Don’t you just hate perihelion?

By Phil Plait | January 2, 2008 6:00 pm

If you can guess what line I twisted for the title, and from what movie, you win nothing.

But either way, you do win a front row seat to the Sun! The Earth arrived at perihelion on January 3 at midnight Universal Time (it probably wasn’t exactly at midnight, but that’s the accuracy listed at the US Naval Observatory website), which was an hour ago as I post this. Perihelion is when the Earth is closest to the Sun on its elliptical orbit (which only marginally affects the seasons).

The distance to the Sun at perihelion is about 147 million kilometers, and at aphelion — the farthest distance, duh — is about 5 million km farther out. You won’t notice the giant Sun looming down on us, of course, since the change in distance is pretty small, so the size of the Sun only changes about 3% over six months.

No eggs will stand on end, no forces vast and mysterious will reverse themselves, and no prophecies will finally come to fruition. Perihelion is just something cool, and now you know we’re there.

By the way, I would have posted this earlier today, but sometimes even astronomers get confused over the whole "midnight in England is earlier on the day before here in the US" thing.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff

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