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Can someone please explain this phenomenon? A solid explanation seems to be missing from the entire internet.

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You know, the first time someone told me this, I was absolutely certain they were confused, ignorant, or otherwise mistaken, and I told him he had his facts wrong. To be precise, we were talking about an observer on the equator. I maintained that the Sun would rise due east and set due west, all year round. He said no.

What gave me pause, though, is that this person was far from ignorant, so maybe the other two appellations didn't fit either. I went home and tried to construct a convincing proof of my side, and in the middle of the night a very simple and convincing proof did come to mind. Except that it was a proof that I was wrong.

Imagine that you're on equator at sunrise on the summer solstice. Due east is along the equator. But the plane of the equator is tilted relative to the Earth's orbit, and the Sun is well above (north) of it. You cannot see it due east at sunrise. It has to be $23.5^\circ$ north of east. (Remember, this is for an observer on the equator.)

By the same token, the Sun must rise $23.5^\circ$ south of east on the winter solstice, and gradually transition between these extremes during the year.

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  • $\begingroup$ There is no such concept as “summer” on the equator. $\endgroup$ – Incnis Mrsi Sep 10 '16 at 21:25

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