Have you ever wondered what the Sun would look like from the other planets in our solar system? Here is a visual showing the apparent size of the Sun from the planets of the solar system, including Earth.
The Sun is the primary source of energy for Earth’s climate system, and life on Earth. It is a yellow dwarf star. With a diameter of about 1.39 million kilometers (864,337 miles, i.e. 109 times that of Earth), and a mass of about 1.9885×1030 kg (330,000 times that of Earth, accounting for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System), its gravity holds the whole solar system together, keeping everything from the biggest planets to the smallest particles of debris in its orbit.
It may be the biggest thing in this neighborhood, but it is actually just a medium-sized star among the hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
But, have you ever wondered how the Sun would look from the other planets in our solar system?
Apparent Size of the Sun from other planets (plus Pluto)
The sky is a sphere of 360°. When you look at the sky, you have a hemisphere of 180° above you where the stars shine. On this dome of 180°, the size of the Sun represents a number of degrees, which is its apparent size – in other words, its angular diameter.
For example, the angular diameter of the Sun, when seen from the surface of Earth is approximately 0.53°.
Mercury [Sun’s angular diameter: 1.377°]
The Sun’s angular diameter in Mercury’s sky is about 1.377°.
Mercury is the smallest and innermost planet in the Solar System. Its average distance from the Sun is 57.91 million km (36 million miles). But, it has the largest eccentricity of all known planets in the Solar System.
At perihelion (see notes 1), Mercury’s distance from the Sun, which is about 41 million km (25.5 million miles) is only about two-thirds (or 66%) of its distance at aphelion (see notes 2), which is about 69.8 million km (43.3 million miles).
From Mercury, the apparent angular diameter of the Sun is, on average, 1.377° (1.15430° at aphelion and 1.76106° at perihelion). In other words, on Mercury, the sun takes up almost three times larger space in the sky than it does on Earth.
Venus [Sun’s angular diameter: 0.7°]
The Sun’s angular diameter in Venus’s sky is about 0.7°.
Venus has a very dense, cloudy, and nearly opaque (to visible light) atmosphere. As a result, the Sun cannot be seen from Venus’s surface.
If you somehow overcome the extremely high atmospheric pressure and high temperatures and land on Venus and try to look at the sun, you may see a vague ill-defined illumination during the day but no definite source of light, just like a very cloudy day on earth. If the atmospheric clouds were thin at the time, you could see a bright area in the sky denoting the sun but not the sun itself.
Venus’ average distance from the Sun is about 108.2 million km (67.2 million miles). If the Sun could be seen from its surface, it would be about 1.5 times larger than it appears in Earth’s sky and about 2.25 times brighter.
Earth [Sun’s angular diameter: 0.53°]
Earth orbits the sun at an average of 149.6 million km (93 million miles). The distance from Earth to the sun is called an astronomical unit, or AU, which is used to measure distances throughout the solar system.
As explained above, the angular diameter of the Sun, when seen from the surface of Earth is approximately 0.53°.
The Sun and moon appear the same size in Earth’s sky: the Sun’s diameter is about 400 times greater – but the sun is also about 400 times farther away. That’s how total solar eclipses occur when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth.
Mars [Sun’s angular diameter: 0.35°]
The Sun’s angular diameter in Mars’s sky is about 0.35°.
Mars is one-and-a-half times farther from the sun than Earth is – the average distance between the Sun and Mars is about 229 million km (142 million miles). As a result, the sun appears about 2/3 of what it appears in the Earth’s sky.
Jupiter [Sun’s angular diameter: 0.11°]
The Sun’s angular diameter in Jupiter’s sky is about 0.11°.
The distance from the Sun to Jupiter is approximately 779 million km (484 million miles). This is about 5.2 AU or 5.2 times farther than the distance from Earth to the Sun. Around the planet Jupiter, the Sun would be 5.2 times smaller than the one we see from Earth (Jupiter is a gas giant, it has no surface like the solar system’s rocky planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars).
Saturn [Sun’s angular diameter: 0.057°]
The Sun’s angular diameter in Saturn’s sky is about 0.057°.
Saturn averages 1.4 billion km (886 million miles) from the sun, nine and a half times Earth’s average distance. At that distance, the sunlight is at least 90 times dimmer than on Earth, but the sun would still be far too bright to look at without eye protection.
Uranus [Sun’s angular diameter: 0.044°]
The Sun’s angular diameter in Uranus’ sky is about 0.044°.
From an average distance of 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometers), Uranus is 19.8 astronomical units away from the Sun. The sun appears correspondingly smaller around Uranus, and the sunlight is about 390 times dimmer than on Earth.
Neptune [Sun’s angular diameter: 0.0177°]
The Sun’s angular diameter in Neptune’s sky is about 0.0177°.
Neptune’s average distance from the Sun is 4.495 billion km (2.8 billion miles) or 30.1 AU. Its perihelion is 29.8 AU, and its aphelion is 30.4 AU. At that distance, the sun appears 30 times smaller than here on Earth. The sunlight is also at least 900 times dimmer.
Pluto [Sun’s angular diameter: 0.0177° – 0.0107°]
The Sun’s angular diameter in Pluto’s sky is about 0.0177° when it is closest to the Sun (perihelion) and 0.0107° when it is furthest from the Sun (aphelion).
Originally considered to be the ninth planet from the Sun after its discovery in 1930, Pluto is now a dwarf planet. It follows a highly elliptical orbit around the Sun. At the closest point of its orbit (perihelion), it is 29.658 AU (4.43682 billion km) away from the Sun – which occurred on September 5, 1989.
And then at the most distant point of its orbit, called aphelion, Pluto gets 49.305 AU (7.37593 billion km) away from the Sun – which has never been observed to date. Pluto will be at its aphelion in February 2114.
Currently (as of 2019) Pluto is about 34 AU from the Sun. The sun appears correspondingly smaller on Pluto, and the sunlight is at least 1,150 times dimmer than on Earth. Still, it’s at least 180 times brighter than a full moon, bright enough to outshine every other object in the sky, and hard to look at directly.
A fun fact, the sunlight in Pluto is still bright enough that you could easily read a book on the surface.
Learn your Pluto time!
For just a moment near dawn and dusk each day, the illumination on Earth matches that of high noon on Pluto.
NASA calls this Pluto Time. If you go outside at this time on a clear day, the world around you will be as bright as the brightest part of the day on Pluto.
You can learn your Pluto time by using NASA’s Find Your Pluto Time webpage!
The amount of sunlight received by each planet relative to Earth
Here’s the amount of sunlight received by each planet relative to Earth (at the top of their atmospheres):
- Mercury: 668%
- Venus: 191%
- Earth: 100%
- Mars: 43%
- Jupiter: 3.7%
- Saturn: 1.1%
- Uranus: 0.3%
- Neptune: 0.1%
And the solar energy in Watts per meter² (% relative to Earth):
- Mercury: 9,090 Wm⁻² (V/m²) (668%)
- Venus: 2,605 Wm⁻² (191%)
- Earth: 1,361 Wm⁻² (100%)
- Mars: 589 Wm⁻² (43%)
- Jupiter: 50 Wm⁻² (3.7%)
- Saturn: 15 Wm⁻² (1.1%)
- Uranus: 3.7 Wm⁻² (0.3%)
- Neptune: 1.5 Wm⁻² (0.1%)
Video: The Apparent Size of the Sun from other planets
A video about how our Sun would look like from the other planets of the Solar System.
- Perihelion is the point of the least distance for a body orbiting the Sun.
- Aphelion is the point of the greatest distance for a body orbiting the Sun.
- “What The Sun Looks Like From Other Planets” on Huffington Post
- “How The Sun Would Be Seen From Other Planets” on Reddit
- “Here is what the sun looks like from each planet in the solar system” on Science Post
- How big does the Sun look from each planet? How big would planets transiting the Sun appear from other planets? on RASC Calgary Centre website
- Sun on Wikipedia
- “Solar System Exploration: Sun – Our Star” on NASA Solar System webpage
- “Apparent size of the sun from the planets” on Astronoo.com
- Planet Mercury on Wikipedia
- Mercury on NASA Solar System webpage
- MESSENGER spacecraft on Wikipedia
- What does the sun look like from Venus? on Quora
- Venus on Wikipedia
- Uranus on Wikipedia
- Pluto on Wikipedia