Q:

What is the shape of Earth's orbit?

A:

Quick Answer

The shape of Earth's orbit is an ellipse, which resembles a stretched circle. Earth's orbit lies on the plane of the ecliptic, an imaginary plane in which the sun and the planets move. Earth revolves around the sun in a period of 365 days.

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Full Answer

Earth orbits the sun partly because of its own motion and partly because of the sun's gravity. The formation of the solar system was so forceful it shot Earth out on a path that it would still be traveling on if not for the gravity of the sun. The sun's gravity acts like a giant string and keeps Earth on its elliptical orbit.

Earth does not always orbit the sun at the same distance. Perihelion is the spot where Earth is closest to the sun; aphelion is the place where Earth is farthest from the sun. At aphelion, Earth is approximately 156 million kilometers away; at perihelion, Earth is about 146 million kilometers away from the sun.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    How long does it take the Earth to complete an orbit around the Sun?

    A:

    It takes roughly 365 days, or 1 year, for the Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun. Although it is an elliptical orbit, it is almost circular, so there is only a slight difference between the closest and farthest points from the Sun throughout the orbit. The two-dimensional plane occupied by the Earth's orbit is called the ecliptic.

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  • Q:

    How far is Saturn from the sun in miles?

    A:

    While the distance between Saturn and the sun varies depending on Saturn's location along its orbit, it averages a distance of 886 million miles from the sun. Saturn is 838 million miles from the sun at the closest point in its orbit and 938 million miles away at its farthest.

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  • Q:

    How many artificial satellites orbit Earth?

    A:

    As of July, 2014, there are 1,235 active artificial satellites currently in orbit around the Earth. The only natural satellite that orbits Earth is the moon.

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  • Q:

    What are the requirements to be classified as a planet?

    A:

    In 2006, the International Astronomical Union defined a planet as a body that is in orbit around the sun, has enough mass to establish a round shape, and has cleared other debris from the neighborhood of its orbit. This ruling famously resulted in the demotion of Pluto to dwarf planet status, since Pluto did not have the gravitational influence to clear other bodies from its orbital path.

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