Zenith Lesson for Kids: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Mark Boster
When studying space and astronomy, it's important to know when the sun, moon and planets rise and set. It's also important to know other information, like when and where their zenith will be. Let's learn about a zenith now.

Understanding a Zenith

Have you ever seen something tied to the end of a string or rope or tied something to a string yourself? Well, let's imagine tying a rock to the end of a string. If you took a string with a rock tied to it and let it hang, it would hang straight down to the center of the earth's gravity. If the string were to continue straight up to where it looks like it meets the sky, that would be the zenith point. A zenith refers to the point directly above the observer. If a star were at the point directly over you, we would say the star is at its zenith. In other words, the star would be exactly the opposite of the rock's location.

The zenith is directly opposite the gravitational center of the earth.

Celestial Sphere and the Sun's Zenith

Have you ever noticed that when you look up, it looks like someone could have painted the stars, sun, moon, and planets on a dome? Well, that imaginary dome is called the celestial sphere.

Let's say you were standing on the earth at noon. Where is the sun? Well, sometimes it is directly overhead. Let's imagine you were to draw a 90-degree angle (also known as a right angle), which means you would need to draw a straight line up toward space from the flat surface of the earth where you're standing. Remember our string and rock example? Well, if your line were to go through the sun, the sun would be at the observer's zenith in the celestial sphere.

The zenith of the sun

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