I was just watching a Geoff Marcy talk on YouTube showing how they infer the presence of planets transiting distant stars. The supposed periodicity wasn't always quite regular from what I could see, and so I wondered if there might be something tugging at the planets as they orbit their star. Then I thought of the earth: Surely there are some years when we are aligned with Jupiter so much so that it would exert some sort of perceptible influence on the planet, thus lengthening the year, even if only by some hours or days, considering that the sun is much more massive. And what would happen every few thousand (?) million (?) years when all the planets and even some of the larger asteroids, Kuiper Belt Objects - everything but the kitchen sink - come into alignment? Wouldn't the earth be drawn outwards to some extent, thus making a year perhaps 370 days long (or whatever)? And maybe temperatures would drop with the planet a fraction of an AU farther from the sun? I know that this is a website for the already enlightened, but I would appreciate an answer that even Josephine Bloggs would understand.


Derived from this paper the interval between March equinoxes for 1989/1990 has been 4 minutes 28 seconds longer than the corresponding interval for 1987/1988.

So the length of a year can vary several minutes, e.g. by gravitational effects of other planets. For calendars a mean year is used. Atomic clocks run far more precise than the more or less periodic motion of Earth.

All planets aligned don't cause anything grave. A similar kind of sysygy has been 1982.

| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Is this not because of the equinox precession? $\endgroup$ – Py-ser Apr 1 '14 at 3:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Py-ser Precession adds a 20 minutes 24.5 seconds difference between sidereal and tropical year: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidereal_year. To make things even more complicated there is also a nutation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutation $\endgroup$ – Gerald Apr 1 '14 at 11:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.