This graphic shows the orbits of Mercury and Venus within the orbit of the Earth, and the maximum angular distance between these planets and the Sun as viewed from the Earth
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA.
The Innermost Planets as Bright Stars
the innermost planets in the solar system,
always appear only a small distance away from the
Sun in the sky. The maximum
elongations (maximum angular distances between an inner planet and the Sun
as viewed from the Earth) of these
planets are 47 degrees and 28 degrees, respectively.
so small and so close to the Sun (always within 28 degrees) that it is
difficult to see from Earth, since it is usually lost in the Sun's
glare. The innermost planet can be seen with the naked eye only at
twilight, very low in the sky, near the horizon.
From Earth, Venus can appear up to 47 degrees away from the Sun. During
these times, when it rises or sets a few hours before or after the Sun,
it can be seen just before sunrise or just after sunset as a bright
morning or evening star. At these times, Venus is
up to 15 times brighter than the brightest star, Sirius, and can even
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