Tag Archives: Mercury

Solar System Exploration – Mercury


Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, it’s surface is very similar to the moon, rocky and cratered but with the difference that it’s surface temperature ranges from 430°C to – 180°C. Mercury orbits the sun every 88 days and completes two rotations for every three orbits around the sun – making a day on Mercury 176 days long.


Facts about Mercury


Becasue Mecury (This applies to Venus too) orbits the sun within the orbit of the Earth is tis only visible at either dawn or dusk. It’s also possible to see cresent phases on these planets (if viewing ith through a powerful telescope) as you might see them on the moon. This again is something that is unique to the two innermost planets. The outer most planets may show slight signs or phases at extremes of their orbit in relation to the Earth, but the signs aren’t significant.




Gustav Holst wrote a suite of classical music pieces on the planets. This was the piece that he wrote for Mercury – the messenger. Probably so called becasue it rounds the sun in it’s swift 88 days.



Recent Events

The messenger probe that was launched in 2004 carried out extensive study of Mercury and despite it’s searnly hot surface there is evidence of water ice in Mercury’s permanently shadowed craters. This shows that at some point there must have been an atmosphere on Mercury at some point and could prove to be a useful fuel and oxygen resource.

The Messenger probe also managed to map 100% of the surface of Mercury, this completed the 40% / 45% mapping that was carried out by Mariner 10 in 1975.  What does all this mean? It tells us about Mercury’s past where it probably had an atmosphere and it’s future? Who knows? But water is fuel and a valuable resource in space.

The Messenger mission ended on April the 30th 2015 when it deorbited and crashed into the surface of Mercury

Credit for link information and images – NASA

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