Look up: the sun is smaller than usual

These days the sun seems smaller than usual. See why and how to diagnose this peculiar phenomenon.

These days the sun seems smaller than usual. See why and how to diagnose this peculiar phenomenon.

Early July is the time of year when the Earth reaches its greatest distance from the Sun in its orbit. These days the distance is close to 152 million kilometers. It’s called a solstice and the sun is now 5 million kilometers further away than in January, when the distance is smallest. It’s called sunshine.

Due to the slightly greater distance, the sun appears slightly smaller now than in January. The distance difference is only about 3.3%, so of course the difference in size is only very small, in fact so small that it is not visible to the naked eye. But if you compare pictures of the sun, taken in January and July, the difference becomes clear.

Although the sun is a full 5 million kilometers further away now than in January, the sunshine is much warmer. This is because the Earth’s axis is tilted in proportion to its orbit, which in turn causes the Northern Hemisphere to face the Sun more than it did during the winter. From our point of view, the sun rises higher in the sky and more of its heat reaches us.

The Earth’s orbit is not circular

The Earth’s orbit around the Sun is elliptical, and the almond is slightly diagonal, relative to the orbit. This causes both seasons and certain changes at certain times of the year.

1. The outermost points of the track

When the earth is at that point in its orbit, where it is closest to the sun, it is in so-called near-solstice. At its farthest point we say it is in the ecliptic.

2. Equinoxes

When the almond of the earth forms an exact right angle to the direction of the sun, there are equinoxes. Then day and night are of equal length.

3. Solstice

At the winter solstice, the globe of the earth rotates so that the northern hemisphere has turned a considerable distance from the sun, and this is the shortest day of the year and also the longest night. The summer solstice, or solstice, is the longest day of the year and the shortest night.  In the southern hemisphere, of course, this is the other way around.

See the difference

In the image taken in July (right), the sun appears clearly smaller than in the image taken in January (left).

  • The solstice occurs this year on July 6 near sunset. The best chance to see the sun exactly at the right time is up on one of the mountains in the North.
  • When the sun comes down to the horizon, it does not shine as brightly as during the day, but nevertheless you should wear dark glasses and do not look directly at it except for a moment to avoid the risk of damaging your vision.
  • If you’re lucky, you might spot a flash of green light as the sun disappears into the ocean. Like the red color, this is caused by the vaporosphere deflecting the last rays of the sun for the day.

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