Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year ... and Happy Perihelion!

"Peri--what?!?" you ask? Why, perihelion, of course! We all know that calendrical events, such as the beginning of the new year, are entirely arbitrary -- artifacts of human culture. So why not celebrate something astronomically significant -- like the moment in time (such a brief moment) when the Earth is as close to the sun as it will be for the entire year?

Perihelion (also referred to as one of the apsides of Earth's elliptical orbit - its periapsis) is the name for that moment (Greek "peri" for close, and "helios" for the sun). It happened earlier today at 20:00 Universal Coordinated Time, or at 3pm Eastern Standard Time.

Did you have a happy perihelion? I know I did.

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