“It depends on your frame of reference,” Cathy O’Neil blogged as her response if asked whether the Sun goes around the Earth. “If I’m standing on the Earth, and I look up in the sky, I will observe the Sun going around the Earth in a wobbly path. Although it would be quite a bit simpler to understand the model of the solar system whereby the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun and spin while they do so.”
While O’Neil was poking fun at the silliness of simplistic poll questions, her point of view about our frame of reference is an important one. While it has been centuries since the Copernican Revolution marked the paradigm shift of accepting the fact that the Earth revolves around the Sun, we still use the terms sunrise and sunset. As O’Neil noted, the illusion of a rising and setting Sun results from our rotating frame of reference on the Earth’s surface, whereby Earth’s rotation makes it appear to us as if the Sun gradually rises from, then sets back into, the horizon.
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