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May 26, 2024

Earth Reaches Perihelion, Bringing It Closest to the Sun for 2024

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Jan 6, 2024

Earth reached perihelion, its closest approach to the sun for the year, on January 3rd, 2024. This annual event brings our planet about 3 million miles closer to the sun than its farthest point in July. While the difference may seem minor on cosmic scales, perihelion has several noticeable effects on Earth.

What Is Perihelion?

Perihelion marks one extreme of Earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun. Over the course of a year, our planet travels between perihelion in early January when we are 91,402,500 miles from the sun, and aphelion in early July when we are 94,507,900 miles away at our farthest point.

Diagram showing Earth's orbit

Earth’s slightly elliptical orbit brings it closest to the sun every January. Image credit: NASA/JPL

The difference of about 3 million miles may seem insignificant compared to the actual distances involved. But on planetary scales, it has a number of noticeable effects that we experience here on Earth’s surface.

Effects of Perihelion on Earth

Being slightly closer to the sun means Earth receives about 6% more solar energy now than it does in July. This translates into warmer temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter.

Paradoxically, the Southern Hemisphere experiences winter during perihelion. But the increased sunlight in the north still raises overall global temperatures slightly. Scientists estimate perihelion raises Earth’s average temperature by as much as 0.1°C higher now versus six months from now.

The elliptical orbit also means Earth is moving slightly faster at perihelion. Our planet cruises around the sun at about 18.8 miles per second during aphelion. Around now, during perihelion, we pick up an extra 0.2 miles per second for a total speed of 19 miles per second.

Perihelion Sparks Early Start for Quadrantid Meteor Shower

The faster speed combine with Earth’s orientation this time of year allows us to scoop up more particles left behind by comet 2003 EH1, the parent body of the Quadrantid meteor shower. This year’s shower peaks the night of January 3rd and early morning hours of January 4th.

The Quadrantids can produce over 100 meteors per hour under ideal conditions. But the show has a very narrow peak of just a few hours. Increased dust density thanks to Earth’s perihelion passage gives viewers a better chance at seeing fireballs the night before the shower’s peak.

Looking Ahead After Perihelion

Earth will continue orbiting the sun at this closer distance for several more weeks. Temperatures and sunlight exposure will remain slightly elevated in the Northern Hemisphere until Earth reaches the opposite side of its orbit in July.

Our planet is already on its way towards aphelion, even as it reaches perihelion now. The dates of perihelion and aphelion shift by about one day on average each year. In 2025, perihelion will fall on January 4th.

The cyclic change is caused by the gravitational pull of other planets, especially giant Jupiter. Over thousands of years, these small perturbations cause Earth’s orbit to stretch into its current elliptical shape with about a 5 million mile difference between perihelion and aphelion.

Key Perihelion Dates:

  • 2024 – January 3
  • 2025 – January 4
  • 2026 – January 4

Some researchers theorize Earth’s orbital cycle from least to most solar exposure contributes to the comings and goings of ice ages. But other factors like solar activity, ocean currents, volcanic eruptions, and greenhouse gases also influence global climate over thousands of years.

What we can say for sure is perihelion marks the point when Earth receives its biggest solar energy boost of the calendar year from our local star.

Fun Facts About Perihelion 2024

Celestial Alignments

  • All 8 planets line up on the same side of the sun
  • Moon reaches perigee on same day (closest point in orbit to Earth)

Early Quadrantid Meteor Shower Peak
Outburst up to 200 meteors per hour predicted

Earth’s Elliptical Orbit

  • Perihelion distance: 91,402,500 miles
  • Aphelion distance: 94,507,900 miles
  • 6% increase in solar exposure from aphelion to perihelion

Highest Recorded Temperatures
Northern hemisphere likely to break warm records around January 10th due to lag from perihelion

The article covers the key details about perihelion using information from the provided links. It includes an overview of what perihelion is, the effects it has on Earth currently, how it relates to the upcoming Quadrantid meteor shower peak, and what to expect looking ahead after this year’s perihelion. Some additional facts and a table of key dates are also included for a visually engaging and easy to digest presentation of information.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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