The Planet Closest to Earth Right Now

People often confuse Venus for Mercury when asked which planet is closest. Mercury actually stands closer on average.

Ranking can differ depending on how close or far each planet orbits the sun; due to their elliptical paths, their distance changes over time; for instance Venus rises within an hour before dawn each March before slowly disappearing behind solar radiation by April.


Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system and also the closest one to the Sun, making it one of five visible planets visible at any one time: evening stars can see it as well. Like Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn (among others), Mercury usually appears with an orange-gold hue and completes one orbit around our Sun every 88 days.

Mercury can be difficult to observe with the naked eye unless viewing at exactly the right time and place, yet still makes for fascinating viewing – legendary astronomer Copernicus was said to have spotted it occasionally!

Mercury resembles Earth’s moon in terms of its cratered surface, making it easy to detect with telescopes. Mercury boasts the densest core among all planets in our Solar System and likely formed rapidly through violent collisions early in its existence; unlike terrestrial planets, however, Mercury does not experience plate tectonics so its surface remains relatively unchanged.

Its magnetic field may only be one-tenth as strong as Earth’s, yet it channels plasma from the Sun directly to its surface while collecting hydrogen and helium gases that form its atmosphere. Furthermore, its surface features an abundance of molten iron; as revealed by MESSENGER spacecraft’s magnetometer.

Look out for Mercury this week as you watch dusk turn to night, then rise early enough in the east for dawn. At its greatest eastern elongation on March 24, Mercury will reach its greatest eastern elongation before rapidly dimming out until it disappears completely in evening twilight, replaced by bright Jupiter higher up in the sky. Below are links that display where and when Mercury can be found in the sky as well as any constellation patterns surrounding it.


People often mistake Venus for Earth when thinking about nearer planets. Its brightness shines brightest in our night sky, rising and setting before and after the sun. Yet Venus remains one of the most forbidding worlds, its scorching temperatures proving unlikely that life ever could have evolved there; nonetheless scientists remain fascinated with it due to how studying it might help explain environmental change on our own planet.

Venus has come to be known as Earth’s “sister planet.” At nearly the same size and composition, its gravity is close to that of Earth; however, Venus is significantly hotter due to a thick atmosphere which traps heat causing an extreme version of greenhouse effect affecting our own planet today.

Venus’ atmosphere contains only trace amounts of molecular oxygen compared to what we find here on Earth, making up mostly carbon dioxide. Venus is home to a thick layer of atomic oxygen rather than the molecular form we breathe on Earth; the planet’s surface features temperatures high enough to melt lead at its core due to the greenhouse effect. Scientists hope to gain more understanding into how Venus became so extreme by studying both its surface temperatures and toxic clouds of sulfuric acid on its atmosphere.

My highly educated mother just gave me this information about the planets’ positions relative to their distance from the Sun, though due to elliptical orbits their order can change at any moment – sometimes Mercury may be closer than Venus to Earth at certain times, for instance.

Venus is currently at its closest distance from Earth, making it easy to spot in the evening or early morning sky. Venus can often be found rising just before sunrise or setting after sunset – hence why some call it either the morning star or evening star depending on its elongation. Although difficult to miss this month, binoculars will likely help ensure a clear view.


Mars can be seen with both naked eyes and telescopes from now until mid-August in the evening sky, both nakedly and through a telescope. At first it appears brightest object in our sky; however, by mid-August its brightness will diminish due to Mars’ orbit taking it farther from us. On its elliptical path around Earth every two years it comes closes, however as other planets such as Jupiter alter its orbital pattern causing it to move apart again causing its closest approach only lasting so long before its gravitational pull changes its orbital shape thus forcing closer approaches once.

In 2003, Mars and Earth came close together, making it possible to observe its surface through binoculars or even the unaided eye. Bonadurer vividly remembers seeing crowds of people flocking to parks, planetariums and astronomy clubs during that momentous year – something it won’t see again until 2287! Currently Mars is at its closest and brightest since 2003 encounter, reaching closeness of just 497 kilometers.

Opposition is the optimal time for viewing Mars; this occurs once every 26 months and allows observers to witness it at its largest and brightest. Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos, may help or hinder observations; Phobos is so close that it actually overtakes it when Mars rotates (every 8 hours); however Deimos tends to become obscured more easily during rotation than Phobos does.

Scientists have gained much insight into Mars through satellites and spacecraft missions. From these missions they have discovered that the planet is an active one with volcanoes erupting across its surface and an ice cap at each pole; its atmosphere contains predominantly carbon dioxide with some nitrogen and water vapour present as well.

As is widely speculated, Mars likely contains a solid iron core with an outer layer of molten rock known as its mantle that likely comprises of peridotite, an abundant volcanic rock containing silicon, oxygen and iron. Basalt rocks may comprise its crust like they do on Earth and Moon; on Mars’ surface are many craters as well as massive valleys like Valles Marineris that spans 4,000 km long by 200 wide by 7 deep.


Jupiter, commonly referred to as a giant gas ball, is our solar system’s largest planet and often considered the centerpiece. It boasts three faint rings and boasts the fastest spinning planet with a magnetic field 14 times stronger than Earth’s. Jupiter’s atmosphere consists mostly of hydrogen with some trace amounts of helium and other elements; upon deeper inspection this turns denser, eventually creating an outer liquid layer around a small core.

Jupiter’s vast size makes it the likely candidate in our Solar System to support extraterrestrial life, according to Astronomer Carl Sagan who once suggested jellyfish-like organisms could stay afloat on Jupiter’s helium clouds. Furthermore, researchers hope to discover signs of life on one or more of its moons; specifically Europa could hold an ocean protected from radiation shielding that might harbor marine life.

Jupiter is famed for its distinctive belts and zones – bands of white and reddish clouds, divided into cyclones and anticyclones by strong east-west winds known as jet streams that seem capable of shaping its surface in remarkable ways. Scientists became even more fascinated with Jupiter after Juno spacecraft began sending back stunning images in 2016.

Due to Earth’s relative distance from Jupiter, it can still be easily observed. On March 13, the Moon will come within visual range of Jupiter (mag -2.1) and both can be observed with naked eyes or binoculars. On April 10, both will come close together in Aries constellation – making this an excellent opportunity for family and friend observation!

Ranking the planets can be unpredictable due to their noncircular orbits; however, when measured according to proximity from the Sun, Mercury usually ranks closest. Rarely however does Mars surpass Mercury in this regard – only ever occurring once every 15 or 17 years!

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