On January 5, 2020, Earth will be at perihelion—its closest point to the Sun for the year—at 2:48 a.m.; a distance of 91,398,199 miles. We are 3.28 percent closer to the Sun than we will be when the Earth is at aphelion (our farthest point from the Sun) next July 4th. Wait, if we’re close to the Sun in January, why is it so cold?
It may seem strange to learn that, while the Northern hemisphere is undergoing the coldest temperatures of the year, the Earth is actually closest to the Sun than at any other time during the year. Of course, as most of us learned in school, seasons are controlled by the tilt of the Earth’s axis, rather than by its distance from the Sun. We experience summer or winter conditions based on whether our half of the Earth is pointed toward the Sun, or away from it.
Why Does This Happen?
As we all know, the Earth orbits the Sun, a journey that takes 365.2422 days to complete. And that orbit happens to be a near-perfect circle, but not quite. So there is a spot where the Earth swings a bit closer to the Sun and a point where it will be farther away in that orbit.
Will The Sun’s Appear Bigger, Being So Much Closer?
Not really. While this change in relative distance between the nearest and farthest points from the Sun may sound like a lot, the truth is that our overall distance from the Sun is so great that this otherwise large figure amounts to a drop in the vast astronomical bucket of infinite space.