Home > Sun & Moon > Perihelion, Aphelion and the Solstices

Perihelion, Aphelion and the Solstices

The Earth is closest to the Sun – at its Perihelion – about two weeks after the December Solstice and farthest from the Sun – at its Aphelion – about two weeks after the June Solstice.

Illustration image

Earth's orbit around the Sun changes.

Earth is farthest from the Sun on its orbit when it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere

Changing Elliptical Orbit

Earth orbits the Sun in an elliptical path, which means that there is one point of the path when the Sun is at its closest to the Earth and one point when it is furthest away.

Orbit Changes Shape

The shape of this path varies due to gravitational influences of other planetary objects, particularly the Moon.

Approximately every 100,000 years, Earth's orbital path changes from being nearly circular to elliptical. The difference of the Earth’s orbital shape from a perfect circle is known as its eccentricity. An eccentricity value of 0 is a circular orbit, while values between 0 and 1 describe an elliptical orbit.

Aphelion in New York, New York, USA was on
Monday, July 4, 2016 at 12:24 PM EDT (Change city)

Distance from the Sun's center to Earth's center was 152,103,775 km (94,512,904 mi)

YearPerihelionDistanceAphelionDistance
2016January 2, 2016 5:48 PM91,403,812 miJuly 4, 2016 12:24 PM94,512,904 mi
2017January 4, 2017 9:17 AM91,404,322 miJuly 3, 2017 4:11 PM94,505,901 mi
2018January 3, 2018 12:34 AM91,401,983 miJuly 6, 2018 12:46 PM94,507,803 mi
2019January 3, 2019 12:19 AM91,403,554 miJuly 4, 2019 6:10 PM94,513,221 mi
2020January 5, 2020 2:47 AM91,398,199 miJuly 4, 2020 7:34 AM94,507,635 mi
* All aphelion/perihelion times are in local New York time.

Earth's Perihelion and Aphelion

The Earth is closest to the Sun, or at the perihelion, about two weeks after the December Solstice, when it is winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Conversely, the Earth is farthest away from the Sun, at the aphelion point, two weeks after the June Solstice, when the Northern Hemisphere is enjoying warm summer months.

Is the Timing a Coincidence?

The dates when Earth reaches the extreme points on its orbit are not fixed because of the variations in its eccentricity. In 1246, the December Solstice was on the same day as the Earth reached its Perihelion. Since then, the Perihelion and Aphelion dates have drifted by a day every 58 years. In the short-term, the dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.

Mathematicians and astronomers estimate that in the year 6430, over 4000 years from now, the timing of the Perihelion and the March Equinox will coincide.

Perigee and Apogee

Like the Earth's orbit around the Sun, the Moon's path around the Earth is elliptical. The point in the Moon's orbit that is closest to the Earth is called the Perigee and the point farthest from the Earth is known as the Apogee. The terms are also sometimes used interchangeably with the Earth's Perihelion and Aphelion.

Did You Know...

...that the words Perihelion and Aphelion come from ancient Greek, where peri means close, apo means far, and helios means the Sun? They are used in astronomy to refer to the closest and farthest points of the orbits of any object revolving around the Sun. Together, they are called apsides - the points of least or greatest distance of a celestial object in orbit around another astronomical body.

Topics: Astronomy, Solstice, Sun, Equinox, Seasons

Astronomical Season Calculator


Advertising

The Science of Seasons

  1. Meteorological vs. Astronomical Seasons
  2. Perihelion, Aphelion & Solstice


Winter & Summer Solstices

  1. What is the June Solstice?
  2. Facts about June Solstice
  3. What is the December Solstice?
  4. Facts about December Solstice
  5. When is the Summer Solstice?
  6. When is the Winter Solstice?
  7. June Solstice Celebrations
  8. December Solstice Celebrations
  9. What Causes Seasons?

Equinox & Solstice Worldwide


Sunrise & Sunset Times


Vernal & Autumnal Equinox

  1. Vernal (Spring) Equinox
  2. Autumnal (Fall) Equinox
  3. March Equinox
  4. 10 Facts: March Equinox
  5. March Equinox Celebrations
  6. September Equinox
  7. 10 Facts: September Equinox
  8. September Equinox Celebrations
  9. Nearly Equal Night & Day

Equinox & Solstice Worldwide

You might also like

Earth is Tilted

When an object the size of Mars crashed into the newly formed planet Earth around 4.5 billion years ago, it knocked it over and left it tilted on an angle. more

A tree changing through the four seasons.

What Causes Seasons?

Seasons occur because the Earth's rotational axis tilts away or towards the Sun during the course of a year. more

December Solstice Facts

10 things you may not know about the December Solstice, the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. more