Mass: 7.3 x 10
|Mercury is the closest planet to
For its movement across the sky, orbiting the sun in just 88 days, it was given the name of the Roman God, ( ? ). It was once thought that Mercury’s rotation period was the same as the planet’s year. But it’s rotation was discovered to be 58.6 days, two thirds of Mercury’s year. Its surface is shaped by volcanism and also numerous impacts. It’s surface is so cratered that it resembles something similar to our moon. Mercury consists of mountains, valleys, scarps, and ridges as well as basins. The Caloris Basin measures 1,2000 kilometers in diameter. Mercury’s craters, however, are not as densely packed as those on the Moon. It’s craters are also flatter those on the moon. Scientists believe that it may be due to Mercury’s stronger gravitational field. This region lies opposite of the Caloris Basin. When the object from space that created the basin collided with Mercury, it sent waves of energy around and through the planet. These waves then converged on the opposite side of the planet which created the weird terrain of a crisscrossed and jumbled pattern.
| Near Mercury’s
poles suggests ice in nearby craters. But this raises serious questions amongst
astronomers. How could ice ever exist on a planet so near the sun? With
the planet’s high density, second to Earth, a massive iron core may give
us the only possible answer.
A person can see the phases of Mercury through a small telescope. When the planet is on the other side of the sun (relative to the Earth) it is “full” because the half we can see is illuminated. And when the planet is lined up between the sun and Earth it is in the “new” phase. Mercury can be seen in transit when it passes between the sun and Earth. It appears as a black disc against the sun’s “surface” .
|Mercury has an extremely thin atmosphere
which is one of the reasons that life on Mercury is out of the question.
Mercury experiences extreme weather changes. On its surface a person could sizzle or freeze. Day-time temperatures can climb to 800 F, hot enough to melt certain metals like tin and lead. Night time temperatures, however, differ significantly where they can approach
Mercury’s magnetic field is about 100 times weaker that Earth’s yet it is strong enough to make scientists believe that the planet may have a large core of iron 1,100 miles in diameter.
|Mercury’s sunrises can be pretty
peculiar. The planet wobbles a bit on its axis as it orbits the Sun and also
travels around the Sun in an elliptical orbit. This creates some interesting
sunrises. On parts of Mercury, the sun comes up in the morning, then stops
and goes back down again, later rising a second time as it slowly travels
across the sky.
The chances of life on Mercury ever existing are very slim. It’s small mass would have made it difficult to retain much of an atmosphere. Its closeness to the Sun would have caused the intense heat and solar wind to drive off any atmosphere into space. Without air and water ever existing on the surface, life on Mercury is highly improbable.