Astronomy is a dynamic field, with new discoveries being made every year. You must remember how Pluto was relegated to the position of the dwarf planet in 2006 but was given back its original status last year. So as of now, we have a sun, 9 planets, 4 dwarf planets, 150 moons, and millions of small objects. Since space is such a magnificent topic, many people often wonder which planet is closest to earth, with the hopes of dwelling there, someday. Besides, this question is of paramount importance when it comes to space exploration as well. So in case you’re one of them and are wondering about planets nearest to earth, we’re here to answer your question. But let us tell you beforehand, the answer is not that simple.
Our Solar System:
Our solar system has a huge sun and everything revolving around it, such as planets, the moon, asteroids, comets, and meteoroids. The planets are further divided into four small-sized, inner terrestrial planets and four large, outer gas giants. From the sun, the planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. When we’re calculating the distances between planets, you must know that the distance increases as we go further from the sun.
So if you view from above, you will find that the solar system does not have evenly spaced concentric rings. Mars, for example, is 1/20th distance from the sun to Neptune, Saturn is twice as far from the sun as Jupiter, and Uranus is twice as far from the mighty sun as Saturn. So now you know that the distance between planets is not equal. Now that we’ve explained this, let’s know which planet is closest to earth.
Which Planet Is Closest To Earth?
We cannot answer this question with utmost surety because the distance of planets to earth keeps changing due to the range in the orbits of the planets. So it’s actually the position that indicates the planet closest to the earth. Besides, it also depends on the day, month, and year.
But the planets closest to the Earth are Venus, Mars, or Mercury. Mercury is never that close to Earth, and when it is, it happens once in tens of thousands of years. Venus, lying 162 million miles from our planet, seems to be the nearest planet to earth for the most time.
Venus: The Planet Closest To Earth:
Venus is probably the closest planet to the earth and several reasons confirm it. No wonder it’s called “Earth’s Twin”. The Earth orbits the sun at around 93 million miles, while Venus orbits at 67 million miles. Going by this geometry, Venus is right between the sun and earth when the two planets are at their closest. When Venus is between the sun and Earth, it experiences something called inferior conjunction, hence it makes a close approach to Earth with a distance of 41 million km. This phenomenon occurs every 584 days. The distance between Venus and Earth when they are on exactly opposite sides of the sun is roughly 160 million miles.
With the decreasing eccentricity of Earth’s orbit, it’s believed that the minimum distances will only become greater over the next thousands of years. So Venus is likely to get even closer to us as time goes on.
Apart from this, Venus is quite similar to earth in terms of proportion. It’s 90 percent as dense as Earth even the diameter is 95% of Earth, which means it has a mass of 81% of the earth. However, the atmosphere of Venus is very different from Earth. It majorly consists of Carbon Dioxide, which is a greenhouse gas and traps heat. Being the hottest planet in the solar system, Venus is around 475 degrees Celsius hot and has volcanoes strewn all over. It’s said that even Earth’s atmosphere was believed to have been like Venus’ but that was before the planet was inhabited. The atmosphere of Venus is volatile enough to destroy Nasa space probes in minutes. So this, along with it being very close to the sun, made scientists believe that the planet is not hospitable for living beings.
Mars, One Of The Planets Closest To Earth:
Apart from Venus, even Mars, orbiting the sun at an average distance of 227,939,200 km, shares close proximity with Earth. However, Mars is considered the second most eccentric planet in terms of orbiting after Mercury. So for it to be closest to Earth, both the planets have to be on the same side of the sun. Mars should be at its closest distance from the Sun and Earth should be at its farthest. Known as opposition, it’s the time when Mars appears as one of the brightest objects in the sky, giving stiff competition to Jupiter or Venus.
But even during opposition, Mars is not as close to the Earth as Venus. The distance is quite considerable. In fact, the closest Mars was to Earth was in 2003, when the distance between the two planets was just 56 million kilometers. It’s said that it’s the closest they’ve been in 50,000 years. Now you must be wondering, despite such a huge distance, why are scientists considering Mars as a possible planet for habitation. It’s because compared to Venus, Mars is a lot more livable.
But that doesn’t make Mars a perfect alternative to Earth. If Venus is a ball of fire, Mars is cold as ice. The surface temperature on Mars ranges from -87 to -5 degrees Celsius. Plus, it has a thin atmosphere made up of nitrogen and carbon dioxide.
Mercury, Another Planet Near Earth:
In rare occasions, even Mercury has been quite close to Earth, closer than Venus or Mars. It’s said that over 2000 years, Mercury was just 35 million miles away from earth. But like I said before, this occurrence is extremely rare.
So Is Mars or Venus Closer to the Earth?
Both Mars and Venus are Earth’s nearest planets in the Solar System. But all three planets move at different speeds and have almost circular Orbits. So sometimes, Venus is closer to Earth, while Mars is on the other side of the sun and sometimes, Mars is nearer.
We hope we answered your question about which planet is closest to earth. Yes, the answer is a bit tricky, but that’s how the universe is. If you have any queries regarding planets near the earth, leave us a comment below!