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Earth to be farthest from sun Friday, but don't expect cool temps

Published July 4, 2013 9:39 am

Solar system • But the distance won't bring relief from heat.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

On Friday morning, the Earth will be at the farthest point from the sun on its annual orbit — but don't expect a break from the heat wave.

While our planet will be at the point called aphelion at 9 a.m. Friday, the distance from the sun doesn't affect temperature much, said Patrick Wiggins, NASA/JPL solar system ambassador to Utah. In fact, the Earth was closest to the Sun in frigid January.

On Friday, Earth will be about 91,400,000 miles away from the sun — 3 million miles farther than in January, according to NASA's SpacePlace.

Instead, what impacts Earth's temperatures, and creates the seasons, is the tilt of the planet on its axis. During this time of year, the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, which puts it higher in the sky and keeps it in the sky for much longer — 15 hours per day now compared to nine hours in January, Wiggins said.

Scientists believe the Earth once sat straight up on its axis, but was hit by a large object called Theia when the planet was still young and knocked it askew. Scientists also believe that impact created a large amount of rubble, which eventually orbited the Earth and became the moon, according to SpacePlace.

smcfarland@sltrib.com

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