|either of the planets Mercury and Venus, whose orbits lie inside that of the earth|
Either of the planets Mercury or Venus, whose orbits lie between Earth and the Sun. Because these planets lie in the general direction of the Sun, they can only be seen a few hours before sunrise or after sunset and are always positioned relatively near the horizon, never overhead. Inferior planets go through a complete cycle of phases as viewed from Earth, although their full phase, which occurs on the far side of the Sun, is lost in its glare. Compare superior planet. See also inner planet.