The planet Mercury is one of the 8 planets of the solar system. There are many fascinating details to learn about Mercury, which happens to be the closest planet to the Sun. With almost no atmosphere, Mercury’s dusty grayish surface is dented with craters big and small. Also, the planet has a striking resemblance to the Earth’s Moon. Continue reading below to find out 10 interesting facts about Mercury, and how this little planet fits into the big Solar System.
1. What is in a name?
The planet Mercury got its name from the Roman god Mercury. This Roman god was a winged messenger who was rather fast, just like the planet. Mercury orbits the Sun faster than any other planet in the Solar System.
2. Why can’t Mercury easily be seen?
For all his years of observation, Nicolaus Copernicus a famous astronomer, was never able to get a peek of Mercury. The reason that the planet is rarely ever seen is due to the blinding glare of the Sun that reflects off the surface of Mercury. Although, before sunrise and sunset, a quick glimpse can be caught of the planet.
3. How hot does it get?
Since there is such a significant lack of atmosphere on the planet Mercury, the temperatures have a tendency to fluctuate to the extremes. With day time temperatures that reach 750 degrees Fahrenheit, and a deadly 320 degrees Fahrenheit below zero once night falls, it is not the hottest planet in the solar system. The planet Venus is actually warmer, while Mercury can be one of the coldest planets in the Solar System.
4. Beethoven is on Mercury?
The famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven isn’t actually there, however his last name was used to name and catalog the third largest crater on the planet. With a diameter of 643 km, the Beethoven crater is not only one of the largest on the planet Mercury, but the eleventh largest crater in the Solar System.
5. I can weigh less on Mercury than I can on Earth?
With an atmosphere made up of only 42% Helium, 15% Oxygen, 42% Sodium, and 1% other gases, a person who weighs 100 pounds on Earth will only weigh 38 pounds on the planet Mercury.
6. Mercury orbits how fast?
The Sun has a strong gravitational pull which causes Mercury to orbit the Sun at 107,088 miles per hour. Where as the planet Earth only takes 365 days to orbit the Sun, Mercury is able to orbit in 88 days.
7. Will this day ever end?
A year on Mercury is only 88 days long as stated above. However, a full day from the time the Sun comes up until it sets, takes 176 days. Oddly enough the planet Mercury takes a total of 58 days to rotate upon its axis. This actually causes the Sun to rise in the east beyond the horizon at the first part of the day, and then go higher in the sky. Once that happens it moves back down to the horizon in the east before rapidly moving to the horizon in the west to finally set after 60 days.
8. What happened to that smooth surface?
Before any of the first spacecrafts traveled to the planet Mercury to capture images, many astronomers believed that it had a smooth surface. When Mariner 10 took and sent pictures back to Earth of Mercury, a surprising discovery was made. As Mariner 10 flew by Venus and Mercury in the month of November 1973, pictures taken showed that the surface of mercury was cratered and pitted like the Earth’s Moon.
9. Can somebody turn the lights on?
Since Mercury has hardly any atmosphere at all, the sunlight cannot spread through. This causes the planets sky to be extremely dark. If you were to stand on the side of Mercury not facing the sun you would be able to view billions upon billions of stars in space.
10. There isn’t any water?
Because Mercury is so close to the Sun, there isn’t any possibility of discovering water on it. However, some astronomers and scientists believe that the white parts seen in craters not in the path of the Sun, could be ice.
At the current moment little has been discovered about the planet Mercury. The spacecraft Mariner 10 was the only one to get near the planet during 1974 –1975. During that time it measured the surface and environment of Mercury. A total of about 2700 pictures were taken of the planet in that observation time. Only 45% of Mercury’s surface has been studied by Mariner 10. Soon though, around the year 2013, the Japanese and the European Space Agencies are joining together to map the planet. Also during this combined venture, called BepiColumbo, the planet’s magnetosphere will also be studied so that more can be learned about Mercury.