Mercury Is The Closest Planet To Earth, Not Venus, A New Study Revealed

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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.


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4 Comments

  1. It comes down to semantics I suppose.

    One could therefore argue, quite logically, that the Sun is closer to Earth, on average than Mercury, if the orbit of Mercury were to keep that planet further, on average, from Earth than is the Sun.

    But most people understand that we are talking about orbits, not “average distances’’.

    That is, the ORBIT of Venus is closer to the orbit of Earth than is Mercury’s orbit to Earth’s orbit.

    So while the finding is interesting, it is somewhat pedantic.

  2. That’s why it may be a better idea to go to the icy poles of mercury instead of mars. Mercury is closer than mars, meaning communications, distance and supplies would be quicker and easier for resupplying crew. Don’t have to worry about craft heating up during entry and exit. Could send ship to moon first to fuel up and supply. Ship could continuously travel back and forth to moon and mercury with little wear and tear on the ship.

  3. Nice.

    So while the venus ORBIT is closer to the earth ORBIT than the mercury ORBIT…

    …the mercury PLANET is actually on aveage closer to the earth PLANET than the venus PLANET.

    Today I learned!

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