On Monday (July 4), Earth celebrates Independence Day by getting as far away from the sun as possible — reaching what astronomers call aphelion at 3 am EDT (0700 GMT).
At aphelion, Earth will be 94.51 million miles (152.1 million kilometers) away from the sun, states geophysicist Chris Vaughan, an amateur astronomer with SkySafari Software who oversees Space.com’s Night Sky calendar.
Earth will be 1.67% farther from the sun than the mean Earth-sun separation, also known as an astronomical unit. (One astronomical unit is equivalent to 92.96 million miles (149.6 million km)).
Related: The brightest planets in July’s night sky: How to see them (and when)
It can be difficult to imagine Earth so far away from the sun on a hot summer’s day, but “seasonal temperature variations arise from the varying direction of Earth’s axial tilt, as opposed to our distance from the sun,” Vaughan wrote. The angle of the tilt affects whether the sun’s rays strike Earth at a low angle or more directly.
Earth will be closest to the sun — a moment dubbed perihelion — on January 4, 2023, when it will be 91.4 million miles (147.1 million km) away from the sun according to timeanddate (opens in new tab).
Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle which is why we experience aphelion and perihelion. The degree to which our planet’s orbit diverges from a perfect circle is known as its eccentricity. Out of all the planets in the solar system, Venus has the most circular orbit. The planet ranges between just 66 million miles (107 million km) and 68 million miles (109 million km) from the sun, according to Universe Today (opens in new tab).
NEVER look at the sun with binoculars, a telescope or your unaided eye without special protection. Astrophotographers and astronomers use special filters to safely observe the sun. Here’s our guide on how to observe the sun safely.
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