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How Far Are The Planets From The Sun?

Artist's impression of the planets in our solar system, along with the Sun (at bottom). Credit: NASA

Artist’s impression of the planets in our solar system, along with the Sun (at bottom). Credit: NASA

The eight planets in our solar system each occupy their own orbits around the Sun. They orbit the star in ellipses, which means their distance to the sun varies depending on where they are in their orbits. When they get closest to the Sun, it’s called perihelion, and when it’s farthest away, it’s called aphelion.

So to talk about how far the planets are from the sun is a difficult question, not only because their distances constantly change, but also because the spans are so immense — making it hard for a human to grasp. For this reason, astronomers often use a term called astronomical unit, representing the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

The table below (first created by Universe Today founder Fraser Cain in 2008) shows all the planets and their distance to the Sun, as well as how close these planets get to Earth.

Mercury
Closest: 46 million km / 29 million miles (.307 AU)
Furthest: 70 million km / 43 million miles (.466 AU)
Average: 57 million km / 35 million miles (.387 AU)
Closest to Mercury from Earth: 77.3 million km / 48 million miles

Venus
Closest: 107 million km / 66 million miles (.718 AU)
Furthest: 109 million km / 68 million miles (.728 AU)
Average: 108 million km / 67 million miles (.722 AU)
Closest to Venus from Earth: 40 million km / 25 million miles

From the Solar Dynamics Observatory: Planet Venus transiting the Sun in the 304 Anstrom wavelength at approx. 90,000 degrees Fahrenheit in July 2012. Credit: NASA/SDO

From the Solar Dynamics Observatory: Planet Venus transiting the Sun in the 304 Anstrom wavelength at approx. 90,000 degrees Fahrenheit in July 2012. Credit: NASA/SDO

Earth
Closest: 147 million km / 91 million miles (.98 AU)
Furthest: 152 million km / 94 million miles (1.1 AU)
Average: 150 million km / 93 million miles (1 AU)

Mars
Closest: 205 million km / 127 million miles (1.38 AU)
Furthest: 249 million km / 155 million miles (1.66 AU)
Average: 228 million km / 142 million miles (1.52 AU)
Closest to Mars from Earth: 55 million km / 34 million miles

Jupiter
Closest: 741 million km /460 million miles (4.95 AU)
Furthest: 817 million km / 508 million miles (5.46 AU)
Average: 779 million km / 484 million miles (5.20 AU)
Closest to Jupiter from Earth: 588 million km / 346 million miles

The "pale blue dot" of Earth as seen from Cassini on July 19, 2013. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

The “pale blue dot” of Earth as seen from Cassini on July 19, 2013. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

Saturn
Closest: 1.35 billion km / 839 million miles (9.05 AU)
Furthest: 1.51 billion km / 938 million miles (10.12 AU)
Average: 1.43 billion km / 889 million miles (9.58 AU)
Closest to Saturn from Earth: 1.2 billion km /746 million miles

Uranus
Closest: 2.75 billion km / 1.71 billion miles (18.4 AU)
Furthest: 3.00 billion km / 1.86 billion miles (20.1 AU)
Average: 2.88 billion km / 1.79 billion miles (19.2 AU)
Closest to Uranus from Earth: 2.57 billion km / 1.6 billion miles

Neptune
Closest: 4.45 billion km /2.77 billion miles (29.8 AU)
Furthest: 4.55 billion km / 2.83 billion miles (30.4 AU)
Average: 4.50 billion km / 2.8 billion miles (30.1 AU)
Closest to Neptune from Earth: 4.3 billion km / 2.7 billion miles

As a special bonus, we’ll include Pluto too, even though Pluto is not a planet anymore.

Artist's impression of New Horizons' encounter with Pluto and Charon. Credit: NASA/Thierry Lombry

Artist’s impression of New Horizons’ encounter with Pluto and Charon. Credit: NASA/Thierry Lombry

Pluto
Closest: 4.44 billion km / 2.76 billion miles (29.7 AU)
Furthest: 7.38 billion km / 4.59 billion miles (49.3 AU)
Average: 5.91 billion km / 3.67 billion miles (39.5 AU)
Closest to Pluto from Earth: 4.28 billion km / 2.66 billion miles

To learn more

Online resources demonstrating the scale of the Solar System:

If The Moon Were Only A Pixel (Josh Worth Art & Design)
Scale Model Of Our Solar System (University of Manitoba)
Build A Solar System (Exploratorium)
Scale Solar System (Josh Wetenkamp)

Many cities and countries have also installed scale models of the Solar System, such as:

Voyage Scale Solar System (Washington, D.C.)
Sagan Planet Walk (Ithaca, N.Y.)
Maine Solar System Model
Sweden Solar System
Planet Walk (Munich, Germany)
The Solar System (Brittany, France; website in French only)
Solar System Drive (Australia)

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • lisa September 29, 2008, 8:45 AM

    i like solar systems

  • Dallas January 4, 2009, 1:04 PM

    Your a life saver tomorrow my sience projects due and i forgot my book at school thanks so much!!!!!!!

  • jsheff April 21, 2014, 6:13 PM

    I have heard that the planet that is usually closest to Earth is not Venus or Mars, but Mercury! Of course, Venus and Mars come closer to Earth at times, but they spend a lot of the time somewhat further away than that, on their long looping orbits taking them on the other side of the Sun. Meanwhile Mercury, which hugs the Sun closely, also by implication can only get so far from Earth, ever. (The maximum would be the distance of its aphelion plus the distance of Earth’s aphelion.) Is this true?

  • eSpace April 21, 2014, 6:45 PM

    Thanks, Elizabeth! Great links to some new models. I really liked the scale model from the Univ. of Manitoba because I could set the Sun right at my front door and try out different scales with the orbits plotted on the satellite view of our neighborhood.

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