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The planet closest to Earth is not what you might think: here's the explanation

The planet closest to Earth is not what you might think: here's the explanation

Although Mars and Venus may be close together, Mercury's orbit allows it to be the planet usually closest to Earth.

Mercury is the planet closest to Earth. Does it surprise you? Let's say right away that yes, Venus is certainly closer to us than Mercury (It could reach 40.2 million km) and even Mars could approach our planet to a distance of about 56.3 million km (as it will do in the year 2287). But the truth is that the average distance from Earth to Mercury does not exceed 77 million kilometers. This makes it the planet in the solar system that is usually closer to Earth than any other planet.

Mercury is the “closest” planet to Earth

Solar system planet

The reason lies in the orbits of the four planets closest to the Sun. Mercury is the closest to Earth because Venus lies somewhere behind the Sun for 112 days, while Mars has a highly elliptical orbit that takes it away from us for about two years. On the other hand, Mercury passes between Earth and the Sun every 44 days, so it is closer to Earth more often than Venus and Mars.

Orbit

Furthermore, Mercury's orbit is also the most eccentric (least circular) of the eight planets in the solar system. The planet is on average about 0.3871 astronomical units away from the Sun. For this reason, Mercury's surface has the widest temperature range of all the planets, with temperatures ranging from -173°C at night to 427°C during the day. Moreover, this planet has no atmosphere: it is literally swept away by the solar wind. Its surface is, in fact, highly mineralized (almost like the Earth's core) and is marked by many craters. In fact, if you notice, Mercury looks a lot like the Moon in many pictures.

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Mercurio
Mercurio. Credit: NASA

Its history dates back to the Sumerian era

Its discovery dates back to the Sumerians, and its name is taken from the Roman god, the messenger of the gods. The reason is that it orbits the sun very quickly, and there are few space missions that we have tried to send to this planet. In our book We explain something more about why Mercury is so difficult to reach.