We all learned in school that Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, while Venus is the second and that it is closer to Earth. You might be shocked, but a team of scientists has recently demonstrated otherwise. Mercury is the closest planet to Earth, on average, and not Venus.
The article published by the researchers this week in the magazine Physics Today presents the results. They explain that the matter is oversimplified by the methods we use to calculate which planet is the closest to us. There is even more.
“Further, Mercury is the closest neighbor, on average, to each of the other seven planets in the solar system,” the scientists write in their study’s report. The way we usually estimate the distances to other planets is resulting in the misconceptions we have about how close is one planet to another.
Mercury Is The Closest Planet To Earth
The average distance is typically calculated from the planet to the Sun. The Earth is one astronomical unit (AU) away, on average, while Venus is around 0.72 AU. If one from the other is subtracted, the average distance can be calculated from Earth to Venus which has a total of 0.28 AU which is the smallest distance for any pair of planets.
However, this way of calculating the distances to planets is not accurate according to a trio of researchers. The Earth, after all, does not spend more time on the opposite side of its orbit compared to Venus which makes it 1.72 AU away. It is a must that one averages the distance between every point along the orbit of one planet and every point along the orbit of the other planet.
The researchers ran a simulation based on two assumptions: the orbits of the planet should not be at an angle relative to one another, and the orbits of the planets must be approximately circular. However, as the scientists said, these are only assumptions, and nothing can be calculated for sure. They concluded that, therefore, Mercury is the closest planet to Earth, not Venus.
Jasmine holds a Master’s in Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto and writes professionally in a broad variety of genres. She has worked as a senior manager in public relations and communications for major telecommunication companies, and is the former Deputy Director for Media Relations with the Modern Coalition. Jasmine writes primarily in our LGBTTQQIAAP and Science section.