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Monday, July 6, 2015

Earth is Farthest From the Sun Today

Despite the warm and humid weather today, our planet is actually at its farthest point from the Sun today. According to the U. S. Naval Observatory, the Earth reached a point in its orbit called "aphelion" at 3:41 p.m. EDT. The Earth's aphelion is the point where it is the farthest from the Sun than at any time during the year at a distance of 94,506,507 miles.

The Earth is typically about 93 million miles from the Sun. However, because our planet's orbit is not a perfect circle but an ellipse, it has a farthest point and a closest point to the Sun. In case you're wondering, the Earth's closest approach to the Sun is called perihelion, and that occurs in early January. The Earth is exactly 3,104,641 miles (or 3.28 percent) farther from the Sun than at its closest approach. The Earth actually receives about seven percent less heat at its aphelion than at its closest approach, according to researchers.

Although the date for both will vary from year to year, the Earth will always be closest to the Sun in early January and the farthest away in early July. Not surprisingly, that comes as a surprise to most people. At perihelion, our planet is about 91 million miles from the Sun. It moves outward to about 95 million miles from the Sun at aphelion. Naturally, some people have the mistaken impression that our seasons are caused by the changes in Earth's distance from the Sun, but this is not the case.

The temperatures and the seasons are not affected by the proximity of the Earth to the Sun or even the rotation of the planet on its axis. Rather, it is the tilt of the Earth that determines the climate. When it is at perihelion in January, the Earth is tilted away from the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere, and the sunlight is not "getting a direct hit" on the Earth's atmosphere. However, when it is at aphelion in July, the Earth is tilted toward the Sun.

Today's high temperature at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford was 81 degrees at 11:25 a.m., and the low temperature was 66 degrees for a 74-degree average. That's exactly normal for the date. So, even though it was a good day for the beach or pool, the Earth was actually at its farthest point from the Sun in its annual orbit.