The Sun in the South

I’ve spent 100% of my life in the Northern Hemisphere.  The farthest south I’ve been to date is Ka Lae on the big island of Hawaii, at the staggeringly low latitude of 18.9 degrees north.

Did you know, in the southern hemisphere, the sun traverses the sky across the north?  This should be common sense, intuitive, and not that surprising of a concept for those familiar with the tilt of the planet, yet that profound notion didn’t independently cross my mind until just a few short months ago.  It’s also kind of a big deal in the solar industry.  Despite working with the sun for over half a year now, I’ve never had an opportunity to experience this just yet.

Altamont SunriseMy entire life, the sun has risen in the east, crossed the sky to the south at varying altitudes, and set in the west.  Shadows rotate clockwise across the north side of the clock, showing the hour as they would on a sundial oriented to the north.

In the south, it’s reversed.  The sun rises in the east and sets in the west of course, but as it floats across the northern sky, the shadows turn counterclockwise, across the south.  From the perspective of a northerner, the sun moving across the north would give the impression of the sun rising in the west.  A northern sundial wouldn’t work, no matter the orientation.

As a moderately resourceful person, I often rely on the sun to tell direction, usually subconsciously from years upon years of practice.  Calibrated to the northern hemisphere, I’d be completely lost on the other side of the planet.  I can just imagine driving on a road in, say, Chile, heading the absolutely wrong way up or down its narrow strip of land.

I really want to see this for myself.  Never mind the reversed seasons, the wildly different cultures, the exotic lands, and the expansive chaotic seas, I think what would blow my mind most about spending time in the southern hemisphere would simply be that familiar ball of plasma up there in the sky.

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