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Are we getting closer to the sun?

You may wonder, “are we are getting closer to the sun?” There are a few ways to answer this question, but we are not getting closer to the sun in the way you might think. In fact, the opposite is true of our home: planet Earth is very slowly moving away from the sun.

The planets exist within a balanced system with other planets and our sun. Generally, our own planet, as well as the other planets, have stayed in the same place for billions of years. As the planets in our solar system move, the sun uses its gravity to pull the planets towards it. The gravity from the sun causes our planet to move in a curved, elliptical path. Thankfully, the planets are moving fast enough so that they are not pulled into the sun, which would destroy Earth. On the other hand, we are also not moving quickly enough to escape the sun’s pull. If we moved faster, our planet might drift away from the sun. This would be devastating since we rely on the sun to support life on our planet.

Since our planet orbits the sun in an elliptical path, not a circular one, there are points in the Earth’s orbit where we are closer to the sun and positions where we are further from the sun. However, this process of passing close to the sun and then getting far away from it is a pattern that repeats itself every year.

We are not getting closer to the sun, but scientists have shown that the distance between the sun and the Earth is changing. The sun shines by burning its own fuel, which causes it to slowly lose power, mass, and gravity. The sun’s weaker gravity as it loses mass causes the Earth to slowly move away from it. The movement away from the sun is microscopic (about 15 cm each year). Some scientists also believe that Earth’s tides could additionally contribute to the Earth moving away from the sun. Tides may cause the Earth to work against, or push against, the gravity of the sun. The sun’s rotation may be slowing, partly in consequence to the Earth’s resistance and due to its lose of mass from burning its own fuel. The rate at which the sun is slowing is also tiny (around 3 milliseconds every 100 years). As the sun loses its momentum and mass, the Earth can slowly slip away from the sun’s pull.

Our planet is assuredly not growing closer to the sun in orbit; in fact, our planet is slowly inching away from the sun. 

 

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