Shocking Facts Of Planet Mercury
Mercury, the nearest planet to the sun, is just slightly bigger than Earth’s moon and is pockmarked with craters.
The planet is visible to the unassisted eye and as such as has long been known to mankind. According to Universe Today, the Sumerians mentioned the planet as early as the 2nd century BC (a period spanning 2000 BC to 1001 BC), while the Babylonians dubbed it the planet Nabu.
We know it by the name given by the Romans, after their swift-footed messenger deity Mercury. The planet was first viewed using the newly created telescope in 1631 by scientists Galileo Galilei and Thomas Harriot, according to NASA Science.
LARGEST TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATIONS
Even though Mercury is the nearest planet to the sun, its surface may nevertheless be exceedingly cold, because to its lack of a heat-trapping atmosphere.
The temperature during the day may reach a sweltering 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius), while at night, temperatures can plunge as low as minus 290 F (minus 180 C), according to NASA. That variation represents a temperature swing of nearly 1,100 F (600 C), the biggest of any planet in the solar system.
THE SMALLEST PLANET IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM
Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system. The dinky planet is around 3,030 miles (4,876 kilometers) in diameter, making it about as large as the continental United States and just slightly bigger than Earth’s moon.
Saturn’s moon Titan and Jupiter’s moon Ganymede are both bigger than Mercury. Pluto was long regarded to be the smallest planet in the solar system, but since it was reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006, the distinction of the smallest planet has been conferred to Mercury.
ORBIT Of Mercury
Mercury races around the sun every 88 Earth days, blasting around at about 29 miles (47 kilometers) per second – quicker than any other planet in the solar system, according to NASA.
Mercury’s orbit is not only exceedingly rapid but also tremendously elliptical. The planet comes as near as 29 million miles (47 million km) to the sun and as distant as 42 million miles (70 million km) from the sun.
ICE LOCATED NEAR POLES
In 2012, NASA’s MESSENGER probe detected water ice within several of Mercury’s craters. In 2017, it was found that Mercury has far more ice scattered throughout its north polar area than previously imagined.
The possibility of ice had originally been hypothesized in the 1990s when Earth-based observatories spotted highly reflective areas in the polar regions.
IRON CORE OF MERCURY
Mercury has a massive metallic core around 2,200 miles to 2,400 miles (3,600 to 3,800 km) broad – nearly 75% of the planet’s diameter! To put things into perspective, Mercury’s outer shell is just 300 miles to 400 miles (500 to 600 km) thick.
The massive core contains more iron in it than any other planet in the solar system. Scientists aren’t precisely sure how it evolved, or why it’s so outlandishly enormous.
Being so near to the sun, you may think it amazing that Mercury could contain any surface ice at all. But the planet has extremely little axial tilt, meaning that the polar regions get very little direct sunlight, and some craters stay perpetually in the dark.
And Mercury has no atmosphere to speak of, thus its temperatures soar and decrease rapidly throughout the day and night, respectively.
Mercury has the lightest atmosphere of any planet in the solar system. The atmosphere is so thin that scientists have another term for it – an exosphere. Mercury’s exosphere is made largely of oxygen, sodium, hydrogen, helium and potassium, according to NASA.
Scientists have found that Mercury contains streams of particles sloughing off its surface, much like a comet. Long-exposure images made by Astro photographers on Earth may catch these intriguing tails.
Scientists think that the tails are created when the sodium in Mercury’s exosphere glows as a consequence of being energized by radiation from the sun. Sunlight may also liberate these molecules from Mercury’s surface and propel them out into space, according to an article from NASA Science.