Mercury Facts – The Ultimate Guide to Mercury

Mercury is a terrestrial planet and is the closest planet to the Sun in our solar system and due to its proximity, it’s not easily seen except during twilight. For every two orbits of the Sun, Mercury completes three rotations about its axis. Up until 1965 people thought that same side constantly faced the sun. Thirteen times a century you can see Mercury from Earth pass across the face of the sun in an event called a transit. We answer all the Mercury facts you could ever want. It will also give you information on what it does, how big it is, and much more.

Mercury Facts

  • There are no moons or rings on Mercury.
  • Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun.
  • Mercury is the smallest planet.
  • It’s not just the smallest planet, it is also shrinking!
  • Mercury completes one rotation every 59 earth days.
  • One year on Mercury is 87.97 Earth days.
  • The phases that Mercury goes through are just like the Moon.
  • Mercury is 4.6 billion years old.
  • Mercury is named after the Roman messenger for the gods.
  • It is unknown who first discovered Mercury.
  • Two spacecraft have visited Mercury.
  • Pieces of Mercury have been discovered on Earth.
  • The largest crater on Mercury could easily fit Western Europe.
  • Mercury has the most craters of any planet in our solar system.

Mercury Orbit & Rotation

The Mercury Orbit & Rotation questions will provide newbies and experts alike with a comprehensive explanation of the orbit and rotation of Mercury. We’ll discuss what these terms mean, how to calculate them, as well as take a look at their effect on other aspects of the planet.

How Long Does It Take Mercury to Orbit the Sun

Mercury has the shortest orbital period of all our solar system’s planets at 87.97 Earth days. To make the trip this quickly, it travels 47.36 kilometers per second, more than half again faster than Earth’s speed of 30 km/s.

How Far From the Sun Does Mercury Orbit

Mercury is the innermost planet in our solar system. Within its highly eccentric orbit, Mercury travels from 47 million kilometers to 70 million kilometers from the Sun. This gives it an average distance of 58 million kilometers (0.4 AU) away.

How Long Does It Take For Mercury To Rotate

Mercury rotates slowly, completing one revolution every 59 Earth days. This creeping orbit with nearly 30 day long days and nights leaves one hemisphere to bake in the Sun and the other to chill in the shade.

How Long Is a Year on Mercury

One year on Mercury is 87.97 Earth days, the shortest year of any planet in our solar system.

How Long Is a Day on Mercury

One Mercury solar day is 176 Earth days or just over two years on Mercury. 

Mercury History

Mercury, the smallest and innermost planet in the Solar System, has a lot of history that can be learned by an amateur astronomer. The following questions will detail some of these things for you to enjoy learning about.

How Old Is Mercury

Mercury, as with all the other planets in our solar system, is roughly 4.6 billion years old. This is because everything in our solar system was formed from the same spinning cloud of hydrogen gas and dust. Scientists have come to this conclusion by analyzing meteorites that have fallen to Earth. No matter their origin, everyone has been radiocarbon dated to approximately the same age.

How Did Mercury Get Its Name

Mercury is named after the Roman messenger for the gods. With wings on his helmet and shoes, Mercury could race from one place to another, ensuring messages were communicated without delay. The planet Mercury was named in honor of this speed.

Who Discovered Mercury

It’s difficult to say who originally discovered Mercury. Nearly every culture on Earth has known about Mercury in some form since the beginning of written history. The oldest known recorded observations were found written in cuneiform on the Mul. Apin tablets, most likely by an Assyrian astronomer in the 14th century BC, and Babylonian records date to the first millennium BC. The ancient Greeks were the first to realize Mercury was one object rather than two by roughly 350 BC, and then the Romans named this singular object Mercury due to its speed crossing the sky. However, Galileo Galilei made the first telescopic observations of Mercury in the early 17th century.

How Many Spacecrafts Have Visited Mercury

Mercury has been visited by only two spacecraft: Mariner 10 in 1974-5, and MESSENGER 2004-2015. Mariner 10, the first spacecraft to use a gravitational slingshot and the first to visit multiple planets, sent back the first close-up images of Mercury’s surface in March 1974. Mariner 10 returned over 2,700 pictures covering nearly half Mercury’s surface across its three flybys. MESSENGER, launched in 2004 and using the same gravitational slingshot technique, first reached Mercury in January 2008. After three flybys, it settled into orbit for a one-year mapping mission, completing the work begun by Mariner 10.

Atmospheric Structure and Dynamics of Mercury 

The study of Mercury is a difficult one, as its proximity to the sun makes observations difficult. The only spacecraft that has visited Mercury was Mariner 10 in 1974, and its flybys were limited by solar radiation.

Does Mercury Have Rings

Mercury’s small size and proximity to the Sun preclude it from having any type of ring system. Any small debris that would form into rings either smashes into Mercury or is pulled into the Sun.

Does Mercury Have Moons

Like its partner inner planet, Venus, Mercury has no moons. This is likely due to its small size and closeness to the Sun. In fact, Mercury is closer in size to Earth’s moon than to the Earth itself.

How Much Gravity Is on Mercury

While Mercury is a dense, rocky planet, it is also the smallest and least massive in our solar system. This results in gravity that is only 38% of Earth’s at 3.7 m/s2.

Is There Water On Mercury

Even though it is the hottest planet in our solar system and closest to the Sun, there is evidence of water ice on Mercury. Observations from both the MESSENGER spacecraft and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico have discovered water ice within the permanently shadowed interiors of some polar craters.

Does Mercury Have Craters

Mercury is possibly the most crater-ridden planet in our solar system. The four gas giants have no visible surface to have craters, and the other terrestrial planets contain forces (volcanism, wind, rain) that eventually erode those that do appear. Mercury is more similar to the Earth’s moon, though, and has no way to erase the many impact craters on its surface.

How Are Craters Formed On Mercury?

Craters on Mercury are formed by interstellar debris slamming into the planet’s solid, rocky surface.

How Big Is Mercury

Mercury is 4,880 kilometers across, slightly more than one-third the width of the Earth. In fact, it is closer to the size of Earth’s 3,474 km diameter moon than to the Earth.

Is Mercury The Smallest Planet

With a 4,880 km diameter, Mercury is by far the smallest planet in our solar system. Only Mars, with a diameter of 6,794 km, is even close.

What Is the Diameter of Mercury

Mercury is 4,880 kilometers across, seventy percent the size of Mars and one-tenth that of Neptune. Jupiter dwarfs tiny Mercury by being nearly thirty times its diameter.

What Is Mercury Made of

Mercury is a terrestrial planet consisting of roughly 70% metallic and 30% silicate materials. Mercury’s iron core, which is nearly three-quarters of the planet’s diameter, is about the size of Earth’s moon. The core is partially liquid, helping to create Mercury’s magnetosphere by the same dynamo effect as on Earth. Outside this molten core is a 550 km thick shell of rock, remnants of millions of years of impacts by comets and meteors.

What Is Mercury Atmosphere Made of

Mercury doesn’t have an atmosphere; it’s too small and hot for its gravity to maintain one. It does have a light exosphere made of calcium, helium, hydrogen, oxygen, sodium, and others, though it’s highly unstable. Its atoms are constantly lost and gained from solar wind and radioactive decay.

What Is The Temperature on Mercury

Mercury is one of the hottest and one of the coldest planets in our solar system. Its slow rotation and lack of atmosphere cook the sunny side to 427 degrees Celsius and chill the shaded to -183C. This six hundred-degree temperature range is the widest on any planet.

What Color Is Mercury The Planet

With no atmosphere and only its rocky crust for color, Mercury is a gray planet that looks much like Earth’s moon.

Can We Live on Mercury

It is unlikely human beings would be able to live successfully on Mercury. With daytime temperatures of 430 degrees Celsius, nighttime temperatures as low as -180, and a day lasting 59 Earth days, it would be difficult to create a safe environment for humans anywhere on the surface. There is evidence for ice water in some craters, though, and this points to there being a stable enough environment for more constant temperatures that might be survivable. If the radiation levels were also low enough to be shielded from, it is possible humans could live on Mercury, but it’s highly improbable.

How Much Would You Weigh On Mercury

Due to its small size, the gravity on Mercury is only thirty-eight percent that on Earth. A person who weighs 100 kg on Earth would show 38 kg on a scale on Mercury.

Comparing Mercury and Distances From Other Planets 

The solar system is a truly amazing place, and it’s impossible to comprehend the sheer size of the space we live in. It can be difficult to get your head around how far apart planets are from one another, and what their comparative sizes would look like if they were all on Earth.

How Far Is Mercury From Earth

Due to Mercury’s highly elliptical orbit, the distance between it and the Earth can vary by 145 million kilometers. In opposition, when Mercury is at its closest to the Earth and furthest from the Sun, Mercury and the Earth would be only 77 million kilometers apart. When Mercury is at its maximum from the Sun and Earth is at its furthest from the Sun on the other side, Earth and Mercury can be 222 million kilometers away from one another.

How Big Is Mercury Compared to Earth

Mercury is only slightly more than one-third the diameter of the Earth at 4,880 kilometers across. In fact, because of their similar compositions, Mercury’s size compared to Earth is proportional to the 38% relationship between their gravities.

How Long Does It Take to Get to Mercury

Since spacecraft don’t fly in straight lines between points, it’s hard to say how long it takes to get to Mercury from Earth. NASA’s Mariner 10 probe took 147 days to make the transit. NASA’s more recent MESSENGER mission took 1,260 days to travel from Earth to Mercury, but this slowness was intentional. Because the goal was to have MESSENGER orbit Mercury upon its arrival, it had to be going slow enough to be captured by Mercury’s gravity, so NASA engineers used three gravitational slingshots to allow MESSENGER to take her time.

How Big Is Mercury Compared to the Moon

Earth’s moon, with a diameter of 3,474 km, is 71% the size of Mercury. The moon is roughly the size of Mercury’s iron core.

How Far Is Mercury From the Moon

Mercury’s distance to the moon is highly variable, due to its highly elongated elliptical orbit. At a minimum, the moon and Mercury would be 76.6 million kilometers apart, but at maximum, that distance would grow to 145.38 million kilometers.

How Far Is Mercury From the Sun

With an average distance of 58 million kilometers (0.4 AU) from the Sun, Mercury is the innermost planet in our solar system. Within its highly eccentric orbit, Mercury travels from a minimum of 47 million kilometers to a maximum of 70 million kilometers from the Sun.

How Big Is Mercury Compared To Saturn

Mercury is a pebble compared to the gas giant Saturn. Mercury’s diameter of 4,878 km is four percent of Saturn’s 120,536 km. More than 13,500 Mercury’s would fit within Saturn’s giant mass. Mercury is so small in comparison to Saturn, that Saturn’s moon, Titan, is larger than Mercury.