Aphelion 2024: When Is Earth Farthest From the Sun?

5th Jul 2024
Aphelion 2024: When Is Earth Farthest From the Sun?

It may sound illogical, but our planet is actually farther from the Sun in summer than in winter. On 5 July, at 06:06 BST, our planet will be the farthest from the Sun-Earth will reach aphelion. 

Aphelion and Perihelion – What Does It Mean?

The Earth orbits the Sun in an elliptical path, not in a circle, which means that there is one point on the path closest to the Sun and one point that is farthest away from the Sun. 

Aphelion – the farthest point from the Sun, from ancient Greek, where “apo” means “far”, and “helios” means the Sun. 

Perihelion is the closest point to the Sun, from the ancient Greek “peri” meaning close. The Earth is closest to the Sun about two weeks after the December solstice – this year, it was 3 January.

Two pictures of the Sun
This composite compares two pictures of the Sun taken with the same telescope and camera on the dates of perihelion and aphelion. The image labels include Earth’s distance from the Sun in kilometres on the two dates. Credit: NASA APOD/Enrique Luque Cervigón

What Does Aphelion Mean For Us?

Seasons are determined by the Earth’s axis tilt, not by its distance from the Sun. The distance between the Earth and the Sun does not cause the seasons, but it does affect their length. The result is that the summer in the Northern Hemisphere is longer, and the winter is shorter than in the Southern Hemisphere. The difference in length is around four days.

During aphelion, the Earth is approximately 5 million kilometres farther from the Sun. As a result, the Sun seems a bit smaller. However, it is not possible to notice without a telescope.

A distant Sun means less sunlight for our planet. “Averaged over the globe, sunlight falling on Earth at aphelion is about 7% less intense than it is at perihelion,” says Roy Spencer, NASA’s Global Hydrology and Climate Center (GHCC).

Why Is it So Warm Outside?

Seasonal weather changes are shaped by the tilt of our planet’s spin axis, not by aphelion or perihelion. During northern summer, the north pole is tilted toward the Sun. The Sun climbs high in the sky, and days are long. That’s what makes July so hot.

Moreover, the average temperature of the whole earth at aphelion is about 2.3oC higher than it is at perihelion. Our planet is warmer when we’re farther from the Sun.

This happens because continents and oceans aren’t distributed evenly around the globe. There’s more land in the northern hemisphere and more water in the south. During July the northern half of our planet is tilted toward the Sun. “Earth’s temperature is slightly higher in July because the Sun is shining down on all that land, which heats up rather easily,” says Spencer. 

Water has a high heat capacity. January is the coolest month because that’s when our planet presents its water-dominated hemisphere to the Sun. The extra sunlight gets spread throughout the oceans.

Aphelion & Astrology

Those who rely on astrology claim that aphelion does not have exceptional significance and its effect on zodiac signs is minimal.

The Sun has a crucial role in sustaining life and shaping the environment on Earth. It is rather surprising that the distance between the Sun and Earth does not affect the seasons on the planet. One of the major reasons for this is that seasons are determined by the Earth’s axis tilt. So, during aphelion, when the Sun is the furthest from our planet, the weather is the warmest. 

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