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People stumped after realising what planet is actually closest to Earth
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock/Instagram/@theqielves

People stumped after realising what planet is actually closest to Earth

"That has messed with my brain"

The guests on an episode of QI were stumped when asked which is the closest planet to Earth.

While countless people would probably answer Mars, just like guest and radio and television presenter Alice Levine did, that was not the right answer. Check it out:

In the first part of the two-part 'Quests' episode which aired in 2019, Levine, comedian Phill Jupitus and British TV icon Alan Carr were faced with the space-themed question which puzzled them all, including permanent panellist Alan Davies.

For the record, the answer is not the Moon, Venus or Mars and with each wrong answer the claxon rang out in the studio.

The QI guests were stumped by the question.

It was the Chatty Man himself who guest correctly - the right answer is Mercury, which may come as a surprise.

Some Space buffs may believe that the correct answer is Venus but scientists have said it is actually Mercury… most of the time.

QI host Sandi Toksvig explained it all, stating that ‘it’s not how we normally think of it.’

She added: “So the minimum distance between the Earth and Venus is 24 million miles.”

An animation was then displayed on the studio screens behind the panellists showing Mars, Earth, the Moon, Venus, the Sun and Mercury.

“The minimum distance to Mars is 34 million miles and to Mercury is 48 million miles. So you would imagine that it all goes like that and everybody stays in the same line up. However, that is not how orbits work.”

It becomes clearer as to why Mercury is clearer in the animation. “Initially it looks as though Mercury is the furthest away but the way the orbits function is that Venus often is right the other side of the Sun making it really, really far away and there’s a guy called Oliver Hawkins and he wrote some computer code to try and work this out and he found that the planet that spends most of the time closer to Earth than any other is Mercury, so it’s closest to Earth 46 percent of the time. Venus was closest 36 percent of the time and Mars only 18 percent.”

Data from a computer code written by Oliver Hawkins explained why Mercury is closer.

When the clip from the episode was shared on Instagram a fan replied: “That has messed with my brain.”

While someone else wrote: “In fairness, the question was "which planet", rather than "which planet's orbit" is closer to the Earth's, which is what is usually depicted.”

Because Mercury has extreme temperatures and solar radiation it is unlikely that life as we know it could survive on the planet. So, the Red Planet is still the one humans could colonise in the future even if it’s a little further away.

Topics: Film and TV, Space, Science