Guide to the planets…Mercury

Distant Mercury image from Mariner 10. Process...

Distant Mercury image from Mariner 10. Processed from clear and blue filter images to aproximate visible color by Ricardo Nunes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Fact file:

  • closest planet to the sun (distance from the sun: 35, 983, 095 miles)
  • very thin atmosphere
  • surface temperature ranges from 427 degrees C at day time to -173 degrees C at night-time
  • length of year: 88 days
  • length of day: 1407 hours and 30 minutes
  • number of moons: 0

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and is the second smallest after the dwarf planet Pluto.  The sun on mercury would appear 3 times the size as it would when viewed from earth.  temperatures on the surface of mercury vary dramatically. They can be as hot as 430 degrees C or as low as -170 degrees C. this is because mercury has virtually no atmosphere, so heat from day time cannot be trapped for night-time causing temperatures to plummet. It reaches such high temperatures in the first place due to its close proximity to the sun.

mercury rotates slowly, it only rotates fully 3 times every two orbits. this means that a day on mercury is very long, it is equivalent to 58.646 earth days. Its orbit is rather fast taking only 88 earth days to orbit once, again,  due to it being the closest planet to the sun.

mercury’s lack of atmosphere also makes it vulnerable to meteor strikes; it’s surface is covered in craters, so much so, that it looks more like the surface of a comet. With no atmosphere any meteorites approaching mercury will not be slowed down by the friction of an atmosphere and will hit the planet hard. these craters are likely to remain for millions of years as with no atmosphere, mercury has no wind or weather to erode the surface..

only one visit has ever been made to mercury and that was by the space probe mariner 10, which photographed 45% of the planet’s surface. radar observations have been made of mercury which have shown that mercury may have water ice at its poles, inside deep craters which never see sunlight. this could have arrived by comets striking the planet



3 comments on “Guide to the planets…Mercury

  1. Very interesting. Can’t wait for Saturn – my favourite planet!
    And please do one on pluto. I know it’s not an official planet anymore but size doesn’t matter!!! 🙂

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