What is the Closest Planet to Earth – Mars, Venus, or Mercury?

Planet Mars

Planet Earth is the third planet closes to the sun.  Using the old saying, “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas,” it can be remembered that the order of the planets goes like this: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto (if you consider it to be a planet).  Accordingly, it would seem as though either Venus or Mars would be the closes planet to Earth.  But which is it?

Asking which planet is the closest to Earth is actually something of a trick question – the closest planet to Earth can change depending on the day, month, or even year.   Rather than stating a time frame to describe when a given planet will be closest to our own planet, it is actually most accurate to describe a position that would indicate which planet is closes to ours.  Since every planet has its own orbit around the Sun, and every orbit is a different length, all planets have different periods that would signify a year (or a complete orbit of the Sun).

When Venus is in the middle of the Sun and Earth, it is at its closest point to Earth.  During this period, Venus would be the closest planet to Earth.  However, there are times when Mars is actually the closest planet.  For example, during August 2003, Earth and Mars were at such a point in their orbits that Mars was at one of its closest distances to Earth.  It was only around 35 million miles away from the planet, which may sound like a long distance but is actually close considering it can be over 200 million miles apart from the Earth depending on where each planet is in its orbit.  Given this relatively close distance, Mars was actually closer to Earth than Venus was at this time.

On rare occasions, Mercury can be the closest planet.  For example, over 2,000 years ago, Mercury was only around 35 million miles away from our own planet.  However, occurrences like this are extremely rare and can happen thousands of years apart.

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