How Does Earth Travel Around the Sun?

Most people know that the Earth travels around the Sun. But how does it actually do that? What forces are at work? Let’s take a closer look.

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Earth travels around the sun in an elliptical orbit. This means that Earth is not always the same distance from the sun. As Earth orbits the sun, it goes through two different types of motion- revolution and rotation.

The path of Earth’s orbit

Earth’s orbit is an ellipse, with the Sun at one focus. As Earth orbits the Sun, one complete orbit takes 365.24 days to complete. Earth’s elliptical orbit means that its distance from the Sun varies over the course of a year. Earth is closest to the Sun (known as perihelion) in early January and farthest from the Sun (known as aphelion) in early July.

The speed of Earth’s orbit

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The speed of Earth’s orbit around the sun is about 30 kilometers per second, or 67,000 miles per hour. This is much faster than a car or an airplane. The distance between Earth and the sun is about 150 million kilometers, or 93 million miles.

The distance of Earth from the sun

Earth is about 93 million miles from the sun. But that distance is constantly changing. Earth’s orbit is not perfectly round. It’s more like an oval, or an elliptical shape.

Earth’s orbit around the sun takes 365.26 days to complete. That’s why we have a year! Earth moves faster when it is closer to the sun, and slower when it is farther away.

The tilt of Earth’s axis

The Earth’s axis is an imaginary line that runs through the North and South Poles. The Earth rotates on this axis, making one full turn every day. This daily rotation gives us day and night.

As the Earth revolves around the sun, the tilt of its axis causes our seasons. During summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the North Pole tilts toward the sun. The days are longer, and the sun’s rays hit Earth directly. This makes it warm. In winter, the North Pole tilts away from the sun, and we have shorter days and direct sunlight only part of the day. This makes it cooler.

The shape of Earth’s orbit

Most people think of Earth’s orbit as a perfect circle, but it’s actually more like an oval. We call this shape an ellipse. An ellipse is a squashed circle, and Earth’s orbit is just a bit squashed. It’s flatter at the bottom than it is at the top.

If you could get in a spaceship and fly around the solar system, you would see that all of the planets travel in elliptical orbits around the sun. But why does everything orbit in an ellipse?

The answer has to do with gravity. The force of gravity keeps everything orbiting around the sun. The bigger an object is, the more gravity it has. The sun has more gravity than any other object in our solar system, so everything orbits around it.

Earth’s gravity is also responsible for its elliptical orbit. As Earth orbits around the sun, its gravity pulls on the sun just a little bit. This pull makes the sun move very slightly from its original position. Because Earth is constantly pulling on the sun, our planet’s orbit is not perfectly circular. It’s a little squished.

The length of Earth’s orbit

The length of Earth’s orbit around the sun is 365.24 days. This is the time it takes for Earth to make one complete orbit. This is also the length of a year on Earth.

The direction of Earth’s orbit

The direction of Earth’s orbit around the sun is counterclockwise when viewed from above the North Pole. This is because Earth’s rotation on its axis is also counterclockwise when viewed from above the North Pole.

The seasons on Earth

The Earth’s journey around the Sun actually takes a little longer than one year. It’s actually 365.24 days long. But why the extra quarter day?

It’s because the Earth’s spin around its own axis isn’t exactly 365 days. It’s about 0.002% shorter, which works out to be about 11 minutes shorter. So if the Earth completed one orbit and then lined up exactly with where it started, it would be 11 minutes off from where it “should” be in its orbit (from the standpoint of a person on Earth looking up at the Sun). But since it takes 365.24 days to go completely around the Sun, that 0.002% discrepancy evens out over time, so that one complete orbit plus one spin is 365.24 days in total.

The changing position of the sun in the sky

As the Earth orbits the sun, the position of the sun in the sky appears to change. This is because the Earth is tilted on its axis. The changing position of the sun in the sky is what causes the seasons.

In winter, the sun is low in the sky. This means that there is less daylight and it is colder than in summer when the sun is high in the sky.

The Earth’s orbit around the sun is not a perfect circle. It is an ellipse. This means that sometimes the Earth is closer to the sun (perihelion) and sometimes it is further away (aphelion). This affects how much sunlight we get on Earth and how warm it is.

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