(ORDO NEWS) — Which planet is closest to Earth? Venus? Maybe Mars ? If we abandon the standard comparison of the distance from the Sun to the planet (orbital radius), then it turns out that the closest thing to the Earth is … Mercury!
The radius of the Earth’s orbit is 150 million kilometers, and the radius of the orbit of Venus is 108 million kilometers. We subtract 108 from 150 and get 42 million kilometers, while Mercury can be 80 million kilometers away from the Earth (the elliptical orbital radius is 46×69 million kilometers).
Then how is it that Mercury is the closest planet to Earth?
Trying to calculate the distance between the orbits of the planets, for some reason, people are guided by the imagination, where all the planets line up strictly in one line. A kind of endless “parade of planets”.
When Venus occupies a strict position between the Earth and the Sun, then it actually becomes the nearest planet for a while, but the other part of the time Venus is on the opposite side of the star, and the distance increases to 256 million kilometers.
This, by the way, is even more than the average distance from Earth to Mars, which is 225 million kilometers. Thus, by calculating the average distance between Earth and Mercury, astronomers have come to the conclusion that the distance between these planets may be much less than between Venus and Earth. For scientists, this is not a surprise, and such knowledge forms the basis of such space missions as NASA Parker Solar Probe and ESA / JAXA BepiColombo.
Can this be considered a delusion and a scientific error?
After all, the information that Venus is the planet closest to us appears in all textbooks and even on the NASA website they say the same thing. If we talk about the minimum possible distance, then there is no error, but if we talk about the real world, where the average distance still appears between the planets, then this is an inaccuracy.
Although, as scientists note, in their understanding, the distance between the planets has a slightly different meaning. The NASA MESSENGER space station was launched to Mercury in 2004, and entered orbit only in 2011. Do you see how long it takes? During this period, the Huygens module was landed on Saturn’s satellite Titan, 3 rovers were delivered to Mars, and a soil sample was obtained from an asteroid.
To enter the orbit of Mercury, you first need to catch up with this planet, which revolves around the Sun with tremendous orbital speed. To be objective, even to Pluto it is easier to send a mission than to Mercury.
Therefore, NASA does not plan to send rovers or orbiters to Mercury in the near future, focusing on more accessible objects. All that has been organized in recent years has been the joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) BepiColombo .
The launch was made on October 20, 2018, and the spacecraft is scheduled to enter Mercury orbit in December 2025.
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