Earth Approaching Solar Perihelion in 2024


Earth Approaching Solar Perihelion in 2024

Earth's Closest Encounter with the Sun, "Perihelion," Tomorrow

Tomorrow, at 12:38 AM GMT, the Earth will reach its closest point to the Sun, known as "Perihelion." This event coincides with the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Celestial Dance: Perihelion and Aphelion

With the onset of each new Gregorian year, Earth is on schedule for its "Perihelion," occurring in early January. During this time, Earth reaches its closest distance to the Sun, while around mid-year, specifically in early July, it reaches its farthest point, known as "Aphelion."

The terms "Perihelion" and "Aphelion" were coined by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler, describing the orbital motion of planets, borrowing words from ancient Greek civilization.

In this regard, Engineer Majed Abu Zahra, the head of the Jeddah Astronomical Society, explains that Earth's orbit around the Sun is elliptical, not circular. Consequently, the distance between us and the Sun varies throughout the year. During Perihelion, the Earth is approximately 147,099,586 million kilometers closer to the Sun, compared to its position six months later during Aphelion, at a distance of 152,096,155 million kilometers.

The Impact on Sun's Apparent Size and Brightness

While the difference in distance between January's Perihelion and July's Aphelion is not substantial, it results in the Sun appearing slightly larger and 7% brighter during Perihelion. However, this phenomenon doesn't affect the duration of seasons, as the four seasons are primarily caused by the tilt of Earth's rotational axis, not its proximity to or distance from the Sun.

During winter, the North Pole tilts away from the Sun, while in summer, it tilts towards the Sun. Although the Earth's approach or retreat from the Sun isn't responsible for the occurrence of seasons, it does influence the length of these seasons. When Earth is closer to the Sun, it moves faster in its orbit, about 30.3 kilometers per second, compared to early July. Consequently, winter in the Northern Hemisphere becomes the shortest of the four seasons.

Q&A Section:

Q1: Why does Earth have Perihelion and Aphelion?

A1: Earth experiences Perihelion and Aphelion due to its elliptical orbit around the Sun, with Perihelion being the closest point, and Aphelion being the farthest.

Q2: How does the Earth's distance from the Sun affect the seasons?

A2: The Earth's distance from the Sun doesn't directly cause seasons; instead, it influences the length of seasons. Closer proximity during Perihelion results in a shorter winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

Q3: What is the significance of Johannes Kepler's contribution to astronomy?

A3: Johannes Kepler introduced the terms "Perihelion" and "Aphelion" to describe the planetary orbital motion, contributing significantly to our understanding of celestial mechanics.