Have you ever wondered which planet is the closest to our Earth? If you know anything about our solar system, you will say that it is either Venus or Mars. That would make sense considering that both of them are our next door neighbors basically. In fact, of these two, Venus actually comes closer to the Earth than any other planet. Not to mention that is orbit is, in fact, the closest to the orbit of the Earth. However, according to a recent study, over half the time Venus is not the closest planet to Earth. The closest planet, ladies and gentlemen, is Mercury!
Once the scientists had crunched the numbers, they also found out that on average; Mercury is the closest planet to every other planet in the solar system. Isn’t that cool? So, how did the scientists conduct this study? They developed a simulation of our solar system with all of the planets moving in their respective orbits. The planets orbited for thousands of simulated years during which the team calculated the distances between any two of them. The values were then averaged to figure out which planets were the closest to each other.
To their surprise, they found out that Mercury is the closest planet to all seven of the other planets. It seems as if the team has made a mistake in their calculation, right? Don’t worry though; we will explain so that you understand why this makes sense. Every planet spends about half of its time on the Sun’s opposite side. For Earth, although Venus does come quite close to the Earth, it also spends a lot of its time away from Earth.
This approach to calculating the ‘closest planet’ is different than what most people employ. Generally, the distance between the two planets is taken to be the distance between their orbits. However, this particular results shows that the distance between two planets can be measured in a different way thus helping us define our closest neighbor differently.