Sunday, April 18, 2010

Facts About Mercury

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun. It is second smallest planet and eighth largest, which is one-third the diameter of the Earth. Density is the second highest a little less than Earth’s. The orbital period of Mercury is 88 days and rotational period is 58.65 days. It can be seen in the morning, in the evening and in the daylight with the binocular or even with unaided eyes. It is more often visible from earth’s Southern hemisphere. The planet has no natural satellite and the atmosphere.

Temperatures on Mercury's surface can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius). Because the planet has no atmosphere to retain that heat, nighttime temperatures on the surface can drop to -280 degrees Fahrenheit (-170 degrees Celsius).

Mercury has a large iron core which is most likely at least partially molten. The silicate outer shell is only 500 to 600 km thick. It actually has a very thin atmosphere made up of atoms blasted off its surface by the solar wind. Due to the heat of the planet, these atoms quickly escape into space. Thus unlike the Earth and Venus which have stable atmospheres, Mercury's atmosphere is constantly being replenished.

Mercury’s magnetic field is strong enough to deflect the solar wind around the planet, creating a magnetosphere. The planet's magnetosphere, though small enough to fit within the Earth, is strong enough to trap solar wind plasma. This contributes to the space weathering of the planet's surface. Observations taken by the spacecraft detected this low energy plasma in the magnetosphere of the planet's nightside. Bursts of energetic particles were detected in the planet's magnetotail, which indicates a dynamic quality to the planet's magnetosphere.

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