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Hey Ray! Why Our Shadows Are Long In Winter

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Did you know that there is a time of year where your shadow loves being tall, or should I say longer?

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(Photo Credit: Ray Petelin)

Since Earth rotates on an axis that is roughly 23.5°, there are times on its path around the sun where our part of the planet is tilted toward the sun and times when in is tilted away. This is very important with how long or short your shadow is outside.

Look at it this way. When I tilt my camera toward a bright light, the bright light appears higher in the video. When I tilt my camera away from the light, it appears lower. That is the same with the Earth and Sun. In the summer, we are tilted toward the Sun, so it is higher in the sky. In the winter we are tilted away from the Sun, so it appears lower in the sky.

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(Photo Credit: Ray Petelin)
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(Photo Credit: Ray Petelin)

This means the timing of the longest shadows also times in with the seasons.

If you hold a pen or pencil straight up and down and shine a flashlight at it, a shadow is cast. When you lift the flashlight higher, the shadow gets shorter. When you lower the flashlight, the shadows get longer.

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(Photo Credit: Ray Petelin)
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(Photo Credit: Ray Petelin)

The same is true on Earth. Shadows are the longest in the wintertime. Since Earth is tilted away from the Sun, the Sun appears lower in the sky. That means the Sun's light hits everything at a lower angle, casting longer shadows. In the summer, since the Sun is higher, the shadows would be shorter.

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(Photo Credit: Ray Petelin)

At the same time, where you are on the planet determines how long your shadow can be, too.

So, why would that matter? Since the Earth is shaped sort of like a giant ball, the further north you travel in our hemisphere in the fall and winter, the lower the Sun with appear in the sky. The lower it appears, the longer the shadow will be.

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(Photo Credit: Ray Petelin)
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