Astronomy General science Mathematics Physics
Celestial mechanics Radiative energy Seasons Solar radiation Spherical geometry
Age Group
12 13 14 15 16
Expected time
2 periods
Closer but colder.PDF
beaker symbol

Closer but colder

What’s the mystery? Because of the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, it is farther away from the Sun in July than it is in January. Still, we have colder days in January than in July. How is this possible?Through this mystery, students will investigate the orbit of the Earth around the Sun and its influence on solar energy here on Earth. This will lead them to a deeper understanding of the seasons on Earth.
Domain(s) Physics, mathematics, earth sciences, astronomy.
Subdomain keywords
  • Physics: (Radiative) energy
  • Mathematics: (Spherical) geometry
  • Earth sciences: Seasons
  • Astronomy: Solar radiation, Celestial mechanics
Age group 12 to 16 years old.
Expected time for the mystery Approximate time for teacher preparation: 15 min.Approximate time in classroom: two 45-min lessons.
Safety/supervision NoDisclaimer: the authors of this teaching material will not be held responsible for any injury or damage to persons or properties that might occur in its use.
Preparation and list of materials The teacher should watch the following videos, which explain the reason for the seasons:- terrestrial globe, lamp/flashlight, protractor (pptional: the universe awareness Earth ball).
Learning objectives Learn why there are seasons.Learn about solar energy on Earth and its dependence on the orbit of the Earth around the Sun.
Resources The teacher can use the following YouTube videos for more information about the seasons:

A playful video explaining the reason for the seasons. It demonstrates how it can be summer in the northern hemisphere while it is winter in the southern hemisphere (and vice versa).

A video explaining why the Sun will never rise above the horizon north of the Arctic Circle in January while it will never go under the horizon south of the Antarctic Circle (and vice versa in July).