- Astronomers discuss in the diary Physics todaythat Venus or Mars are not the closest to Earth – but Mercury.
- This is true if you do not look at the shortest distance, but at the average distance from the Earth.
- Mercury is the sunniest planet. However, according to the new definition of all the planets of the solar system, it would be the nearest neighbor.
What is the closest planet Earth? Most people will touch one of these two heavenly bodies: Venus or Mars. The earth finally revolves around its orbit around the sun between the elliptical orbits of these two planets. Venus circulates a little closer to the sun, Mars farther away. Alternatively, with a lexicon or two mouse clicks it can quickly be clear who is closest to the earth: it is the Venus.
But now the astronomers calculate in the magazine Physics today that you should see things differently. The question of the closest planet depends on the definition of "closeness": is it actually the planet closest to the earth? Astronomers argue: In reality, it should go to the planet whose average distance from the Earth is the shortest. So the planet that we humans should interpret most days when it comes to which planet is next. Seen in this light, the answer is stunning: the planet closest to Earth is Mercury. Yes, Mercury, that dark dwarf that revolves around our central star in the solar system, so close that lead would fuse over it, and the gravity of the sun almost tears it.
Venus is more often from the other side of the sun
Could be? Well, remember the question about the highest mountain in the world. Of course, the Everest, many will say. But here too everything depends on how to define "height". The Everest, measured from sea level, is the highest elevation in the world. If we consider the difference in height between the foot and the peak, it does not matter if the foot is underwater, the side of Mauna Kea on Hawaii exceeds 10 200 meters above the colossus of the Himalaya. And if you define the height as the distance of the peak from the center of the earth, suddenly the top of Chimborazo in Ecuador is the record holder. The latter is because the earth is not a sphere, but thicker due to its rotation around the equator with respect to higher latitudes.
For our planetary system, astronomers have calculated that Mars, Venus and all the other planets are for the most part away from the Earth compared to Mercury. The average distance for us is about the distance from the sun, about 150 million kilometers. Although Venus occasionally approaches the Earth at 42 million kilometers, it is more often from the other side of the sun. Their average distance to us is 170 million kilometers, which is more than the average distance of Mercury. The same goes for Mars.
Not to treat it theoretically, astronomers have made a computer chew through the actual positions of all the planets over the past 10,000 years. It has been confirmed that Mercury is not only the closest planet on Earth, but is also the closest to all other planets in the Solar System, including Neptune. We welcome him, Mercury, the neighbor so far underestimated, but fundamentally the most faithful and close on Earth.