Interesting Facts About Mercury Planet

The History of Mercury

In 3,000 B.C., the Babylonians preserved early literature regarding Mercury. When Mercury was seen as the morning star, the Greeks called it Apollo, and when it was seen as the evening star, they called it Hermes. Astronomers have been interested in the solar system’s innermost planet since this time. Anyone familiar with Roman mythology would recognize that the planet was named after the Roman deity Mercury, who was the “winged messenger of the gods” and was in charge of travel and commerce. Mercury is thought to have been given its name because it is the quickest planet to circle the sun. Mercury, the second-smallest planet, with a diameter of 4,879 kilometers (3,025 miles) and no moon.

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The Orbit Of Mercury

Mercury’s orbit is not the same as Earth’s orbit. The planet’s perihelion, or closest point to the sun, is 46 million kilometers (29 million miles), while its aphelion, or furthest point from the sun, is 69 million kilometers (43 million miles).

Based on this, Mercury’s orbit is elliptical or egg-shaped. In contrast, the Earth’s orbit is round, with perihelion and aphelion distances from the sun of 91 and 94 kilometers, respectively.

Mercury, as previously noted, is one of the quickest planets to circle the sun. It travels at a speed of 48 kilometers per second (30 miles per hour). Based on this, it seems that when Mercury is at its perihelion, the sun appears to travel eastward for a brief amount of time before continuing to move westward.

Mercury orbits the Earth once every 88 Earth days, while its spin on its axis takes 58.6 days, as found in 1965. As a result, Mercury will complete three spins throughout its two orbits (Zuber 2004).

Expeditions To Mercury

The Mariner 10 spacecraft, which orbited Mercury from March 1974 to March 1975, was the only known mission to acquire images of the planet.

Mariner 10 was able to fly over three times and photograph about 45 percent of Mercury’s surface. The probe also discovered sodium in Mercury’s atmosphere and a magnetic field that was previously unknown. Mercury’s magnetic field was found to be 1% of Earth’s magnetic field.

The US launched the Messenger probe in 2004, and was scheduled to visit Mercury in 2008, 2009, and circle the planet in 2011. It will be utilized to get a better understanding of the planet’s surface and composition (Zuber 2004).

Exploring A Day On Mercury

The darkness is the first thing one notices while exploring Mercury. The darkness is caused by the very limited quantity of accessible atmosphere. Because of the planet’s low gravity, any atmosphere it can hang onto is made up of sodium, potassium, helium, oxygen, and hydrogen. As a result, even though Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, a day on the planet would be gloomy.

Mercury’s temps would be something to get used to as well. Mercury, is the sun’s nearest neighbor, with temperatures ranging from -200 to +800 degrees Fahrenheit. Mercury has the greatest fluctuation in temperature between day and night when compared to the other innermost planets.

The jagged terrain is the second aspect that a person would notice when spending a day on Mercury. Johann Hieronymus Schroeter, who lived from 1745 to 1816, is credited for sketching the planet for the first time. The surface of Mercury seems wrinkled in general. Images returned by the Mariner 10 space shuttle revealed a surface similar to Earth’s moon with prominent craters caused by asteroids impacting with it. Tiny and big craters may be seen on the surface, with the small craters being around 10 kilometers (6 miles) in diameter. Whereas the largest craters have diameters of 100 kilometers (60 miles) or more. When observed by Mariner 10, several of these enormous craters form a “bull’s eye” or multiring basin. The Caloris basin, which is around 1300 kilometers (810 miles) in diameter and a relatively youthful multiring basin, is the most popular of the major craters.

Smooth flat plains are also found on Mercury’s surface, scattered amid the craters. It is widely assumed that these intercrater plains were produced by early volcanic activity.

As one explores the inside of Mercury, one will be able to see the more than a hundred scarps that dot the planet’s surface. Scarps are cliffs developed along fault lines that result in one side of the land rising higher than the other. They cover 45 percent of Mercury’s surface and are around 3 kilometers (2 miles) tall and 100 meters long.

The planet Mercury is notable for possibly having aqueous ice at its Northern and Southern poles. There is much dispute regarding how a planet so near to the sun and with such high temperatures could contain water ice at its poles. Proponents of the concept that water ice exists on Mercury claim that it is most likely found at the bottom of deep craters where temperatures are low enough to keep ice frozen. Opponents of the presence of water ice on Mercury believe that the material is really sulfur, which is abundant in the solar system.

Even if water did exist on Mercury, this should not lead you to believe the planet is capable of supporting human life. With almost no atmosphere and temperatures varying from -200 to +800 degrees Fahrenheit, humanity would struggle to exist (Zuber 2004).

Statistics About Mercury

Discovered ByKnown by the Ancients
Date of DiscoveryUnknown
Average Distance from the SunMetric: 57,909,175 km
English: 35,983,095 miles
Scientific Notation: 5.7909175 x 107 km (0.38709893 A.U.)
By Comparison: Earth is 1 A.U. (Astronomical Unit) from the Sun.
Perihelion (closest)Metric: 46,000,000 km
English: 28,580,000 miles
Scientific Notation: 4.600 x 107 km (0.3075 A.U.)
By Comparison: 0.313 x Earth
Aphelion (farthest)Metric: 69,820,000 km
English: 43,380,000 miles
Scientific Notation: 6.982 x 107 km (0.4667 A.U.)
By Comparison: 0.459 x Earth
Equatorial RadiusMetric: 2,439.7 km
English: 1,516.0 miles
Scientific Notation: 2.4397 x 103 km
By Comparison: 0.3825 x Earth
Equatorial CircumferenceMetric: 15,329.1 km
English: 9,525.1 miles
Scientific Notation: 1.53291 x 104 km
VolumeMetric: 60,827,200,000 km3
English: 14,593,200,000 mi3
Scientific Notation: 6.08272 x 1010 km3
By Comparison: 0.054 x Earth’s
MassMetric: 330,220,000,000,000,000,000,000 kg
Scientific Notation: 3.3022 x 1023 kg
By Comparison: 0.055 x Earth’s
DensityMetric: 5.427 g/cm3
By Comparison: 0.984 x Earth
Surface AreaMetric: 74,800,000 km2
English: 28,900,000 square miles
Scientific Notation: 7.48 x 107 km2
By Comparison: 0.108 x Earth
Equatorial Surface GravityMetric: 3.7 m/s2
English: 12.1 ft/s2
By Comparison: If you weigh 100 pounds on Earth, you would weigh 38 pounds on Mercury.
Escape VelocityMetric: 15,300 km/h
English: 9,500 mph
Scientific Notation: 4.25 x 103 m/s
By Comparison: Escape Velocity of Earth is 25,022 mph
Sidereal Rotation Period
(Length of Day)
58.646 Earth days
1407.5 hours
By Comparison: By Comparison: 58.81 x Earth
Sidereal Orbit Period
(Length of Year)
0.241 Earth years
87.97 Earth days
By Comparison: 0.241 x Earth
Mean Orbit VelocityMetric: 172,341 km/h
English: 107,088 mph
Scientific Notation: 47,872.5 m/s
By Comparison: 1.61 x Earth
Orbital Eccentricity0.20563069
By Comparison: 12.3 x Earth
Orbital Inclination to Ecliptic7 degrees
Equatorial Inclination to Orbit0 degrees
By Comparison: Earth’s equatorial inclination to orbit is 23.45 degrees.
Orbital CircumferenceMetric: 356,000,000 km
English: 221,000,000 miles
Scientific Notation: 3.56 x 108 km
By Comparison: 0.385 x Earth
Minimum/Maximum Surface TemperatureMetric: -173/427 °C
English: -279/801 °F
Scientific Notation: 100/700 K
By Comparison: Earth’s temperature range is ~ 185/331 K.
Atmospheric ConstituentsBy Comparison: Earth’s atmosphere consists mostly of N2, O2
Table 1: Concise statistics on the planet Mercury (N.A.S.A. 2006)


Encyclopedia Britannica. “Mercury.” 2006. Encyclopedia Britannica Premium Service. 2006

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (N.A.S.A). “Mercury: Facts & Figures.” 2006.

Zuber, Maria T. “Mercury.” World Book Online Reference Center. 2004. World Book, Inc.

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