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What Is The Viral Social Media Claim Regarding 'Aphelion Phenomenon'? Can Aphelion Really Affect Your Health?

Aphelion is the point in an object's orbit where it is the furthest from the sun. During perihelion, an object is closest to the sun in its orbit. Aphelion is derived from the Greek words apo, meaning away, off, apart and Helios, meaning sun.

Around 3rd July, the Earth's orbit reaches its aphelion when it is 94.5 million miles or 152.1 million kilometres from the sun. In accordance with the Gregorian calendar, it may be a day or two earlier or later than expected. In 2022, the day falls on the 4th of July.

What Is The Aphelion Phenomenon?

According to geophysicist Chris Vaughan, who oversees Space.com's Night Sky calendar, Earth will be 94.51 million miles (152.1 million kilometres) from the sun at aphelion [1].

The Earth will be 1.67 per cent farther from the sun than the mean separation between Earth and the sun, also known as an astronomical unit. This is because one astronomical unit has 92.96 million miles (149.6 million kilometres).

The distance between the Sun and Earth is at its farthest or closest on two days of the year.

Despite the long-held belief that the Earth orbits the Sun in a circular orbit, Johannes Kepler, a German astronomer, discovered the unique elliptical orbit only in the 17th century. Due to the unique orbit, Earth is at the farthest or closest point in its revolution around the Sun.

Does The Aphelion Phenomenon Affect Our Health?

There have been claims that "The "aphelion phenomenon" in 2022 will bring abnormally cold weather, more sickness, and another wave of COVID-19."

A social media post warning users about the 'aphelion phenomenon', which can be described as a drop in global temperatures to below normal levels by the end of August, is going viral [2].

According to the post, "From 23rd June till 22nd August this year, it will be colder than previous years. They call it the Aphelion phenomenon starting from tomorrow @ 05.22, we will experience the Aphelion phenomenon where the Earth will be very far from the sun. We cannot see the phenomenon, but we can feel its impact. This will last until August 2022, we will experience cold weather which will impact flu, cough, shortness of breath etc. Therefore, let's all increase immunity by drinking lots of vitamins or supplements so that our immunity will be strong. The distance from Earth to Sun is 5 light minutes of 90,000,000km. The phenomenon of Aphelion to 152, 000,000 km 66 per cent further. Protect your body from cold, wear warm clothes, drink vitamins & supplements to boost your immunity."

The circulation of information concerning the relationship between coughs and colds and the aphelion phenomenon has raised concerns [3].

However, experts have debunked the claim and pointed out that based on the comparison of the tilt of the earth's rotational axis with the 23-degree plane of the orbit, which causes seasonal differences between the northern and southern hemispheres, the effects of aphelion and perihelion on the weather on earth are virtually negligible [4].

"The extreme weather that can have an impact on health such as the appearance of cough and cold symptoms is unlikely to be caused by the two positions of the earth from the sun," according to Prof Husin Alatas, Executive Secretary of the Center for Transdisciplinary and Sustainability Sciences at IPB University [5].

So, no, the aphelion phenomenon does not affect your health.

Fact-Checkers On The Aphelion Phenomenon

The reports by fact-checkers and experts point out that a number of facts about aphelion have been misrepresented in the social media message. For example, the website claims that the distance between the Earth and the sun is five light minutes or 90,000,000 kilometres. However, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, estimates that the Earth is approximately 150 million kilometres from the sun [6].

This is approximately how far light can travel through a vacuum in eight minutes, referred to as eight 'light minutes'. The distance is much greater than that claimed in the viral message.

The message also asserts that Earth moves up to 152 million kilometres away from the sun during aphelion, or "66 per cent further". However, several aspects of this statement are incorrect as well.

There would be a 69 per cent increase in distance from 90 million to 152 million kilometres. There is, however, only a 3.3 per cent increase in the distance between the earth's aphelion and perihelion from the sun, which is the difference between 152.1 million and 147.3 million kilometres.

According to the report by Steven C. Rockport, Aphelion does affect our weather, but not in the manner that many would expect [7].

On A Final Note...

There are more large land masses in the northern hemisphere than in the southern hemisphere, which results in both warmer summers and colder winters. These factors influence weather patterns, not the distance between the Earth and the sun.

The claim that temperatures will be lower than normal due to the aphelion phenomenon is false. Duration is one of how aphelion influences our weather and nothing else.

Story first published: Monday, July 4, 2022, 14:46 [IST]
Read more about: aphelion cold weather covid
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