According to Johannes Kepler, the planets move in ellipses around the Sun, and what’s important in this is that the Sun doesn’t just occupy the center of the ellipse, but one of two focal points. This makes for a really interesting and lively relationship between the Sun and planets, because an ellipse is like a squashed circle, so that sometimes the Earth is orbiting closer to the Sun than at other times. And! When the Earth is moving further away from the Sun, it’s actually going slower, and that’s where we are right now, as Earth reaches what’s known as its aphelion, its furthest position away from the Sun.
It might seem like a contradiction for us in the Northern Hemisphere that the Earth is moving furthest away from the Sun just we enter our warm Summer season, but so it is ~ we reach aphelion on July 4th this year.
The word aphelion comes from the ancient greek god of the Sun, Helius. Helius lived in a palace that stood on columns of gold and bronze. This afforded him a view of everything along the paths of the planetary orbits, which also meant he was a revealer of secrets. This calls to mind Emily Dickinson, who wrote, Tell all the truth, but tell it slant, success in circuit lies, as if to say, moving in a circuitous or elliptical way around something allows for freedom of becoming.
While we’re moving furthest away from the Sun, we’re also moving more slowly, which conjures images of lazy summer days and star-filled nights.
On Tuesday, June 28, the first New Moon of the Summer occurs, so we can watch for its crescent in the West after sunset all week. When it comes Full two weeks from now, it will be this year’s closest Full Moon, because the Moon also moves in an ellipse around us. So as we drift away, the Moon slips in, and the world goes ‘round.
All the best,
You can hear this episode on Interlochen Public Radio and wherever you listen to podcasts.
The June 28 New Moon culminates as this year’s closest Full Moon in two weeks (July 13), which sets up an interesting contemplation of Earth farthest from the Sun as the Moon comes closest to the Earth. Image above from Sky&Telescope.