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Geography - The Solar System

( Originally Published 1915 )

THE solar system, of which our earth forms a part, consists of (a) the sun, which is the centre of the system, (b) the planets, which revolve around the sun at various distances from it, (c) the moons of the planets, which revolve around them, and (d) the comets, which also. revolve around the sun, but in a more irregular way than the planets do. Draw on the black-board a diagram of the solar system illustrating the above parts composing the system. (See diagram, Ontario High School Physical Geography, page 320.)


The sun is really one of the "fixed stars ", but as it is so near to us, it looks very, very much larger than the other stars that are very much farther away. How far away is it? (See lesson on " The Sun ", Chapter V.) The diameter of the sun is more than one hundred times greater than that of the earth. It is a great ball of in-tensely hot fire. Great "spots" are sometimes seen on the face of the sun; these seem to be great holes, some-times with more than enough room for our earth to fall into. It is not thought to be a solid body like our earth ; it is more likely to be a gaseous or liquid body. If it were not for the heat, light, and energy that we get from the sun, our earth would be a cold, dead world.


The planets in the solar system are eight in number. Their names, in the order of their nearness to the sun, are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn Uranus, and Neptune. Mercury is the smallest of the planets—much smaller than the earth; Jupiter is the largest and is more than 1400 times as large as our earth. Mercury has the shortest orbit or pathway round the sun and takes 88 days only to make one revolution; the Earth requires 3651 days. Neptune has the greatest orbit and requires 165 years to make one revolution about the sun. Hence, one year on Mercury is about one quarter as long as outs, while Neptune's year is 165 times longer. How many years old would you be if you lived on Mercury? If Neptune has four seasons in its year, as we have, how long does its winter last?

All the planets, except Mercury and Venus, have moons; the earth has one moon; Saturn is known to have nine. All the other planets look like stars when seen from the earth at night; and, if viewed from another planet, our Earth would also be a star. The planet-stars, however, are not true stars, but shine with light reflected from the sun. In this respect they are like our moon. The planet-stars have a quiet, steady, and not a twinkling, light. Mercury and Venus are often seen as the "evening star ", the first star to appear after sunset ; or as the " morning star ", the last star seen shining before sun-rise. Seek assistance in locating them.


The moon has no heat or light of its own and hence shines by light reflected from the sun.

Review the facts learned by observation in a previous class (see page 42), and tell the class that the changes which take place in the appearance of the moon are called the Phases of the Moon. By means of a ball and a lighted candle, and also by diagrams on the black-board, establish the causes of these phases as follows :

(1) When the moon, on its journey round the earth, comes between the earth and the sun, the illuminated half of the moon is turned toward the sun and the dark half toward the earth. At this time there is " no moon ".

(2) When the moon has passed a little to one side of a straight line joining the earth and the sun, we see the edge of the moon lighted up by the sun. This is called the New Moon.

(3) When the moon has moved on to a point where the straight line joining the earth and the moon is at right angles to that joining the earth and sun, we see one half of the moon's face lighted up. This phase is called its First Quarter. Why so called?

(4) When the earth is between the sun and moon, we see the whole face of the moon lighted up by the sun. This is the Full Moon phase.

(5) When the moon has moved round the earth to a point opposite to that of the First Quarter, it is again in a position where only one half of its face is lighted up. This phase is known as the Third Quarter or Last Quarter. Why so called? (See diagram, page 324, Ontario High School Physical Geography.)

Note that the new moon crescent is the lighted edge of one side of the moon, while the old moon crescent is the lighted edge of the opposite side. On which side of the lighted edge is the sun in each case? Note the same phenomena at the times of First and Last Quarters.

It takes about 29 1/2 days for the moon to journey round the earth once. What name is given to this interval of time? How many lunar months are there in one year? Does the moon turn on its axis as the earth does? What proof have you of this? We know that the moon always presents the same face to the earth, because the same markings ("man in the moon") are always seen on its face; these dark markings are probably shadows cast by mountains. If a pupil walks round a chair by keeping his face toward it, show that he himself has actually made one complete turn. Apply this to the case of the moon and show that it must turn on its axis once every lunar month.

The moon is approximately 50 minutes later each night. What is the cause of this? If the moon were stationary, it would rise always at the same time. As it is moving in the same direction in which the earth is rotating, and as it makes a complete revolution round the earth in about 291 days, therefore it must make - 1/29 or -2/59 of its round in a day. Hence, the interval of time between two successive risings of the moon must be the time required by the earth to make 1 2/59 turns, that is, approximately 24 hours and 50 minutes.

The moon is a cold, dead world and probably contains no atmosphere, no water, and no life. Its surface is barren rock. Meteors must batter the moon freely, as there is no atmosphere to burn them up as they fall. The moon is a silent world, as there is no air to vibrate to produce sounds.


If we look above us on any clear day or night, we see what appears to be a great blue vault, or dome, which we call the sky. What is the name of the circular line where the earth and sky appear to meet? At night the sky is literally filled with bright objects called stars.

Although the stars are so very far away, many interesting things have been learned about them. Astronomers tell us that every shining star is in reality a great blazing sun, and that many of them are supposed to have other worlds spinning around them, just as the earth on which we live spins around our sun. These worlds are, however, too far away for us to see them even with the aid of telescopes. How many of such worlds there are, how large they are, what kind of people (if any) live on them, we have no means of knowing. It is a wonderful thought, is it not?

Astronomers are able to measure the distance between us and many of the stars. All of them are very, very far away. We know that light travels very fast-186,400 miles a second. At this rate it takes the light of the sun eight minutes to reach the earth. The nearest star is so far away that a ray of light from it takes about four years to reach us. If this star were suddenly to become extinguished, we would still continue to see its light for four years longer. Look for the Pole Star; it takes nearly half a century for its light to reach us. Find the Pleiades group of stars; these are so far away that the light we see shining from them has been. on the way for more than four hundred years. Indeed, other stars are so far away that it takes thousands of years for their light to reach us.

If you watch the stars at night, you will be able to observe that, like the sun and the moon, they are apparently moving. In what direction do they seem to move? They are not really moving from east to west across the sky; they are stationary in the same sense that the sun is. Why then do they seem to us to move across the sky?

The stars are of different ages. Like us, they are gradually getting older. Some stars are shining with white or blue light ; these are the younger stars. As they grow older they become yellow, like our sun; and when they get still older, they turn red in colour. Many stars finally lose their heat and light and become cold and dark. Of course, when they reach this condition we cannot see them any longer. Observe the stars on some clear night to see if you can find stars of different colours—white, blue, yellow, red. All true stars " twinkle". Why? If there was no atmosphere, the stars would not twinkle.

You should be able to locate in the sky a few of the more important stars and constellations. Find the Milky Way; it is a great white band across the sky. It is made up of so many stars, and they are so far away that we cannot see them distinctly; we see their diffused light. It is this diffused light that gives the Milky Way its peculiar appearance.

Locate the North or Pole Star; it is almost stationary, and for this reason makes a good "guide star". There are other stars in the northern sky that never set; they seem to revolve round the Pole Star without getting below the horizon. The following constellations may be observed in this connection: The Great Bear (or the Big Dipper), the Little Bear (or the Little Dipper), the Dragon, and Cassiopeia's Chair. The relation of the "Big Dipper" to the Pole Star is shown in the diagram on page 12 of the Text-book.

The principal stars in the winter sky are Orion, Sirius (the Great Dog Star, the most beautiful star in the winter sky), the Pleiades, Castor and Pollux (the Twin Stars), etc. In the summer sky will be found Regulus, Arcturus, the Northern Crown, Vega (the brightest summer star), Antares, the Northern Cross, Altair, etc. It is toward Vega that our sun and its attendant planets, including the earth, are moving at the approximate rate of 800 miles a minute. Do not rest satisfied until you can identify the above-named stars. (Read Chapter XIX, Ontario High School Physical Geography.)


Comets are probably white-hot masses of gas, which move swiftly toward the sun, go round it, and then rush away again. They are usually recognized by a tail of light. A large comet is quite beautiful, with its bright head and long flaring tail. The tail is always on the side away from the sun, and sometimes it is longer than the distance between here and the sun. The name comet is derived from an old word that meant "long-haired ". Why was this name given to it? (Consult the Ontario High School Physical Geography, page 332.)


Floating through space beyond the earth's atmosphere are bodies which, it is supposed, were once heated and luminous; but, having lost their heat and light, are now cold, dark, rock-like masses. When they happen to come near enough to the earth to be influenced by gravitation, their great speed carries them so swiftly through the atmosphere that the friction developed heats them until they glow and burn. As the blazing mass rushes through the upper air, it looks like a streak of light. It is this streak of light that is called a meteor or " shooting star ". By waving rapidly back and forth a stick of wood with a glowing end a very good representation of a shooting star may be obtained.

Usually these meteors burn up before they reach the surface of the earth; occasionally, however, the residue of a very large one may strike the earth and bury itself in the soil. When such a one is found, it looks like a dark mass of stone; it is then called a meteorite. Meteorites, when found, are regarded as curiosities and are often placed in museums. (See the Ontario High School Physical Geography, page 333.)


This lesson is intended to suggest principles that may be used with advantage in the teaching of any particular province or country. Nova Scotia is chosen in preference to Ontario as it is a much smaller and simpler unit, and the method illustrated is not so likely to be obscured by the use of a greater mass of details.

The teacher will observe that the subject-matter of this lesson is dealt with under certain topics arranged in a certain order, as follows: 1. Location; 2. Size; 3. Physical features (surface, coasts, drainage, soil) ; 4. Climate; 5. Natural resources; 6. Industries; 7. Transportation; 8. Trade and Commerce, exports and imports; 9. People and Government; 10. Cities and chief towns.

A little consideration will show the advantage to be gained by teaching the topics in the order indicated.

1. The location of a country with reference to its latitude, together with its land and water features, drain-age, etc., provides most of the data for estimating the character of the climate.

2. The physical features (surface, soil, drainage), together with the climate, determine in large measure the natural resources.

3. Similarly, physical features, climate, and natural resources form the basis for transportation, trade and commerce, exports and imports, and growth of cities and towns; the fact should be emphasized that physical causes largely determine the life and occupations of a people.

Hence, it would be illogical to teach climate before location and physical features; natural resources before climate; industries before natural resources; trade and commerce before natural resources and industries, etc. By observing such principles as these in the teaching of geography, the teacher is training the pupil to associate causes with their consequences and consequences with their causes. By so doing, he not only arouses a greater interest in the subject, but lightens the burden on the pupil's memory by appealing to his reasoning and reflective powers.

Before beginning the lesson, the teacher is recommended to make an outline map of Nova Scotia on the black-board, to be filled in as the lesson is being developed, and also to hang the wall map before the class for constant reference. Unless a good black-board outline can be made it may be dispensed with and only the wall map used; a poorly-made black-board map may, for obvious reasons, prove worse than none at all.


What direction is Nova Scotia from New Brunswick? What three bodies of water wash its shores? What is the latitude of its most southerly point? Compare this with the latitude of Toronto. What is the latitude of its most northerly point? Compare this with the latitude of Quebec City. What country in Western Europe is in the same latitude? What is the most southerly point in Canada? (Point Pelee) Does any other part of Canada extend farther east than Nova Scotia? What is it?


What is the area of the land surface of Ontario? What is the area of Nova Scotia? How many provinces the size of Nova Scotia could be carved out of Ontario? Compare the size of Nova Scotia with that of New Bruns-wick. It is almost as large as Belgium and Holland put together, and it is half the size of New York State. What is the length of Nova Scotia? Its width?


Surface :

What is the general shape of Nova Scotia? What

forms the main axis of the Province? (A mountain ridge, or watershed, running from the north-east to the south-west.) Note another mountain ridge running in an east-west direction from Cape Chignecto to Canso Strait. Do these ranges determine the shape of the country? In what way? How, too, do they determine the general slopes? What is the relation of these slopes to the direction of the rivers? Why? How would you account for the V-shaped depression occupied by the waters of Minas Channel, Minas Basin, and Cobequid Bay? Draw an outline map of the Bay of Fundy and its arms.

The Atlantic Slope :

About how wide is this slope? (Average width is twenty-one miles.) Describe the surface of this slope. Why is it so rough and broken? (It is an old weathered highland of hard rock.) What portions are covered with soil? (Chiefly the narrow river valleys) What remark-able feature is noticed along the Atlantic shore-line? Account for the presence of so many harbours. (They are submerged mouths of rivers.) Name a few of the largest harbours. How would you account for the origin of the Strait of Canso? How large is it? (Length, four-teen and one half miles; width, three quarters of a mile; depth, nowhere less than ninety feet.) What bays does it connect? (See illustration on page 96 of the Text-book.)

The Bay of Fundy Slope :

Compare this slope with the Atlantic slope as to surface, rivers, shores, etc. Why has the Bay of Fundy comparatively few harbours? Is it because there is a secondary mountain ridge (the North Mountains) running parallel to, and close to, the coast? Why do you think so? What productive valley is immediately south of the North Mountains? What break in these mountains allows the lower part of the Annapolis Valley to fill with water? What name is given to this sheet of water? Are these North Mountains responsible, too, for Digby Neck, and St. Mary's Bay? Why do you think so? What cape forms the eastern end of this range?

What tide phenomena are seen in the Bay of Fundy and especially in its upper arms? How high do these tides rise? Where do they rise highest? Why? Point out the effect of these high tides upon the low-lying shores of Minas Basin. What effect have these tides upon the navigation of rivers flowing into the Bay and its arms? Explain. What happens to ships when the tide is out of the rivers?

The Gulf of St. Lawrence Slope :

The land slopes gently to the Gulf and the shores are comparatively low. As on the Atlantic slope, what is the relation of the harbours to the rivers? What is the largest and best harbour?

Cape Breton Island:

Which side of the Island has the most broken shore-line? Why? What lake is there in the interior of the Island? Is it salt or fresh? Why? Name two good harbours on the Island. Locate them on the map.

What island is out in the Atlantic about 200 miles east of Halifax? Describe its surface. Why is it so dangerous as to be called the " Graveyard of the Atlantic "?

Drainage :

Into what three general slopes is the drainage system of Nova Scotia divided? What are the chief characteristics of the rivers of the Atlantic slope? Why are they short? Why are there so many? Why do they not unite and form a large river? Are they navigable? Why not? Of what use are their mouths?

Where is the Annapolis Valley? Between what mountain ridges does it lie? What river drains the valley toward the west? Into what Basin does the Annapolis River flow? What connects this Basin with the Bay of Fundy? What river flows eastward through the valley? (Cornwallis River) Into what body of water does it flow? Name a river flowing into Cobequid Bay. Locate these rivers on the wall map.

Is the navigation of rivers flowing into the Gulf of St. Lawrence helped by the tides to the same extent? Why not? In what respects are the rivers flowing into the Gulf of St. Lawrence like those of the Atlantic slope? Why are the Cape Breton rivers so unimportant?

Soil :

If Nova Scotia is a rocky highland plateau in the process of being worn down, in what condition is most of its surface likely to be? Where is most of its arable land found? Why? Why are the low-lying lands around the shores of Minas Basin particularly fertile?


The general influences that modify climate are latitude, elevation, proximity to the sea, ocean currents, winds, rainfall, etc. How many of these influences apply to Nova Scotia? In what way? Why has Nova Scotia a maritime climate? How does this affect the rainfall? What two ocean currents influence its climate? In what way? Nova Scotia extends through the same latitude as the country lying between Toronto and Quebec City; compare the climates of the two districts. Which is subject to the greater extremes? Why? Why is Nova Scotia more subject to fogs than Ontario? What influence has the North Mountain ridge upon the climate of the Annapolis Valley? Why? What is the average yearly rain-fall of Nova Scotia? (See the Text-book.) What is the rainfall in Ontario? (Thirty to forty inches) What makes the climate of Nova Scotia so invigorating?


Name at least four of the chief natural resources of Nova Scotia. What connection have they with the leading industries of the Province? Illustrate. More detailed information will be supplied when the various industries are under consideration.


Agriculture :

Why is agriculture not carried on so extensively as in Ontario and the Prairie Provinces? Where are the chief agricultural districts of Nova Scotia situated. Account for this. What conditions are favourable to the growth of hay and root-crops? What industries depend upon these crops and upon grazing for their success? Give a list of the grains grown in Nova Scotia.

Fruit :

What part of Nova Scotia is famous for its fruit? 'What are the conditions favourable to fruit-growing in this Valley? Name the chief fruits grown and exported. What uses are made of cold storage warehouses in connection with this industry? What factors are favourable to the export of fruit? What advantages has Nova Scotia over Ontario in the fruit export trade? Why?

Fishing :

What physical conditions are favourable to the fishing industry? Name the principal food fishes of Nova Scotia. How are the fish prepared for market? To what countries does Nova Scotia export fish? Why is it necessary for warm countries, such as Southern Europe, Brazil, and the West Indies to import fish? Ships that carry cargoes of fish to these countries will probably carry what cargoes on their return trip? Why? Which is more important, the fishing industry of Nova Scotia or that of Ontario? Why? What are the chief fishing grounds of Ontario fishermen? Compare the value of the fish and the number of men employed in fishing, in Nova Scotia and Ontario. (Nova Scotia's catch is valued at about $8,000,000 annually; Ontario's, at about $2,000,000. In Nova Scotia there are about 30,000 men employed and in Ontario about 3,000 men.)

Mining :

Name the four principal minerals found in Nova Scotia. Name, and point out on the map, the three chief centres of coal-mining. What mineral is found in close proximity to the coal-mines? Of what economic importance is this? What Cape Breton city has very extensive iron and steel works? In what condition is gold found? In what parts of Nova Scotia is gold mining carried on? Where is gypsum found? What are its principal commercial uses?

Lumbering and Ship-building :

" Pine has practically disappeared from Nova Scotia." Why did pine disappear so much more rapidly than other timber? Where are the chief markets for Nova Scotia's export lumber trade. What factors made Nova Scotia formerly a great ship-building country? What causes have led to a great decline in this industry? At what place is ship-building still carried on to some extent? (Yarmouth)

Manufacturing :

What is the chief manufacturing industry of Nova Scotia? (Iron and steel) What conditions are favour-able for this industry? What is its chief centre? At what place are there extensive car works? Name the other leading manufacturing industries of the Province.


In what respects is Nova. Scotia so favourably situated for carrying on a world-wide commerce? With what countries does it carry on most of its trade? Name, and trace on the map, its leading railways, and show the part each has in the trade of the Province.


Exports and imports :

Under what conditions of production is it possible for Nova Scotia to export goods to foreign countries? What kind of goods must Nova Scotia import? Why? What are the chief imports? The chief exports? Through what ports is this trade carried on? What are the chief trade routes with other parts of Canada?


The people of Nova Scotia are chiefly descendants of the French Acadians, the United Empire Loyalists, the Europeans (including the Highland Scots of Cape Breton island and the German settlers in Lunenburg). What was the population of Nova Scotia according to the latest census returns? Is its population increasing? Compare with previous censuses. (See Canadian Almanac.) How does the population of Nova Scotia compare with that of the city of Montreal?

Of what branches does the government of Nova Scotia consist? In what important respect does this differ from that of Ontario? Name the Provinces whose Legislatures each contain two houses, namely, a Legislative Council and a Legislative Assembly.


What is the capital city? What educational institutions are situated at Halifax? It is a naval station and has a government dry-dock. Explain what these are. Why is Halifax strongly fortified? What features make Halifax Harbour one of the best in the world? Name the chief city on Cape Breton Island. Account for its origin and growth. Locate Pictou and New Glasgow. Of what does their trade chiefly consist? What town is at the extreme west end of the Province? What is its trade? With what American city has it steamship connection? What town has the Normal School and the Agricultural College? Locate it on the map. Locate Springhill. What is its chief industry? Name, and point out on the map, the chief station for wireless telegraphy across the Atlantic Ocean. Find Amherst, the third town in size. What is Amherst's chief industry? Name and locate Windsor and Wolfville, and name an important educational institution in each.. Locate, on the map, Grand Pré, the scene of the expulsion of the Acadians. Why is the district surrounding Grand Pré called "Evangeline's Land"? Why does Nova Scotia make such a delightful summer resort for tourists?

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