within the vast halo of stars that surround us in our galactic home.

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