Science Questions

Sat, 16th Oct 2004

Part of the show Dreams, Sleep, and The Body Clock

Question

Graham asked:

Does the sun affect the tides like the moon?

Answer

Yes, but to a lesser extent than the moon, which is the main determinant of our tides. You can work out if we are on a neap tide or a spring tide - that's a high tide or a low tide - depending on whether these two celestial bodies line up with each other. When the sun is in alighnment with the moon we have a new moon (which means you can't see it because it is not illuminated and is dark) and the two bodies work together gravitationally, producing a spring tide. Two weeks later, however, the moon is at 90 degrees to the sun, so they're not in alignment, so you have a neap tide. Two weeks after that you have a full moon and the two are working together again, and you have a spring tide.

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