What Does The Sun Look Like From Other Planets?
Find out what it’s like to look up from the surface of another world
On Earth, the position of the Sun relative to our planet makes us the toast of the Solar System. Located in the habitable zone, where the Sun is the right distance to make it neither too hot nor too cold, we are treated to relatively moderate temperatures. We also enjoy a brilliant blue sky, as molecules in our atmosphere scatter more blue light than any other color. Take a trip to the planets Venus and Mercury, though, and it’s a different story. On the former, the atmosphere is extremely thick, so you’d be hard-pressed to see the Sun (and nor would you on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune), but based on some landers sent there by the Soviet Union in the Seventies and Eighties, we know the sky looks kind of orange-red. On Mercury, which has no atmosphere, the Sun would shine a brilliant – and scorching hot – white. We’re not the only planet with a blue sky, though. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, and maybe even Pluto (we’re including it as a ‘classical’ planet here, although it is a dwarf planet) are also likely to have blue skies, but we don’t know for sure because we’ve never looked up from beneath their atmospheres. On Mars, the sky is usually red, except at sunset and sunrise, when it appears blue. The distance from the Sun also affects the length of the day on each planet, and how long the Sun hangs in the sky. On Mercury, which rotates the slowest of the planets owing to the Sun’s gravitational pull, the time between sunrise and sunset is 88 Earth days. At the other extreme, Jupiter rotates the fastest, with the time between sunrise and sunset being just under five hours on average. Our sky is unique, and looking up from any other world would seem incredibly alien.
On Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun at 0.39 AU*, the Sun would appear about 2.5 times larger than it does on Earth. A day on Mercury lasts 176 Earth days, so it would be in the sky for a long time.
Venus, at 0.72 AU, is the hottest planet in the Solar System due to its thick atmosphere. You wouldn’t see the Sun from the surface, but above the clouds it would appear a third bigger than on Earth.
Earth is in the prodigal habitable zone of the Solar System, where the distance from the Sun (1 AU) is just right for liquid water to exist. As such, we have a brilliant blue sky dominated by the Sun in the day.
From Mars, 1.5 AU away, the Sun would appear two thirds smaller than it does on Earth. It receives only 40 per cent of the light Earth does, which makes the Red Planet quite a bit dimmer than our own.