# Axial tilt

In astronomy, axial tilt, also known as obliquity, is the angle between an object's rotational axis and its orbital axis, which is the line perpendicular to its orbital plane; equivalently, it is the angle between its equatorial plane and orbital plane. It differs from orbital inclination. The positive pole of a planet is defined by the right-hand rule: if the fingers of the right hand are curled in the direction of the rotation then the thumb points to the positive pole. The axial tilt is defined as the angle between the direction of the positive pole and the normal to the orbital plane. The angles for Earth, Uranus, and Venus are approximately 23°, 97°, and 177° respectively.

At an obliquity of 0 degrees, the two axes point in the same direction; that is, the rotational axis is perpendicular to the orbital plane.

The rotational axis of Earth, for example, is the imaginary line that passes through both the North Pole and South Pole, whereas the Earth's orbital axis is the line perpendicular to the imaginary plane through which the Earth moves as it revolves around the Sun; the Earth's obliquity or axial tilt is the angle between these two lines.

Over the course of an orbital period, the obliquity usually does not change considerably, and the orientation of the axis remains the same relative to the background of stars. This causes one pole to be pointed more toward the Sun on one side of the orbit, and more away from the Sun on the other side—the cause of the seasons on Earth.