The weather on our planet has seemingly changed in recent years, with more and more calls from people wanting us to move towards a greener and more sustainable planet. And with climate change and global warming being on pretty much everyone’s agenda over the past decade, it only makes sense that people question our planet’s distance from the Sun.
So, are we getting closer to the Sun, and is that having an effect on the climate of our planet? I’m going to look through this quickly to see if this is or isn’t the case.
Is the Earth getting closer to the Sun?
The truth is that the distance between the Sun and the Earth changes a lot, but generally, the Earth isn’t actually getting any closer to the Sun. In fact, we’re actually moving away from the Sun, albeit in an extremely slow and gradual motion that isn’t going to have any dramatic effect on us living on Earth right now.
There are two different major factors that make the Earth move away from the Sun very slowly. The first and easiest to understand comes from the fact that the Sun is actually shrinking over the course of time. This is primarily because the Sun is using its mass as energy, which means that it’s reducing in overall mass by a tiny percentage over time.
We know that the Sun will eventually die any in billions of years, so it’s not as surprise that the Sun will likely shrink before this happens. And as the Sun shrinks, its gravitational pull on the Earth becomes less and less – meaning that we’ll slowly start to drift away from it.
So, although relative to the Sun it’s only losing a fraction of its mass yearly, it actually will make a difference over the course of time. It’s estimated that the Sun actually loses around 4 million tons of mass per second due to this fusion, which sounds a lot (but like I said, relatively to its size it’s barely anything). However, this isn’t the only factor at play that means our planet is moving away from the Sun.
We also have to consider the tidal effect that the Earth has on the Sun, as we’re very slowly making the Sun rotate slower too, which in turn means that we ever so slightly drift away from it. As the Earth pushes back against the gravitational pull of the Sun, it slowly slips away from its pull – this is also only a minuscule amount, as it’s estimated that we’ve only move 32 milliseconds from the Sun over the past thousand years. But, it does still meaning that we’re moving further away from the Sun, not closer.
How far will the Earth go from the Sun?
So with all this said, it makes sense that the Earth will continue to drift away from the Sun, right? Well yes, but so slowly in fact that before it gets any significant distance away from the center of our solar system, we’ll likely collide with it first.
This won’t be for billions of years, but in time, the Earth will likely be pulled into the Sun’s orbit and smash into it. You can check here for more facts about the Sun for kids like this. The Earth’s orbit does change over time, and depending on exactly where it is in its orbit, this will have a big effect on the way that the Earth moves.
However, the average distance actually has remained the same for millions of years – sometimes, it’s only when looking at changes over billions of years of time that we can see the difference.
Because the Earth doesn’t actually rotate around the Sun in a perfect circular pattern, it’s thought that its distance from the Sun has a massive effect of the weather on Earth. And whilst this is true, the Earth has followed the same orbital pattern around the Sun for years – the distances between Earth at its closest to the Sun and its furthest remain the same (or very much similar, at least).
However, due to the tidal effect and the energy that the Sun consumes, we’re actually very slowly moving away from the Sun; not towards it.