The Order of Planets Closest to Earth

At night when looking up at the sky, Mercury, Venus, and Earth will appear close by – these inner planets are known as rocky planets.

One effective way of remembering this order is through mnemonic devices or learning it via song.

Mercury

Mercury, the smallest planet and closest planet to the Sun, orbits extremely elliptically and revolves around in 88 days, experiencing both scorching hot days and freezing cold nights due to being so close. Mercury’s name derives from Roman god of swift travel: Hermes.

Most people mistakenly believe Venus to be our closest planet; however, according to a new study published by Physics Today it could actually be Mercury. A team of scientists developed a computer simulation which tracked each planet for 10,000 years in our solar system; using this data they calculated how often each was near each other; they found Mercury closer on average than either Venus or Mars.

Reason being, other planets spend some time orbiting one side of the Sun while some on the other; therefore when at their perihelion (closest) alignment (closest to Earth), Venus becomes our closest neighbor; when they’re further from it (furthest from Sun), Mercury takes over as Earth’s closest planetary neighbor.

Venus

Venus, commonly referred to as Earth’s twin planet due to their similar sizes and densities, sits within our solar nebula system. Yet it couldn’t be further from our reality; with an overheated greenhouse atmosphere on Venus that produces temperatures high enough to melt lead.

At present, Jupiter is 75% illuminated, making it easily visible through even modest telescopes. On March 27, it reached its greatest eastern elongation point – this means it will now come closest to our planet from behind the Sun over the course of 8 1/2 months.

Most people mistakenly assume Venus is closer than Mars because of the frequency with which Venus passes by our planet; however, this calculation fails to take into account their average distances from the Sun. To gain a clearer idea of their movements over 10,000 years and what each planet was really up to close up, Stockman ran simulations over that span in which each close-by planet spent time as its closest neighbor with Earth; his results revealed Venus is actually closer than Mercury; on average Venus orbits at 96.6 million miles (179.9 million kilometers compared with 96.7 million miles for Mercury

Earth

Earth, our home planet in the Solar System, is perhaps best known to us all. It stands out as being unique due to the presence of liquid surface water – about 70% by volume! Additionally, its slow movements of tectonic plates create mountain ranges, volcanoes and earthquakes, while its protective magnetosphere deflects much of the damaging solar winds and cosmic radiation which reach Earth.

Though Earth is the largest of the inner rocky planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune dwarf it significantly in size and volume – you would need 57 Earths to fill Neptune!

Many are bewildered by the order of Earth’s closest planets. Unfortunately, due to their noncircular orbits and variable proximity of Mercury and Venus to our planet at different points, the answer varies each time a Mercury or Venus approaches us more closely than Mars does – or vice versa!

Venus may seem close to our home planet when discussing proximity, yet Mercury is actually our closest neighboring planet.

Mars

Most people consider Venus the closest planet to Earth, which may be true from an average distance perspective; however, an analysis of Mercury’s orbit shows it actually spends more time as our closest neighbor than Venus does.

Calculating distance between planets often involves subtracting their average distance from that of the Sun (more precisely, their average ecliptic longitude). But this method provides only an incomplete picture, since averages fail to take into account that planets have elliptical orbits – meaning they come closer together at times and further apart other times.

Phobos and Deimos, Mars’ two moons, are among the smallest in our Solar System. Each has an approximate diameter less than half that of Earth’s Moon; both may have formed from captured asteroids similar to how Earth’s Moon formed; both moons are tidally locked with Mars so one side always faces them, and will appear close together on June 2, rising about two hours before sunrise, and can be seen by naked eye.

Jupiter

Jupiter is by far the largest planet in our Solar System and by far the most massive object visible from Earth. A gas giant with at least 79 moons – four of which may pose challenges to existing theories on whether life exists beyond Earth – Jupiter offers us an intriguing window into space and time.

Jupiter’s rapid rotation, high winds and convective rise and fall of gases create an impressive structure of belts and zones visible through binoculars or small telescopes. Observers at mid-Northern latitudes will best view Jupiter in 2022 during late June/early July in Cetus (the Whale or Sea Monster), before it reaches its Northern stationary point in Taurus during September before beginning a slow retrograde motion against background stars before resuming East to West motion by November.

Due to Jupiter’s relatively shallow axial tilt (3o.1 from its orbit plane) and similar-sized moons, Jovian planets tend to present themselves in a relatively linear fashion in the night sky; however, mutual occultations/eclipse events occur frequently between them.

Saturn

Saturn was formed simultaneously with Jupiter 4.5 billion years ago during the early days of our Solar System’s formation, likely through accretion or gravity pulling asteroids and comets around which some then made contact with Earth, providing water supplies.

Saturn will make an apparition from 2023-2031 that spans Aquarius constellation and appears as dark dots against its background stars. After turning retrograde during the last quarter of 2025 and reaching opposition near Psc (Mu Piscium mag. +4.8) during December 2025. Reaching its Western stationary point by December 4th it resumes direct movement before disappearing again three and half months later on April 1st. 2028.

On its return to view in early June 2031 Saturn will be roughly 6deg south of Taurus’ most well-known star cluster – Pleiades/Hyades or Messier 45/M45). As with previous apparitions, Saturn’s brightness is strongly determined by its Ring Tilt; that is, how its plane tilts towards Earth.

Uranus

Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun, is an immense gaseous cyan-colored ice giant with 13 moons and 13 rings – visible with naked eye under optimal viewing conditions.

William Herschel first observed an icy giant during a solar eclipse and became convinced it was a new planet. He reported his findings to the Royal Society and other scientists immediately confirmed his diagnosis. To please King George III of England, Herschel proposed calling the planet Georgium Sidus (“The Georgian Planet”); however, this suggestion never gained wide acceptance.

Astronomers have identified many distinctive aspects of Uranus. One such characteristic is its dramatic 98-degree tilt which brings about one of the most extreme solar system seasons – one pole experiences sunlight while its opposite receives total darkness for 21 years before this process reverses itself and sunlight returns.

Uranus’ magnetic field produces striking aurorae that do not align with its poles as on Earth and Jupiter, as well as an unusual corkscrew-shaped magnetosphere tail that extends millions of miles behind it – just like its planet itself, which tilts on one-third of its radius radius axis compared to one-third off center for Earth and Jupiter respectively. It also bears witness to rare and unique aurorae which don’t correspond with poles! Uranus stands out among its rivals thanks to its corkscrew-shaped magnetosphere tail that extends millions of miles further into space compared with Earth or Jupiter! Another peculiar feature is Uranus’ corkscrew-shaped tail that extends millions of miles into space behind it – its magnetic axis lies off-center by about one third radius which causes misalignments similar to Earth and Jupiter!

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