Q: I was wondering, how fast does earth have to travel to make it around the sun every year?
A: It feels like we’re sitting still, but it can be dizzying when we consider the speed with which we’re whipping around the sun.
And there is more to consider. Not only are we hurling around the sun, but the solar system is racing around the Milky Way galaxy.
I mean we are booking!
On top of that, Earth, itself, is spinning around.
The speed at which Earth spins depends on where you are. It’s 0 mph at the North Pole and more than 1,000 mph at the equator. Northwest Alabama is at 34 degrees north latitude. I found various sources online that estimate the speed of Los Angeles, which also is at 34 degrees latitude. Those estimates are about 860 mph, so locally we’re spinning about at that rate right now.
Now, as for how fast Earth is zooming around the sun, it’s time to head to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s website (calgary.rasc.ca/). Here’s what it says:
The circumference of Earth’s orbit around the sun is 580 million miles. It takes 365 days to circle the sun (OK, technically 365¼ days, which is why we have Leap Year every four years).
Therefore, Earth is traveling around the sun at 66,629 mph. In one day, we travel about 1.6 million miles of that journey. That’s equal to Mach 90. As they say in those late-night infomercials: but wait, there’s more.
The sun is moving around the galaxy at a mind-ripping 447,000 mph — and dragging us along with it.
Oh, but there’s something else: Scientists have discovered that a thing called Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (electromagnetic radiation that originated from the Big Bang) arrives at Earth from various directions.
They produced a complex calculation that combines the arrival of the radiation and takes into consideration other factors such as the Doppler shift (Earth moving toward some of the radiation and away from others) and came up with a speed that the whole mess is moving.
The final answer: Earth is flying along through the universe at 1.342 million mph. That’s 373 miles per second, so hold on to your hat.
Staff Writer Bernie Delinski writes Just Ask, which runs Wednesdays in the TimesDaily. If you’ve got a question, email it to bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com or call him at 256-740-5739.