Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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Insolation of the earth

The power radiated by the sun is 3.9 x 1026 W. The earth orbits the sun in a nearly circular orbit of radius 1.5 x 1011 m. The earth's axis of rotation is tilted by 23o relative to the plane of the orbit (see the drawing) so sunlight does not strike the equator perpendicularly.

  1. What power strikes a 1 m2 patch of flat land at the equator at the point P?
  2. Will a 1 m2 patch of flat land at the point R or S receive more radiation?
  3. Does your answer to part (b) tell you which of the points R or S is having summer or winter? Are there other factors involved?

Page last modified March 31, 2005: OP07