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MERCURY

Seen from Earth.• Mercury is the smallest and closest to the Sun of the eight planets in the Solar System. which is much faster than any other planet. indicating that it has been geologically inactive for billions of years . ranging from 100 K (−173 °C) at night to 700 K (427 °C) during the day at some equatorial regions. Mercury's surface experiences the greatest temperature variation of all the planets . • • • • . Mercury's surface is heavily cratered and similar in appearance to the Moon. Because it has almost no atmosphere to retain heat. but it has the largest orbital eccentricity. The poles are constantly below 180 K (−93 °C). it appears to move around its orbit in about 116 days. with an orbital period of about 88 Earth days. Mercury's axis has the smallest tilt of any of the Solar System's planets (about 1⁄30 of a degree).

Because Mercury's orbit lies within Earth's orbit it can appear in Earth's sky in the morning or the evening. Also. like Venus and the Moon. it displays a complete range of phases as it moves around its orbit relative to Earth. . As seen relative to the fixed stars. As seen from the Sun. An observer on Mercury would therefore see only one day every two years. it rotates exactly three times for every two revolutions it makes around its orbit. it appears to rotate only once every two Mercurian years. but not in the middle of the night.Mercury is gravitationally locked and rotates in a way that is unique in the Solar System.

Internal structure • Mercury is one of four terrestrial planets in the Solar System. For it to have such a high density. Mercury consists of approximately 70% metallic and 30% silicate material. Research published in 2007 suggests that Mercury has a molten core.439. It is believed that these were formed as Mercury's core and mantle cooled and contracted at a time when the crust had already solidified. It is the smallest planet in the Solar System. and is a rocky body like Earth. with an equatorial radius of 2. Mercury's density can be used to infer details of its inner structure. Mercury's crust is believed to be 100–300 km thick. One distinctive feature of Mercury's surface is the presence of numerous narrow ridges. Geologists estimate that Mercury's core occupies about 42% of its volume. and a mass approximately 2.25 times its current mass. Mercury's core has a higher iron content than that of any other major planet in the Solar System. . The most widely accepted theory is that Mercury originally had a metal-silicate ratio similar to common chondrite meteorites. its core must be large and rich in iron. extending up to several hundred kilometers in length. and several theories have been proposed to explain this. thought to be typical of the Solar System's rocky matter.427 g/cm3. Mercury's density is the second highest in the Solar System at 5. • • • • • • Surrounding the core is a mantle consisting of silicates.7 km.

showing extensive mare-like plains and heavy cratering. Moon-like highlands. . plains. and valleys. indicating that it has been geologically inactive for billions of years.Mercury's Surface  Mercury's surface is very similar in appearance to that of the Moon. mountains. rupes (escarpments).  Mercury possesses dorsa (wrinkle-ridges).

it is about 1. Mercury's magnetic field is dipolar. This dynamo effect would result from the circulation of the planet's iron-rich liquid core. magnetic field. Particularly strong tidal effects caused by the planet's high orbital eccentricity would serve to keep the core in the liquid state necessary for this dynamo effect. This contributes to the space weathering of the planet's surface. According to measurements. ◦ The magnetic field strength at the Mercurian equator is about 300 nT.Magnetic field and magnetosphere ◦ Despite its small size and slow 59-day-long rotation. in a manner similar to the magnetic field of Earth. ◦ Mercury's magnetic field is strong enough to deflect the solar wind around the planet. .1% as strong as Earth's. creating a magnetosphere. Like that of Earth. Mercury has a significant. Measurements have indicated that the strength and shape of the magnetic field are stable. Unlike Earth. and apparently global. is strong enough to trap solar wind plasma. ◦ It is likely that this magnetic field is generated by way of a dynamo effect. Mercury's poles are nearly aligned with the planet's spin axis. The planet's magnetosphere.

or is about to rise. oxygen. The orbit of Mercury helped prove Einstein’s theories of relativity As astronomers got more and more accurate instruments. Instead. . 5. and could permanently damage its optics and electronics. which were discovered in the last few hundred years. 4. And they didn’t know why. They noticed that the closest point of Mercury’s orbit was slowly moving around the Sun. there’s a constant flow of these atoms into orbit around Mercury. 6. It finally took Einstein’s calculations of general relativity to pred ict the motions of Mercury exactly. 8. Water could form ice in these craters that could last for millions of years. Hubble can’t look at Mercury at all The Hubble Space Telescope has never been used to observe Mercury. Neptune. ancient peoples have known about Mercury for thousands of years. and a way to mathematically describe the motions of the planets. and Pluto. The planet is so close to the Sun that the light from the Sun would overwhelm Hubble. helium. There might be ice on Mercury There are regions on the surface of Mercury which are never heated by the Sun. 7. they can be hundreds of degrees below zero.INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MERCURY 1. Mercury has an atmosphere It does have a tenuous atmosphere of hydrogen. and it never will be. and then the Sun’s solar wind blasts it away into space . they realized there was something wrong with Mercury’s movements around the Earth. and you need a place that has a clear view to the horizon. Half of Mercury had never been seen 2. sodium. There are recorded observations of Mercury made by the ancient Greeks and Romans. They don’t form a stable atmosphere. These are craters around the poles of the planet which are eternally in shadow. calcium and potassium around it. And because they’re in shadow. Mercury has a magnetic field 3. You can see Mercury with your own eyes The only times you can actually observe it is when the Sun has just set. You only have a short amount of time to spot it. We have known about Mercury for millennia Unlike Uranus.