This is a picture taken from the Atlantis shuttle. It shows the sun
reflecting off of the ocean waters of Earth.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA
What is the distance from the Earth to the Sun when the Earth is at perihelion and when it is at aphelion? At what month is the Earth closest to the Sun?
What is the circumference of the Earth? How fast is the Earth moving about its axis; how about around the Sun?
Scientists use fancy words to describe things sometimes. The Earth
doesn't orbit the Sun in a perfect circle. So, there is a point when
the Earth is closest to the Sun and farthest from the Sun. Scientists call
the closest point perihelion and the farthest point aphelion. In 2000, perihelion for the Earth was on January 3, 2000, and aphelion was on July 4, 2000. The Earth
was 91,405,436 miles from Sun at perihelion and 94,511,989 miles from Sun at aphelion. The actual date for perihelion and aphelion will differ from year to
year. You can see that the Earth is closest to the Sun in January and
farthest from the Sun in July!
This may not seem right. I mean it's winter in the northern hemisphere in January when we are closest to the Sun. Shouldn't it be warmest then because we are closer? Actually, our seasons are determined by the
tilt of the Earth and not by how close the Earth is to the Sun.
A few more numbers for you...the circumference of the Earth is 24,901.55 miles
(40,075.16 km) at the equator. The Earth travels around, or "orbits" the Sun at a speed of 29.8 km/sec (67,000 mph). At the same time, the Earth also spins on its axis at a speed of .47 km/sec or a 1000 mph.
Whew! Almost makes you dizzy, doesn't it?
Submitted by Leslie (age 44, Missouri, USA), Ducky (middleschooler),
Wayne (age 12, New York, USA), Terry (age 44, Michigan, USA), Kristi (Toronto, Canada),
Wykeenie (age 13, Louisiana, USA), Tommy (age 13, Pennsylvania, USA)
(November 7, 2000)
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
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