What Time Is It?
ES0405  Watching the Sunrise

  !    Click the image to see an animation of Earth rotating. Click and drag the movie slider button, or click the next and back arrows to watch continents moving from dark to light across the sunrise line.

Images captured using Earth and Moon Viewer by John Walker and with satellite imagery provided by the Living Earth, Inc.

We experience day and night because we live on a rotating planet. The day-night cycle is 24 hours long, because it takes 24 hours for Earth to complete a full rotation on its axis.

  • Analyze the movie to figure out how much time passes between each step.
  • Watch carefully as North America turns toward the sun. Which part of the continent moves into sunlight first?
  • Try to imagine what you would see if you were on the model planet. Where would you see the sun as your location crossed the sunrise line? How would your view of the sky change through the morning?
We usually think of sunrise as the beginning of a day, this animation shows that sunrise is always happening somewhere.

3. In what direction does Earth rotate?

4. From what direction does the sun appear to rise each day?

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