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Seasons and Ecliptic Simulator

The Nebraska Astronomy Applet Project, University of Nebraska

An interactive simulation of Earth's seasonal dynamics that includes the axial tilt and other aspects of Earth's annual cycle.

This is part of a larger lab from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln: http://astro.unl.edu/naap/motion1/motion1.html

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Simulation/Interactive supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts, 12 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • If you need more information, see Student Guide dealing with the simulator and two activities that use it–Rotating Sky and Motions of the Sun–at http://astro.unl.edu/naap/motion1/motion1.html.
  • Make sure to note the lack of scale to students.

About the Science

  • This simulation is part of a larger lab that covers terrestrial coordinates and the celestial equatorial coordinate system, allowing users to explore the motion of the sun and how it relates to seasons.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The resource gives a clear visual representation of the annual march of seasons and the plane of the ecliptic. The most helpful aspect is that the student can change the observer latitude to the latitude of interest, and select the date on the timeline. The angle of sunlight is also a useful way to visualize a concept that is often taught in a more static way. I assume that when teaching with this resource, instructors would give clear instructions, but at first glance it was not immediately obvious to me that you could drag the observer to change the latitude of observation.

About the Pedagogy

  • The simulator and short investigations that are part of the lab may help users appreciate the complex dynamics of Earth's orbit as an important aspect of understanding Earth's climate.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy-to-use, intuitive simulation that, with minimal guidance, can complement other activities around seasonal dynamics.
  • Resource opens with Internet Explorer and Edge; it does not open with Safari, Chrome, or Firefox.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Simulation/Interactive supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

MS-PS3.A3:Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of particles of matter. The relationship between the temperature and the total energy of a system depends on the types, states, and amounts of matter present.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3


MS-C1.2: Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural and human designed systems

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

Science and Engineering Practices: 12

Developing and Using Models, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, models, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

MS-P1.2:ask questions to identify and/or clarify evidence and/or the premise(s) of an argument.

MS-P1.3:Ask questions to determine relationships between independent and dependent variables and relationships in models.

MS-P1.4:Ask questions to clarify and/or refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem.

MS-P1.5:Ask questions that require sufficient and appropriate empirical evidence to answer.

MS-P1.6:Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom, outdoor environment, and museums and other public facilities with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on observations and scientific principles.

MS-P1.7:Ask questions that challenge the premise(s) of an argument or the interpretation of a data set.

MS-P2.2:Develop or modify a model— based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.

MS-P2.4:Develop and/or revise a model to show the relationships among variables, including those that are not observable but predict observable phenomena.

MS-P2.5:Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

MS-P2.6: Develop a model to describe unobservable mechanisms.

MS-P2.7:Develop and/or use a model to generate data to test ideas about phenomena in natural or designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs, and those at unobservable scales.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

HS-PS3.D3:Solar cells are human-made devices that likewise capture the sun’s energy and produce electrical energy.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2


HS-C1.1:Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

HS-C1.2:Classifications or explanations used at one scale may fail or need revision when information from smaller or larger scales is introduced; thus requiring improved investigations and experiments.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models

HS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

HS-P1.3:ask questions to determine relationships, including quantitative relationships, between independent and dependent variables

HS-P1.4:ask questions to clarify and refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

HS-P2.5:Develop a complex model that allows for manipulation and testing of a proposed process or system.

HS-P2.6:Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.

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