How the Earth Orbits the Sun: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Jones

Michelle has taught at the elementary level and has earned a master's degree.

Have you ever wondered why life was found on Earth and not the other planets? It has a lot to do with our unique orbit around the Sun. This lesson describes this orbit and how it affects us.

Around the Sun We Go!

Don't you just love birthday parties - the presents, the cake, the games, oh my! Well, how would you like to have two birthdays in one year? What? Two parties? How awesome would that be? But, what if there were no seasons? That wouldn't be as great.

If the path of Earth's orbit changed even a little bit, one or both of these things could happen. An orbit is the path an object takes around another object in space. Although the planets in our solar system are very different, they all orbit the Sun. The Sun is the center of our universe because it is the heaviest object in our universe. In fact, the Sun is 300,000 times heavier than the Earth!!

Let's take a look at how the Earth orbits the Sun and how it affects our life on Earth.

The Sun is the center of our solar system.
Picture of the sun

Distance and Speed of Earth's Orbit

''Are we there yet?'' Have you ever heard or said this on a really long car ride? You would have to pack a lot of snacks and games for a trip around the Sun because it is over 584 million miles long and it takes the Earth about 365 days to make this trip. This is why our year is 365 days long. If our orbit was shorter or longer, then our year would be shorter or longer.

If there were space police, the Earth would definitely get a speeding ticket! A car driving on an expressway goes about 67 miles per hour. The Earth goes 1,000 times faster than that at about 67,000 miles per hour!

Shape of Earth's Orbit

We say that the Earth goes around the Sun, but its orbit is not round like a circle. It has an elliptical orbit which is shaped more like an oval. Because of this, Earth is never the same distance from the Sun. Sometimes it is closer, and sometimes it is farther away depending on where it is in the orbit. When it is closer to the Sun, Earth speeds up a little bit, and then it slows down when it is farther away.

This is what an elliptical orbit looks like.
Image of an elliptical orbit

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