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Venus, Mars or Mercury – which planet is closest to Earth?

Venus, Mars or Mercury – which planet is closest to Earth?

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In a graph like this, the answer to the question of which planet is closest to Earth seems clear. However, it's not that easy. © IAU Martin Kornmesser DLR/dpa

It seems easy to answer the question of which planet is closest to Earth. But the truth is more complex than expected.

Frankfurt – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – This order lists the planets from closest to the sun (Mercury) to furthest from the sun (Neptune). If you look at the list, the answer to the question of which planet is closest to us seems obvious at first glance: only Venus and Mars are possible answers. A quick Google search yields an obvious answer: Venus. But the matter is more complicated than it seems.

The source of this information is website The European Space Agency (ESA), which notes, however, that this information refers to the point closest to Earth in the planet's orbit. That's the point – the planets are constantly moving, so there is no universal answer to the question of which planet is closest to Earth. Rather, the answer depends on the criterion that will be used.

What planet is closest to Earth?

As mentioned earlier, the planet closest to Earth is constantly changing. Therefore, this answer is not necessarily the most practical, as one has to check the current position of the planets every time to answer the question. You can do this, for example, on the website Sky Live Do. Currently (as of January 17) Mercury is the closest planet to Earth. However, on October 17, 2024, it will be Mars. However, only a few people have this knowledge.

planet Distance to ground (in km)
Mercury 91,691,000 km
Venus 41,400,000 km
Mars 78,340,000 km

An alternative answer to the question might be: Which planet is closest to Earth on average? This data can also be found on various websites. on theplanets.org For example, the average distances from Mars, Mercury, and Venus to our home planet are listed. Here too the answer seems clear. However, these numbers are actually based on simplifications.

Mercury, Venus and Mars are the possible planets closest to Earth

“Through the phenomenon of neglect, obscurity, or groupthink, science journalists have published information based on a false assumption about the average distance between planets,” according to an article on the subject by Tom Stockman, Gabriel Monroe, and Samuel Cordner. Published in Physics today.

The incorrect calculation method is briefly explained below: “To calculate the average distance between two planets, subtract the average radius of the inner orbit, r1, from the average radius of the outer orbit, r2.” But this method doesn't take into account the relative positions of the planets during their orbits, explains Tom Stockman, a research and development engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Reverse Live sciences.

It is also possible that Mercury is the planet closest to Earth

in Physics today In the published article, he and two co-authors present a more accurate alternative, the point circle method (PCM). This averages out all the distances between individual points on both paths, Stockman says. Based on this method, the three scientists created a simulation that they ran for 10,000 years in order to also take the time component into account and more accurately determine which planet is closest to Earth on average. The result was surprising: Mercury was, on average, closest to Earth most of the time during the period under review.

The three planets closest to Earth are always the subject of research work. For example, one study found that life on Mercury is possible, albeit very limited. But scientists have discovered oxygen on Venus. The research investigates past or present life on the red planet Mars. (x/tab)

The editor wrote this article and then used an AI language model to improve at her own discretion. All information has been carefully checked. Find out more about our AI principles here.