Although Galileo wasn’t able to see the phases of Mercury (like the phases of Venus and the Moon) with his first crude telescope, the astronomers that carried on his discoveries did. This was powerful evidence that both Mercury and Earth are orbiting the Sun.
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Since Mercury orbits the Sun, and it follows a very elliptical path on its journey around the Sun, our two planets can vary their distance significantly.
When Mercury is at its closest point to Earth, astronomers call this opposition (from the point of view of Mercury). This would happen when Mercury was at its furthest from the Sun, and Earth is at its closest. When this happens, Mercury and Earth would be separated by only 77 million km (48 million miles).
Their maximum distance occur when Earth is at its furthest point from the Sun, and Mercury is at its maximum on the other side of the Sun. The three objects then line up perfectly. At this point, Mercury and Earth can be 222 million km (138 million miles) apart.