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SCIENCE BEHIND: Earth's closest approach to the Sun

We're about to make our closest approach to the sun for the year.

NORFOLK, Va. — We've made it around the sun one more time, everyone! Yet there's another heliocentric event happening soon after New Year's Day.

'Tis is the season to get a little more cozy, and also a little bit closer... to the sun.

This week marks our closest approach to our nearest star, and it's called the "perihelion."

The word derives from greek with peri meaning "close" and helios meaning "sun."

Earth has an elliptical orbit so we'll reach our farthest point -- aphelion -- in early July. 

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Our orbit actually changes shape over time due to gravitational forces from planets and even the moon. This means that this year's perihelion will be on a different date and time then next year's.

Fun fact: the December solstice and perihelion fell on the same date all the way back in the year 1246!

Variations in orbit are measured on a scale from zero to one and called "eccentricity." Zero means a circle orbit, while one looks more elliptical.

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