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  • Driti Gundana

Mercury

Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system, its diameter is only about 4828km, which is about the size of the United States. It is the closest planet to the sun and is only 57 million km away, hence the planet takes only 88 Earth days to complete a swift and fleeting revolution around the sun.


Mercury is a terrestrial planet just like Venus, Earth, and Mars. However, due to the Sun’s glares, it is tough to see from earth, but when seen Mercury can be one of the brightest objects in the night sky.


Due to its peculiar rotation and revolution patterns, the rising and the setting of the sun is different as well as spectacular. If you were standing on the equator of this rocky planet, we would see the sunrise and set in different ways, depending on where you were. At some, the sun would rise toward its high point in the sky, then stop and reverse direction, seeming to set. Then it would stop and rise again, getting smaller as it finally sets in the west.


Mercury, like Earth, has 3 main layers- The Core, Mantle, and Crust. Unlike Earth, Mercury’s crust has no tectonic plates and its core makes up about 85% mass of the planet, this has caused the planet to shrink radially 4.4 miles. The planet continues to shrink!


The planet’s closeness to the Sun affects many aspects of the planet but mainly its atmosphere; the planet has no atmosphere. It only has a thin exosphere which is the part of the planet that merges with outer space.


Mercury is a planet of extremes. One day on the planet is about 55 Earth days long! The planet is barely tilted on its axis (3.1 degrees), this results in the extreme climate that the planet has. During the day the surface temperatures rise to 400ºC, and during the night it drops down to -179ºC. Even while the Sun scorches the equator, ice water fill the crators of the shadowed poles.


The crust of Mercury is covered in crators. The planet has been geologically inactive for about a billion years. The surface is composed of 70% metallic and 30% silicate. This makes Mercury the second densest planet of the solar system, the first one being Earth. The planet weighs 5.5 grams per cubic cm. The surface gravity is 3.7 meters per second squared. There are multiple ridges on the planet, some also extend 700km in length!


If you look at the planet mercury closely you will be able to notice a huge crator called Calaris Basin. This creator is 1550km in diameter. Almost covering ½ of the planet. It was created about 400 million years ago, when a giant asteroid, with the impact of a trillion hydrogen bombs, slammed into the planet. It was so powerful that it caused lava eruptions and left a concentric ring above 2 km tall surrounding the impact creator.


Mercury neither bears rings nor does it bear any moons.


Compared to the other planets of the solar system very little is known about Mercury though humans have observed the planet for nearly 2000 years! We can just hope to find out more.



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