Mercury (Planet) Essay
Mercury is the closest planet to sun and second smallest in solar system (1st is Pluto). The orbit of Mercury is elliptical than those of other planets of solar system. Its mean distance from Solar System is about 57.93 million kilometers. Its closest approach to the sun Perihelion is 46 million kilometers and farthest approach Aphelion is 70 million kilometers. Mercury's diameter is 4875 kilometers. Its mass is about 3.30 x 1026 grams or 1/18th or 0.06% of Earth's. Its mean density is 5.44 grams per cm3 which is about equal to that of Earth's 5.5 grams per cm3. Mercury's closest approach to the earth is 91700000 kilometers and farthest approach is 218900000 kilometers. Mercury has a longest solar day which lasts for 176 earth days. Because Mercury is closest to sun so its orbital circumference is shortest. So it must race around the sun faster than any other planet in the solar system in order to maintain a stable orbit and position. That is why it has the shortest solar year which lasts for only 87.96 earth days. Mercury revolves on its orbit at a speed of 47.89 kilometers per second. Its sidereal day (one complete rotation on its axis) is of 58.65 earth days. Mercury's magnetic field is very weak about 1% that of earth's or 6 x 10-4 that of earth's. Because it has a magnetic field (why not very weak), its outer core must be in liquid iron compound which produces a weak magnetic field as it moves. Scientists believe that mercury's crust acts as an effective insulator to keep the planet's outer core liquid despite of very cold temperatures on the dark side of the planet. The core of Mercury probably is relatively larger than that of Earth's core because relatively mercury is smaller in volume than its mass. Its huge iron core makes about 80% of total mass. Being too close to the sun, Mercury has extreme temperatures that range from -180o C to 430o C. Its very cold temperature is so because it has no atmosphere to keep heat in during night time. Mercury has no...
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- Mercury is the planet closest to the Sun. It is not, however, very close, since it is 36 million miles, or 58 million kilometres away from the Sun!
- The distances of planets from each other and from the Sun are often measured in Astronomical Units, AU. One AU is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometres. Using this system of measurement, Mercury is 0.39 AU from the Sun.
- Like all the other planets Mercury orbits round the Sun, but its orbit of the Sun lasts for only 88 days. The Earth’s orbit lasts for 365 days and Pluto’s orbit takes 249 YEARS!
- Because Mercury goes round the Sun so quickly, the planet was called after the messenger of the Roman Gods. The messenger Mercury, or Hermes as the Greeks knew him, is usually shown as having wings on his helmet or on his sandals.
- When Mercury orbits the Sun, it travels 36 million miles, or 58 million kilometres in the 88 days of the orbit. It moves at a speed of 48 kilometres a second, or 107,372 miles an hour!
- Unlike the Earth and most other planets Mercury only turns very slowly on its axis, taking 59 days to complete the turn from day to night.
Figure 1. Mercury, showing the craters on the surface.
- Mercury’s sunny side has a temperature rising to 400° Celsius or 750° Fahrenheit. Compare this to a warm summer’s day in London, when the temperature might be 80° Fahrenheit or 26° Celsius.
- Mercury’s dark side, however, is very cold indeed, with the temperature going down to -200° Celsius or -328° Fahrenheit.
- Mercury has no atmosphere around it to protect it from the Sun or to retain any heat when it rotates on its axis.
- Mercury is quite a small planet. Its diameter, the distance right round its middle, is only 3100 miles or 4990 kilometres. The diameter of the Earth is 7926 miles or 12,760 kilometres.
- Mercury’s distance from the Earth is 57 million miles, or 92 million kilometres. Using Astronomical Units Mercury is 0.61 AU from the Earth.
- Mercury has no moons. Moons are satellites that travel with a planet as it orbits the sun. The earth has one moon, Mars has two very small ones, Jupiter, the giant of the planets, has 16!
- The surface of Mercury is covered with craters and completely dry. There is no possibility of life on Mercury.
- The first photographs of the surface of Mercury were taken by the USA Space Agency, NASA. The Mariner 10 spacecraft passed close to the planet in 1974 and 1975 and took very clear photographs.
- NASA’s latest mission to Mercury is called Messenger. The Messenger spacecraft entered Mercury’s orbit in March 2011 and is sending back new pictures of the planet. Messenger is now moving with Mercury round the Sun.
Figure 2. The NASA spacecraft Messenger orbiting round the Sun with Mercury.
- From Messenger we know that Mercury has a large number of very deep and irregular pits. Some of these pits are several miles deep.
- Mercury is one of five planets that can be seen without using a telescope, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. When you look at the sky at night, the planets do not twinkle in the way that stars do. Mercury is not very easy to see, but it can be seen low in the west just after sunset or in the east just before dawn.
- About once every ten or fifteen years Mercury can be seen crossing the Sun. At this point its orbit has come between the Sun and the Earth. This event is known as a transit. When watching any event near the Sun a proper filter must be used to protect the sight. With this filter Mercury can be seen as a tiny black dot slowly passing across the Sun. You must never try to look directly at the Sun without a filter.
Atlas of Mercury—NASA
Alternate Images of Mercury