"Earth Closest to the Sun This Week, Mercury at its Best Evening Appearance, and; Jupiter at its Closest and Brightest for the Entire Year!"

Scheduled air date: 2001 Dec 31-2002 Jan 06

As with all of the planets in the solar system, the Earth has an elliptical ("flattened" circle) orbit with the Sun slightly off-center. 
The Earth is at perihelion—the part of its orbit closest to the Sun—during the first week of January.

(Seasonal references are for the Northern Hemisphere, and would be opposite for the Southern Hemisphere.)

The planet Mercury makes a rare appearance in the evening sky during the first few weeks of January.
(Shown about half an hour after sunset for mid-Northern latitudes.)

The giant planet Jupiter is currently at opposition—directly opposite the Sun as seen from Earth—and so appears at its largest and brightest.
(Shown about an hour after sunset this week for mid-Northern latitudes.)

If you wish to view illustrations for other episodes, please see our Star Gazer Illustrated directory.

Illustrations on this page were created using TheSky Astronomy Software, an advanced desktop planetarium program designed for Windows.

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