The definition of distance is the amount of space between two objects or people. Some distances are very close, like the distance from your eyes to the screen you may be reading this on. Other distances are very far. The distance from the Earth to the Sun, for example, is over 92,960,000 miles away! But… how long is a mile? How many feet are in a mile? Are feet and miles the only measures of distance? Read on to find out some awesome fun facts about distance!
Imperial Vs. Metric
Most countries use the Metric System, which uses the measuring units such as meters and grams and adds prefixes like kilo, milli and centi to count orders of magnitude. In the United States, we use the older Imperial system, where things are measured in feet, inches and pounds.
For the following examples, we’ll be giving the distance in both Imperial and Metric. We’ll also be focusing on greater distances measured in Miles and Kilometers. Part two will cover smaller units of measurements including feet and inches & Meters and Centimeters.
So let’s get back to the distance between the earth and the sun. The earth doesn’t travel around the sun in a perfect circle. Over the course of a year, Earth moves sometimes closer to the sun and sometimes further away from the sun. Earth’s closest approach to the sun, called perihelion, comes in early January and is about 91 million miles (146 million km). The furthest from the sun the Earth gets is called aphelion. It comes in early July and is about 94.5 million miles (152 million km). Space is so vast, that the distance from the Earth to the Sun is actually used as a measurement of its own, it is called an Astronomical Unit.
So that’s pretty far right? But, it’s so far, that it’s actually sort of hard to even comprehend. So let’s reel it in a little closer. How about the distance between the Earth and the Moon?
In most pictures, the Earth and Moon are shown very close to each other. But, that’s really not the case. They’re actually really far apart. The moon is an average of 238,855 miles (384,400 km) away. So let’s think about that distance compared to the Sun. You could fit the distance between the Earth and Sun with the distance of the Earth and Moon over 395 times! If it took you one day to travel to the Moon, it would take over 1 year to travel to the Sun at that same rate!
So now you’ve learned the distance between the Earth and Sun & between the Earth and Moon, but just how big is the Earth? Well, there is over 7.4 Billion people living here so it must be pretty big, right?
The Circumference (the distance around the Earth) at the equator is about 24,874 miles (40,030 km). So to reach the same distance as it would take to reach the moon, you’d have to circle the earth 10 times! Have you ever gone on a long road trip with your family? If you drove an average of 60 miles per hour, it would take you 17 full days to make it ALLLLLLLL the way around the earth.
Again, that’s such a vast distance, it’s kind of hard to grasp. So let’s look again at something a little shorter, how about the distance across the United States?
The distance across the United States, from Florida to Washington, is 2,802 miles (4,509km). This is the longest straight line distance across the United States. Now imagine it’s time for the family road trip, how long do you think it would take to drive that whole distance at 60 miles per hour? It would take almost 2 full days! 46.7 hours! That’s enough time to watch over 130 episodes of Curious George.
Running a Marathon is one of the athletic world’s most challenging tests of a person’s endurance. The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers). The world record for running a marathon in the shortest amount of time was achieved by Dennis Kimetto at the Berlin Marathon, he ran it in 2 hours, 2 minutes, and 57 seconds. That is an average of 4 minutes and 42 seconds per mile! So at that pace, just how long do you think it would take Dennis to run around the earth? It would take him about 14.5 years!
We’ve learned a lot about Miles and Kilometers, but just how long is a mile or a kilometer? A mile is 5,280 feet long and a kilometer is 1,000 meters long. You may have noticed that it seems like distances have a lot more kilometers than miles, that’s because a mile is 1.6 times as long as a kilometer.
- Earth to Sun: 91 million miles (146 million km)
- Earth to Moon: 238,855 miles (384,400 km)
- Circumference of Earth: 24,874 miles (40,030 km)
- Circumference of Sun: 432,450 miles (696,000 km)
- Circumference of moon: 1,079.6 miles (1,737.5 km)
- Distance across USA: 2,802 miles (4,509km)
- Distance across Europe: 2,920 miles (4,700 km)
- Distance across Asia: 7,761 miles (12,417 km)