Key Idea: The maximum height that the sun reaches in the sky at any place varies over the course of the year, and how it varies depends on how far the place is from the tropical region.

Students are expected to know that:

  1. From any place on earth, the maximum height that the sun reaches in the sky above that place during a day gradually rises and falls during a year. The maximum height of the sun during a day at any place north of the tropical region is highest in late June (beginning of summer) and is lowest in late December (beginning of winter). The maximum height of the sun during a day at any place south of the tropical region is highest in late December (beginning of summer) and is lowest in late June (beginning of winter).
  2. The maximum height of the sun above places north of the tropical region decreases a little each day from late June to late December, and then increases from late December to late June. The maximum height of the sun above places south of the tropical region decreases a little each day from late December to late June and then increases from late June to late December.
  3. The maximum height that the sun reaches during a day is the same at all places that are the same distance from the equator, but it varies for places that are different distances from the equator, such that for any given day, the maximum height of the sun in the sky decreases the farther the place is north or south of the tropical region.
  4. How much the maximum height that the sun reaches during a day varies over a year differs in different places. The maximum height changes very little at the tropical region, and the farther a place is from the tropical region, the more the maximum height that the sun reaches in the sky during a day increases from winter to summer and decreases from summer to winter.
  5. The higher the sun gets in the sky above any given place, the larger the angle is between the sunlight and the surface of the earth, and the more intense the sunlight is when it hits that place.
  6. The greater the intensity of the sunlight, the more energy the sunlight transfers to that place in a given time.
  7. Because the amount of energy sunlight can transfer to a place depends on the maximum height that the sun reaches in the sky above that place, sunlight transfers the most energy (intensity of the sunlight is greatest) during a day at the beginning of summer than during a day at the beginning of winter. The amount of energy sunlight transfers to a place over a day decreases a little bit each day from the beginning of summer to the beginning of winter, and increases a little bit each day from the beginning of winter to the beginning of summer.

 

Percent of students answering correctly (click on the item ID number to view the item and additional data)
Item ID
Number
Knowledge Being Assessed Grades
6–8
Grades
9–12
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CL030002

In the northern hemisphere, the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky is greater in March than in January.

43%

45%

CL040002

In the northern hemisphere, the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky is greater in the summer than in the winter.

42%

46%

CL038001

In the northern hemisphere, if the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky is lower throughout the year at one place than at another place, the place where the maximum height the sun reaches is lower is farther north.

36%

46%

CL032002

For a place in the northern hemisphere, the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky changes each day in both January and December.

40%

41%

CL039002

In the southern hemisphere, if the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky is lower throughout the year at one place than at another place, the place where the maximum height of the sun is lower must be farther south.

38%

41%

CL034002

For places in the northern hemisphere and north of the tropical region, the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky is a little greater each day between January and May.

34%

40%

CL033002

For places that are north of the topical region, the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky increases each day for six months and then decreases each day for the next six months.

31%

40%

CL031002

In the northern hemisphere, the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky gets a little higher each day in January.

33%

38%

CL024002

For a place that is located north of the tropical region, the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky is lower for places north of that place.

32%

36%

CL026002

For a place that is located south of the tropical region, the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky is lower for places south of that place.

31%

34%

CL027002

For two places that are north of the tropical region, the maximum height of the sun in the sky is higher for the place that is less far north.

30%

35%

CL035002

For a place that is north of the tropical region, the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky gets a little lower each day in July.

29%

36%

CL025002

For a place that is north of the tropical region, the maximum height that the sun reaches in the sky is lower for all places north of that place.

30%

33%

CL028002

The maximum height the sun reaches in the sky changes as you move toward the north, but not as you move toward the east.

26%

33%

CL038002

For two places in North America, the one where the maximum height the sun reaches in the sky is lower must be farther north.

26%

30%

CL140001

For a place south of the tropical region, the maximum height of the sun in the sky gradually gets a little lower each day in January.

27%

29%

CL029002

For two places that are north of the tropical region, the maximum height of the sun in the sky is lower for the place that is farther north.

23%

24%

Frequency of selecting a misconception

Misconception
ID Number

Student Misconception

Grades
6–8

Grades
9–12

CLM003

The maximum height the sun reaches in the sky on any given day is the same everywhere on earth (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

23%

22%

CLM004

The highest point the sun reaches in the sky does not change throughout the year (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

17%

16%

Frequency of selecting a misconception was calculated by dividing the total number of times a misconception was chosen by the number of times it could have been chosen, averaged over the number of students answering the questions within this particular idea.