# How Students Can Measure Earth’s Radius Without Scientific Instruments

Measuring the Earth’s radius might seem like a task reserved for professional scientists with advanced tools. However, students can undertake this intriguing experiment using simple methods and materials. By applying basic principles of geometry and observational science, students can estimate the Earth’s radius and gain practical insights into the natural world.

## Using Shadows to Measure Earth’s Radius

One of the most effective and historical methods to estimate the Earth’s radius involves using shadows. This technique, inspired by the ancient Greek astronomer Eratosthenes, demonstrates how shadow length variations can reveal Earth’s curvature.

### Materials Needed:

- Two long sticks or poles of equal length
- A measuring tape
- A protractor
- A stopwatch or clock

### Steps:

**Select Two Locations**: Choose two points several miles apart that are on the same line of latitude.**Place the Sticks**: Insert the sticks upright in the ground at each location to cast shadows.**Measure Shadow Lengths**: At the same local time, measure the shadow lengths of the sticks.**Calculate the Angle**: Use a protractor to find the angle of the shadows relative to the sticks.**Compute the Difference**: Determine the angle difference between the two locations, which can be used to estimate Earth’s curvature.**Apply the Formula**: Use the formula $R=Δθd $, where $R$ is the Earth’s radius, $d$ is the distance between locations, and $Δθ$ is the angle difference.

For more on this method, check out Eratosthenes’ Measurement.

## Measuring Earth’s Radius with a Simple Geometry Approach

Another method involves basic geometry and trigonometry. This technique estimates the Earth’s radius by measuring the height of a distant object and using geometric principles.

### Materials Needed:

- A tall building or a known distant landmark
- A measuring tape
- A calculator

### Steps:

**Measure Object Height**: Determine the height of a tall building or landmark visible from a distance.**Measure Distance**: Find the distance from the base of the object to your observation point.**Apply the Geometry Formula**: Use $R=2hd+h $, where $R$ is the Earth’s radius, $d$ is the distance to the object, and $h$ is the height of the object.

For further reading on trigonometric methods in astronomy, visit NASA’s Trigonometry Basics.

## Estimating Earth’s Radius Using the Horizon Method

The horizon method uses observations from elevated positions to estimate Earth’s curvature. This technique relies on the fact that the higher the observation point, the further one can see the Earth’s curvature.

### Materials Needed:

- A camera or smartphone with a good zoom feature
- An elevated location (e.g., a tall building or hill)
- A measuring tape

### Steps:

**Find an Elevated Spot**: Go to a high vantage point with a clear view of the horizon.**Take Multiple Photos**: Capture images of the horizon from various angles and heights.**Analyze Curvature**: Compare the observed curvature in your photos to known models or data.**Estimate Radius**: Use these observations to estimate Earth’s radius based on visible curvature and mathematical models.

For detailed information on the curvature of the Earth, visit How to Measure the Curvature of the Earth.

**Conclusion**

Estimating the Earth’s radius without scientific instruments can be a valuable educational experience for students. By using methods such as shadow measurements, geometric calculations, and horizon observations, students can learn about the principles of observational science and the curvature of the Earth. These techniques not only provide practical applications but also enhance understanding of basic scientific concepts.