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1. Planet at aphelion 2. Planet at perihelion 3. Sun

The perihelion is the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid or comet that is nearest to the sun. It is the opposite of aphelion, which is the point farthest from the sun.

The word perihelion stems from the Greek words "peri," meaning near, and "Helios," meaning the Greek god of the sun. (The similar word, perigee, refers to the nearest point in some object's orbit of earth.)

All planets, comets and asteroids in our solar system have approximately elliptical (a kind of non-circular) orbits. Thus, they all have a closest and a farthest point from the sun: a perihelion and an aphelion. Orbital eccentricity measures the flatness of the orbit. Any single revolution of a body around the sun is only approximately elliptical, because the precession of the perihelion prevents the orbit from being a simple closed curve such as an ellipse. This causes Milankovich cycles.

Earth comes closest to the sun every year around January 3. It is farthest from the sun every year around July 4. The difference in distance between Earth's nearest point to the sun in January and farthest point from the sun in July is 3.1 million miles (5 million kilometers). Earth is about 91.4 million miles (147.1 million kilometers) from the sun in early January, in contrast to about 94.5 million miles (152 million kilometers) in early July.

When Earth is closest to the sun, it is winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern hemisphere. Thus it is possible to see that Earth's distance from the sun does not noticeably cause the seasons to change; the relatively minor effects of differences in distance is somewhat masked by the mainly oceanic southern hemisphere vs the half- continental northern hemisphere. Therefore, the Earth's seasons come and go mainly because Earth does not rotate with its axis exactly upright with respect to the plane of our world’s orbit around the sun. Earth's axial tilt is 23.5 degrees. This puts the Sun farther south in December and January, so the north has winter and the south has summer. Thus winter falls on that part of the globe where sunlight strikes least directly. Summer falls on that part of the globe where sunlight strikes most directly.