How far is the Earth from the Sun?

The sun is at the heart of the solar system. All of the bodies in the solar system — planets, asteroids, comets, etc. — revolve around it. The distance from Earth to the sun is called an astronomical unit, or AU, which is used to measure distances throughout the solar system. The AU has been defined as 149,597,870,700 meters (92,955,807 miles).

Astronomers use the AU for measuring distances throughout the solar system. Jupiter, for example, is 5.2 AU from the sun. Neptune is 30.07 AU from the sun. On the outer edges of the solar system, the Oort Cloud, where comets are thought to originate, is 100,000 AU from the sun. The distance to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 250,000 AU. However, to measure longer distances, astronomers use light-years, or the distance that light travels in a single Earth year, which is equal to 63,239 AU. So Proxima Centauri is about 4.2 light-years away.

The AU is the average distance from the Earth to the sun. Earth makes a complete revolution around the sun every 365.25 days ­— one year. However, Earth’s orbit is not a perfect circle; it is shaped more like an oval, or an ellipse. Over the course of a year, Earth moves sometimes closer to the sun and sometimes farther away from the sun. Earth’s closest approach to the sun, called perihelion, comes in early January and is about 91 million miles (146 million km). The farthest from the sun Earth gets is called aphelion. It comes in early July and is about 94.5 million miles (152 million km).

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