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Earth perihelion and aphelion

Currently, the Earth reaches perihelion in early January, approximately 14 days after the December solstice. At perihelion, the Earth's center is about 0.98329 astronomical units (AU) or 147,098,070 km (91,402,500 mi) from the Sun's center. In contrast, the Earth reaches aphelion currently in early July, approximately 14 days after the June solstice. The aphelion distance between the Earth's and Sun's centers is currently about 1.01671 AU or 152,097,700 km (94,509,100 mi).

The dates of perihelion and aphelion change over time due to precession and other orbital factors, which follow cyclical patterns known as Milankovitch cycles. In the short term, such dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.[14] This significant variation is due to the presence of the Moon: while the Earth–Moon barycenter is moving on a stable orbit around the Sun, the position of the Earth's center which is on average about 4,700 kilometres (2,900 mi) from the barycenter, could be shifted in any direction from it—and this affects the timing of the actual closest approach between the Sun's and the Earth's centers (which in turn defines the timing of perihelion in a given year).[15]

Because of the increased distance at aphelion, only 93.55% of the radiation from the Sun falls on a given area of Earth's surface as does at perihelion, but this does not account for the seasons, which result instead from the tilt of Earth's axis of 23.4° away from perpendicular to the plane of Earth's orbit.[16] Indeed, at both perihelion and aphelion it is summer in one hemisphere while it is winter in the other one. Winter falls on the hemisphere where sunlight strikes least directly, and summer falls where sunlight strikes most directly, regardless of the Earth's distance from the Sun.

In the northern hemisphere, summer occurs at the same time as aphelion, when solar radiation is lowest. Despite this, summers in the northern hemisphere are on average 2.3 °C (4 °F) warmer than in the southern hemisphere, because the northern hemisphere contains larger land masses, which are easier to heat than the seas.[17]

Perihelion and aphelion do however have an indirect effect on the seasons: because Earth's orbital speed is minimum at aphelion and maximum at perihelion, the planet

Currently, the Earth reaches perihelion in early January, approximately 14 days after the December solstice. At perihelion, the Earth's center is about 0.98329 astronomical units (AU) or 147,098,070 km (91,402,500 mi) from the Sun's center. In contrast, the Earth reaches aphelion currently in early July, approximately 14 days after the June solstice. The aphelion distance between the Earth's and Sun's centers is currently about 1.01671 AU or 152,097,700 km (94,509,100 mi).

The dates of perihelion and aphelion change over time due to precession and other orbital factors, which follow cyclical patterns known as Milankovitch cycles. In the short term, such dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.[1

The dates of perihelion and aphelion change over time due to precession and other orbital factors, which follow cyclical patterns known as Milankovitch cycles. In the short term, such dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.[14] This significant variation is due to the presence of the Moon: while the Earth–Moon barycenter is moving on a stable orbit around the Sun, the position of the Earth's center which is on average about 4,700 kilometres (2,900 mi) from the barycenter, could be shifted in any direction from it—and this affects the timing of the actual closest approach between the Sun's and the Earth's centers (which in turn defines the timing of perihelion in a given year).[15]

Because of the increased distance at aphelion, only 93.55% of the radiation from the Sun falls on a given area of Earth's surface as does at perihelion, but this does not account for the seasons, which result instead from the tilt of Earth's axis of 23.4° away from perpendicular to the plane of Earth's orbit.[16] Indeed, at both perihelion and aphelion it is summer in one hemisphere while it is winter in the other one. Winter falls on the hemisphere where sunlight strikes least directly, and summer falls where sunlight strikes most directly, regardless of the Earth's distance from the Sun.

In the northern hemisphere, summer occurs at the same time as aphelion, when solar radiation is lowest. Despite this, summers in the northern hemisphere are on average 2.3 °C (4 °F) warmer than in the southern hemisphere, because the northern hemisphere contains larger land masses, which are easier to heat than the seas.[17]

Perihelion and aphelion do however have an indirect effect on the seasons: because Earth's orbital speed is minimum at aphelion and maximum at perihelion, the planet takes longer to orbit from June solstice to September equinox than it does from December solstice to March equinox. Therefore, summers in the northern hemisphere last longer than summers in the southern hemisphere by 92 days versus 89.[18]

Astronomers commonly express the timing of perihelion relative to the First Point of Aries not in terms of days and hours, but rather as an angle of orbital displacement, the so-called longitude of the periapsis (also called longitude of the pericenter). For the orbit of the Earth, this is called the longitude of perihelion, and in 2000 it was about 282.895°; by the year 2010, this had advanced by a small fraction of a degree to about 283.067°.[19]

For the orbit of the Earth around the Sun, the time of apsis is often expressed in terms of a time relative to seasons, since this determines the contribution of the elliptical orbit to seasonal variations. The variation of the seasons is primarily controlled by the annual cycle of the elevation angle of the Sun, which is a result of the tilt of the axis of the Earth measured from the plane of the ecliptic. The Earth's eccentricity and other orbital elements are not constant, but vary slowly due to the perturbing effects of the planets and other objects in the solar system (Milankovitch cycles).

On a very long time scale, the dates of the perihelion and of the aphelion progress through the seasons, and they make one complete cycle in 22,000 to 26,000 years. There is a corresponding movement of the position of the stars as seen from Earth that is called the apsidal precession. (This is closely related to the precession of the axes.) The dates and times of the perihelions and aphelions for several past and future years are listed in the following table:[20]

The following table shows the distances of the planets and dwarf planets from the Sun at their perihelion and aphelion.[21]

Type of body Body Distance from Sun at perihelion Distance from Sun at aphelion
Planet Mercury 46,001,009 km (28,583,702 mi) 69,817,445 km (43,382,549 mi)
Venus 107,476,170 km (66,782,600 mi) 108,942,780 km (67,693,910 mi)
Earth 147,098,291 km (91,402,640 mi) 152,098,233 km (94,509,460 mi)
Mars 206,655,215 km (128,409,597 mi) 249,232,432 km (154,865,853 mi)
Jupiter 740,679,835 km (460,237,112 mi) 816,001,807 km (507,040,016 mi)
Saturn 1,349,823,615 km (838,741,509 mi) 1,503,509,229 km (934,237,322 mi)
Uranus 2,734,998,229 km (1.699449110×109 mi) 3,006,318,143 km (1.868039489×109 mi)
Neptune 4,459,753,056 km (2.771162073×109 mi) 4,537,039,826 km (2.819185846×109 mi)
Dwarf planet Ceres 380,951,528 km (236,712,305 mi) 446,428,973 km (277,398,103 mi)
Pluto 4,436,756,954 km (2.756872958×109 mi) 7,376,124,302 km (4.583311152×109 mi)
Haumea 5,157,623,774 km (3.204798834×109 mi) 7,706,399,149 km (4.788534427×109 mi)
These formulae characterize the pericenter and apocenter of an orbit:

Pericenter
Maximum speed, , at minimum (pericenter) distance, .
Apocenter
Minimum speed,