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Apollo Sunset

By: Anthony Ayiomamitis

 

Region: Europe

Site: Naxos - Greece

Date: 2008 June 28

As seen on Astronomy Picture of the Day Only few days from aphelion of the sun, this photograph is made from the Greek island of Naxos to catch the setting (aphelion) sun against the Portara, the primary remnant of the unfinished Temple of Apollo. As described by the photographer "A common misconception is that the sun is larger when it is near the horizon than when it is high overhead. However, this optical illusion is not true, for the apparent size of the sun is virtually the same when it is rising or setting near the horizon or when viewed overhead. This illusion has been wrongly attributed to landmarks near the horizon, such as homes and trees, supposedly giving a sense of perspective and whereas the same perspective is lost when looking at the overhead sun bathed in an empty sky. The real reason behind this trick by our brain is the perception of the sun (or moon) being against a close or distant foreground. However, if we were approach the apparent size of the sun methodically by studying it during perihelion and aphelion, we can detect a small change using photographic equipment thanks to the elliptical orbit of our planet around the sun which leads to variations in distance (and apparent size) of the order of about 3.4%. More specifically, at perihelion each January, earth is approximately 147 million km away from sun whose apparent diameter is about 32.53' whereas, at aphelion each July, earth is approximately 152 million km away and the sun is characterized with an apparent diameter of about 31.46'. This difference of 5 million km between perihelion and aphelion leads to the slight change in the apparent diameter of the sun". Anthony Ayiomamitis/Perseus.gr.

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