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Distance, Brightness, and Apparent Size of Planets

The distance, brightness, and apparent size of planets vary depending on their position in the solar system. The planets closest to the sun, Mercury and Venus, are the brightest and have the smallest apparent sizes. The planets farthest from the sun, Neptune and Uranus, are the faintest and have the largest apparent sizes.

Here is a table that summarizes the distance, brightness, and apparent size of the planets in our solar system:

Planet Distance from Sun (million miles) Apparent Size (arcseconds) Brightness (apparent magnitude)
Mercury 36 10.3 -2.0
Venus 67 65.5 -4.4
Earth 93 30.3 -2.5
Mars 142 21.6 -2.0
Jupiter 483 49.5 -2.9
Saturn 886 16.6 -0.4
Uranus 1.78 billion 4.2 +5.7
Neptune 2.79 billion 2.9 +4.5

 

The apparent magnitude of a celestial object is a measure of its brightness as seen from Earth. The lower the magnitude, the brighter the object. For example, Venus has an apparent magnitude of -4.4, which means it is about 40 times brighter than Mercury, which has an apparent magnitude of -2.0.

The apparent size of a celestial object is a measure of its angular size as seen from Earth. The larger the angular size, the bigger the object appears. For example, Jupiter has an apparent size of 49.5 arcseconds, which is about 10 times larger than Mercury, which has an apparent size of 10.3 arcseconds.

The distance, brightness, and apparent size of planets can all change depending on their position in the solar system. For example, when Mercury is at its closest point to Earth, it appears about twice as large as when it is at its farthest point.

Distance

The distance of a planet from the sun affects its brightness and apparent size. Planets that are closer to the sun appear brighter and have smaller apparent sizes than planets that are farther away. This is because the light from the sun has to travel a shorter distance to reach us when the planet is closer.

Brightness

The brightness of a planet is also affected by its size and composition. Planets that are larger and have more reflective surfaces appear brighter than planets that are smaller and have less reflective surfaces. For example, Jupiter is much larger than Mercury, and it also has a very reflective atmosphere. This is why Jupiter appears much brighter than Mercury even though it is farther away from the sun.

Apparent Size

The apparent size of a planet is affected by its distance from the sun and its size. Planets that are closer to the sun appear larger than planets that are farther away. This is because the light from the sun has to travel a shorter distance to reach us when the planet is closer. Planets that are larger also appear larger than planets that are smaller. For example, Jupiter appears much larger than Mercury even though they are both at the same distance from the sun.

The distance, brightness, and apparent size of planets can all change depending on their position in the solar system. For example, when Mercury is at its closest point to Earth, it appears about twice as large as when it is at its farthest point.

 



Visit our Space & Telescope FAQs page for more fun & interesting facts.

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