A Feeling of Distance

If you have been feeling distant lately, you’re not alone. Everyone on the planet is in the same situation. In the big picture, there’s some truth to that, as the Earth is approaching its farthest point in its orbit from the sun, or aphelion.

At 8:00pm Eastern Daylight Time, the earth will be at a point in its orbit where it will swing back towards the sun, where it will be the closest in January. Here is some data on the earth and its orbit around the sun:

Closest to Sun (Perihelion): 91,400,000 miles/147,100,000 km
Farthest from Sun (Aphelion): 94,500,000 miles/152,100,000 km
Average distance from Sun: 92,955,820 miles/149,597,890 km

“But wait,” you say. “If we are farther from the sun now, why isn’t it colder?” Well it is, depending on where you are on the earth.

We have seasons not because of our distance from the sun, but rather the tilt of the earth’s axis. Right now the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, so we get the more direct rays of sunlight, hence summer in the northern hemisphere. Down in the southern hemisphere, it’s wintertime. Now when the earth is closer to the sun in January, the axis is tilted away from the sun, and we have winter in the northern hemisphere.

Interesting fact: The earth is warmer now than when it is closer to the sun, on average. That’s because continents and oceans aren’t distributed evenly around the globe.

For more information about aphelion, check out the story at Spaceweather.com

So as you go outside today, and bask in the warm sunshine, enjoy that time, because soon we will be speeding around toward our close approach to the sun, and the cold weather of winter.

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