Prepare to unlearn everything your elementary school science teacher taught you.
First, Pluto loses its planetary status, meaning the solar system has only eight planets, not nine.
And now, a controversial study claims that Venus is not the closest planet to Earth after all.
A research team at the University of Alabama claim that on average, Mercury is actually closer to Earth.
In the study, published in Physics Today, head researcher Tom Stockman said: “Using a mathematical method that we devised, we determine that when averaged over time, Earth’s nearest neighbour is in fact Mercury.”
It is standard practice to measure the distance between planets based on how close they are to the sun. But Stockman’s team believe this is inaccurate, as it is based on the average distance of a planet as it orbits around the sun, and not how far away the planets are from each other.
He explained: “When Earth and Venus are at their closest approach, their separation is roughly 0.28 AU—no other planet gets nearer to Earth.
“But just as often, the two planets are at their most distant, when Venus is on the side of the Sun opposite Earth, 1.72 AU away.”
Stockman’s team ran a simulation based on the premise that Mercury and Venus’s orbits are relatively circular, and that their orbits are not parallel to each other.
Their simulation showed that on average, Mercury spends more time closer to us than Venus does.
However, this information won’t help you to pass a 3rd grade science test.