The All Powerful Sun: What is in Time?

We are doing a really nifty lab experiment in physics this week. We are asked to find out how far off we are from the start of our time-zone, and to calculate this by using basic mathematical formulas by only using the sun and some basic tools. We are asked to use a nail, paper and a flat surface on a sunny day, oh and of course, a clock because time is very important for this experiment.

The first part of the experiment is to generate the data in the field. I first found a good spot that had little shade, where the sun was shinning during the period of high noon. Where I live, I do not have a very good Southern view, so there was going to be some problems during the experiment. Once I found the spot, I set up my table and put a nail through it, or in this case, a piece of metal rod through one of the cracks that was already in the table, and poked the paper over the nail. The nail was going to be my “Sun Dial,” and the paper was going to be the area in which I was going to record the shadows with.

During the experiment I was to record the position of the shadow in ten minute intervals. Starting a 11:30am, or 10:30 am Standard Time, and then running until 2:00pm, or 1:00pm Standard Time was because of Day Light Savings Time, and making sure that somewhere during this time period I would hit high noon, which would be the real 12:00pm instead of the start of the time-zone I live in.

There was a point during the experiment when I hit the shadow of the largest tree around my home. It hit right at the highest point of the sky, right at the most critical part of the experiment. There was just enough of a shadow cast by the metal nail on the paper to give me a reference point to mark off with. There was a little bit of a fudge factor here.

Once completed, and 2:00pm came by, I packed up everything in moved it inside so I could start measuring the dots from the hole in the paper. This is was sort of an interesting point during the experiment because I would have thought that the dots would have made a crescent pattern rather than a straight line on the paper. Once I started graphic it out I realized what was going on. I notice how the Sun raced across the sky, and how the distance of the shadow changed, even though the distance of the Sun changed in the sky during the day travelling from East to West. This made sense explaining the dots looking like a straight line across the paper.

Next, are my results.

What I have found out as a result of this experiment is that “high noon” is really 12:50pm Daylight Savings Time where I live, in Fort Langley, BC. This means that I am ten minutes off from when my time-zone says it is night noon. The blue line on the chart above is the distance of the shadow compared to the time of day it was taken, so the lowest point on the line (curve) is the highest point of the Sun in the sky–my high-noon.

6 Thoughts on “The All Powerful Sun: What is in Time?

  1. Is Astronomy an elective?

  2. Sounds like you are having fun. Remember Dad’s huge telescope. The six foot white monster? That was fun.

  3. I have the lenses and mirrors from it. The tube wore out a long time ago, but it can easily be rebuilt.

    I’m glad that you remembered it. It was fun to look through it at all the planets and stars. Those were good times.

  4. Would you make it the same as it was before? Huge and white? Hummmmm, where would a person be able to find a huge carboard tube such as that? I am glad to hear that you have at least something from it. Yes, those were good times. How’s your French?

  5. I would construct the telescope differently than before. The tubes are easy to get, but they are not the best materials to make a scope with. I would build a wooden frame, something that can be easily stored away.

    The French is slowly coming along. I think my next class is in January. I just want to pass it.

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