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Perihelion Point

What happens when the Earth reaches closest to the Sun?

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During the Earth’s orbit around the sun, it reaches a point where the Earth is the closest to the sun. This is called the Perihelion which happens every year near the start of the Gregorian calendar year which usually falls two weeks after the December Solstice. On the contrary, the point of the orbit where the Earth is the farthest is called the Aphelion. The planet usually follows an elliptical orbit instead of a circular orbit around the sun which places the Earth at the Perihelion and the Aphelion points once at every orbit.

The Perihelion Point

The Earth reached its Perihelion this year on January 4, 2022, at 1:52 am EST (0652 GMT). At this point, the Earth was about 3 million miles (5 million kilometers) closer to the sun. However, the weather on Earth is not affected due to the Perihelion as the seasons are affected due to the tilt of the planet’s axis. The only observation due to the Perihelion is that the Earth moves a bit slower in its orbit causing the Northern Hemisphere’s winter to be approximately five days shorter than its summer.

Therefore, even when the Earth is the closest to the sun, the Northern Hemisphere will experience the same amount of cold during the winters. Also, as stated by Walter Petersen, a research physical scientist in the Earth science branch at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, “Even when you take into account that difference in distance between aphelion and perihelion, there’s only about a 7% difference in average global [solar energy] that we receive. And so it doesn’t amount to a great deal in terms of weather”.

Is this due to Global Warming?

The Perihelion is not an effect of global warming and neither does it cause or increase the risk of global warming. It is the elliptical orbit of the Earth around the sun that mainly causes this to happen once every year. This orbital behavior was explained by Johannes Kepler during the 17th century in the second law of planetary motion. Kepler’s law describes the planetary motion along with the orbits of satellites and space stations. Therefore, the Perihelion does not cause any changes in the weather or seasons on the planet.

Read more: discovery of an active magnetic field of an exoplanet

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