It’s taken scientists a long time to gather any interesting information about Mercury. While the images that Mariner 10 captured in 1974 where insightful, it wasn’t until ‘The Messenger’ achieved orbit around Mercury in 2011 that scientists began to cement some of the theories that had emerged about the planet over the years.
Today, even though it isn’t as admired as the other planets, there’s still a lot to learn. Take these 18 interesting facts about Mercury, for instance:
- Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. To see it, you’ll need to wait until dusk or dawn.
- The planet has a mass of 3.29×1023 kg, which is roughly 0.06 Earths. It also has a diameter of 4,800 km. Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system.
- Despite its size, it is among the five planets that can be seen from Earth with the naked eye.
- Mercury is the second densest planet (5.4 grams per cubic centimetre) in the solar system, only second to the Earth. This is imputed to the planet’s structure which constitutes heavy metals and rocks.
- The surface of this planet has wrinkles called ‘Lobate Scarps’ that can be hundreds of miles in length.
- Even though its the closest planet to the Sun, Mercury is actually the second hottest planet. It loses to Venus in this area. The side facing the sun can reach 427 degrees celsius. But the opposite side experiences temperatures of -173 degrees celsius!
- This drastic variation in temperature can be imputed to the fact that Mercury doesn’t have an atmosphere. Its gravity is just 38% of the Earth’s gravity. That isn’t enough to keep its atmosphere from being blown away by solar winds from the Sun.
- The scientific consensus is that Mercury does possess an atmosphere. It is a meager atmosphere but it exists none the less, consisting of oxygen, sodium, hydrogen, potassium, and helium along with small amounts of other elements like neon and calcium.
- Mercury has more craters than any other planet in the solar system. They are littered all over its surface.
- No one knows when Mercury was first discovered but there is evidence suggesting that the Sumerians from 3000 BC were aware of its existence.
- Mankind didn’t realise that Mercury was a planet until 1543. It was in that year that Copernicus’ model of the solar system was published. The model was revolutionary because it placed the Sun at the centre rather than the earth.
- Mercury, the mythical figure after which the planet is named, is a messenger to the Roman deities.
- The Greeks had two different names for Mercury. At dawn, they called it Apollo. At night, the name changed to Hermes. To the Norse tribes, Mercury was called Odin.
- The fact that the Greeks had two different names for Mercury isn’t that surprising. So many people during those early days believed that they were observing two different stars. They believed they could see one star in the east at dawn and another star in the west at dusk. By 350 BC, it was understood that these were the same celestial body.
Other Interesting Mercury facts
- Mercury has neither a ring nor moons. This is because its gravity is so weak.
- People once thought that Mercury was the second planet from the Sun. They believed that another planet called Vulcan was positioned between Mercury and the Sun. It was eventually proven that Vulcan never existed.
- Mercury’s magnetic field is weak, just 1% of the earth’s magnetic field.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about Mercury you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments section below!
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