By Ray Petelin

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When you are roasting a marshmallow on the fire, the closer you get to the fire with the marshmallow, the more the marshmallow gets cooked.

The Sun, the hot star in the middle of our solar system has a much different relationship with Earth, though.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

We all know that the Sun is the center of our solar system, and the planets revolve around it.

It takes the Earth one year to make its trip around the sun, but did you know that the Earth’s path around the sun is NOT a circle?

During the year, the Earth takes an Elliptical path around the sun.

That means it is more of an elongated, oval shape.

Since that is the case, there are times when the Earth and sun are farther apart, and other times when they are closer together.

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When the Earth is closest to the sun, the distance between the two is 91.6 million miles.

When the Earth and sun are at their greatest distance apart, they are 94.8 million miles away from each other.

That is a variation of more than 3 million miles!

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Today is one of those days!

Being that it is Summer Time, which one is it?

Are we our closest to the Sun or the farthest from it?

If you said we are at our closest point to the sun you would be WRONG!

Today is the day the Earth and Sun are at their greatest distance apart, even though it is the hottest time of the year.

This is called the APHELION, and it happens in early July, every year.

Distance, though, is not the big, determining factor of our summer heating.

It is the tilt of the Earth on that path around the sun determines how warm we get.

This is the time of year the Earth’s tilt is toward the sun, allowing us to warm up more efficiently.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

In the winter, we are tilted away, making for our coldest time of year, even though the Earth and Sun are at their shortest distance apart.

That is called the PERIHELION, and it occurs in early January every year.

So, happy aphelion and happy Independence Day!