You probably learned in school that Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbour. Now, prepare to get your mind blown. Mercury is the closest planet to Earth — in fact, it’s the closest planet to every other planet.
Why Mercury Is Closest To All Planets?
This is startling because we all have a built-in misconception about the layout of the solar system. Sure, Venus comes closer to Earth than Mercury, but it also spends a lot of time on the opposite side of the sun. Scientists from NASA, Los Alamos National Lab, and the U.S. Army put together a new model published in Physics Today, breaks down the average distance among planets — and it turns out that they’re all, on average, closest to Mercury.
Mercury’s orbit doesn’t take it very far from the sun, but Venus gets much farther away from Earth during its orbit. Mercury is closer to Earth almost 50 per cent of the time, with the remainder split between Mars and Venus. Therefore, Mercury is closer. The same principle holds true for all the planets. Even Neptune is closer on average to Mercury than Uranus.
The team built an animation showing how Mercury’s close proximity to the sun meant that its nearest and farthest distances from Earth weren’t that different. It’s that tight orbit around the sun which, when averaging out all the distances between the planets, keep Mercury from ever getting too far away from any given planet. The researchers checked their findings by mapping out where the planets were in their orbits every 24 hours for 10,000 years.
Sure, this doesn’t change much. The planets are still in the same order that they were in when you learned about them as a kid, in terms of orbits. But if you want to blow someone’s mind — or perhaps bore them with math, you can tell them about this new fact you just learned.