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The Earth's Orbit - Windows to the Universe

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The Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific is in our online store, filled with Earth and space science resources.
The Earth with its Sun.
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Aris Multimedia Entertainment, Inc. 1994

The Earth's Orbit

Like all planets in our solar system, the Earth is in an elliptical orbit around our Sun. In Earth's case, its orbit is nearly circular, so that the difference between Earth's farthest point from the Sun and its closest point is very small. Earth's orbit defines a two-dimensional plane which we call the ecliptic.

It takes roughly 365 days for the Earth to go around the Sun once. This means that the Earth is rushing through space around the Sun at a rate of about 67,000 miles per hour! The time it takes for the Earth to go around the Sun one full time is what we call a year.

The combined effect of the Earth's orbital motion and the tilt of its rotation axis result in the seasons.

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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF