The Surprising Sun

At the start of my Beginner’s Guide to Natural Navigation courses, I do offer a friendly warning that natural navigation is a diverse and eclectic subject. Each person finds some areas that make sense to them almost instantly and one or two other areas that they find more challenging. The person who takes to the astronomy may find themselves less comfortable with the botany for example. There are one or two areas that seem to resonate with almost everyone. One of these is where the sun rises.

It is ironic that nearly everyone is comfortable with the general idea that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but amazingly very few people know where it does actually rise, or why. It can all be explained by looking at the annual orbit of the Earth around the Sun, but even with the explanation so many people are still genuinely astounded to discover how much the sun’s rising position will change on their horizon over the course of a year. In the UK sunrise direction ranges from northeast in midsummer to southeast in midwinter, with an equal difference in its setting positions.

I will never forget saying thank you and goodbye to a very experienced traveller on one of my courses. He was well into his seventies and had seen a lot of the world already. He seemed to be both delighted to have this new understanding about sunrise, but equally slightly bemused and perhaps even annoyed that it had taken so long to discover. He then went silent and his face expression betrayed a mind that was quizzing who he should be cross with that nobody had made him aware of it before!