Q:

Why can we see other planets from Earth?

A:

Quick Answer

The main reason planets in the solar system can be seen from Earth is because they reflect light from the sun. The light reflected off of the five closest planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, can be seen from the Earth with the naked eye.

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Full Answer

Uranus and Neptune could not be seen from Earth until the invention of stronger telescopes in the late 18th century. Some planets outside of the solar system can only be seen by the shadows they cast on their suns when their orbit brings them directly between the Earth and the star they orbit. While scientists can use other calculations, such as the Doppler method, to discover the existence of additional planets, the light from them is too dim to be seen from the Earth.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What do the inner planets have in common?

    A:

    The inner planets of the solar system are all relatively close to the sun. They are also all relatively similar to each other in size, mass, density and other physical properties. Unlike the outer planets, the inner planets are small, dense and warm.

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  • Q:

    What is the surface temperature on planets?

    A:

    The surface temperatures of the solar system's planets are dependent on how close each planet is to the sun. Planets that have atmospheres are better able to retain heat from the sun, affecting the planet's surface temperature.

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  • Q:

    Can Mars be seen from Earth?

    A:

    Depending on the time of year and its position in the sky, Mars can be seen from Earth with the naked eye or in more detail with a small telescope. To the naked eye, Mars appears as a bright red star. With a telescope, observers will be able to see things like the polar ice caps, clouds and impact craters.

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  • Q:

    How far are the planets from the sun?

    A:

    The eight described planets all orbit the Sun at different distances; Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, followed by Venus, then Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The distances of the planets are normally measured in kilometers, because scientists use metric measurements. However, scientists also use a unit called an “astronomical unit,” which is equal to the distance between Earth and the sun.

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