Mercury, a world with a lot of craters and an almost atmosphere-like atmosphere, is close to the Sun. We knew virtually little about the planet until NASA’s MESSENGER probe arrived in 2008, and just a small portion of it had been observed! We know a lot more now that the spacecraft has been circling the earth for a few years. Here’s some information about Mercury that you should be aware of.
1. Mercury contains organics and water ice. Given the planet’s proximity to the Sun, this may seem odd, but the ice is found in permanently darkened craters that receive no sunlight. Organics, a necessary component of life, were also discovered on the planet’s surface.
While Mercury lacks an atmosphere and is too hot for life as we know it, the discovery of organic chemicals there shows how those compounds were dispersed throughout the solar system. There’s also a lot of sulfur on the surface, which scientists are still attempting to figure out why because it’s found in such high concentrations on no other planet in the Solar System.
2. The water ice appears to be younger than expected. Close inspection of the ice reveals distinct boundaries, indicating that it was not deposited recently; if it had been, the ice would have been eroded and mixed in with Mercury’s regolith surface.
So, the ice may have arrived there recently – but how?
Furthermore, it appears that the ice deposits on the Moon and the ice deposits on Mercury are of different ages, implying that the two bodies experienced different conditions.
3. Mercury’s atmosphere varies depending on its distance from the Sun. The planet possesses an “exosphere,” which is a very thin atmosphere (something that is also present on the Moon, for example.)
Calcium, sodium, and magnesium have been found in them, all of which appear to alter in concentration as the planet moves closer and further away from the Sun in its orbit. The variations appear to be related to the amount of solar radiation pressure that strikes the planet.
4. The magnetic field of Mercury is different at its poles. Mercury’s interior generates a magnetic field, but it’s quite feeble (about 1% of the strength of Earth’s). Scientists have noticed discrepancies in the magnetic strength of the north and south poles, however.
The magnetic field lines around the planet’s south pole, in particular, have a larger “hole” for charged particles from the Sun to enter. Mercury’s surface is thought to be eroded by charged particles, which also contribute to its makeup.
5. Mercury’s magnetic field is feeble, but it acts similarly to Earth’s. The magnetic field, in particular, deflects charged particles in the same way that Earth’s magnetic field does, resulting in a “hot flow anomaly” that has been detected on other planets.
Because particles traveling from the Sun are not uniform, they can become turbulent when they come into contact with the magnetic field of a planet. When plasma from turbulence is trapped, the superheated gas generates magnetic fields, which results in the formation of the HFA.
6. Einstein’s theory of relativity was aided by Mercury’s eccentric orbit. Mercury’s eccentric orbit in relation to the other planets, as well as its close proximity to the Sun, aided in the confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity by scientists.
Simply expressed, the theory is concerned with how a star’s light changes as another planet or star pass close by. Scientists proved the theory in part by reflecting radar waves off Mercury, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. According to the theory, if the Sun is present, the course of the signals will shift little compared to if it is not. The journey followed the predictions of general relativity.
7. Mercury is a faint planet in the sky that has been observed for millennia. Mercury likes to play peekaboo with the Sun, which makes it difficult to observe. Because the planet rises and sets relatively close to the Sun, amateur astronomers must frequently battle twilight to study the tiny planet.
However, the ancients had darker sky than we do (due to lack of light pollution) and could view Mercury rather well. As a result, the planet has been known for thousands of years and has been associated with ancient gods.
8. There are no moons or rings on Mercury. Scientists are still attempting to figure out how the Solar System came to be, and one way they accomplish so is by comparing planets. Mercury is unique in that it lacks rings and moons, which sets it apart from nearly every other planet in our Solar System. Venus is the only exception, as it lacks both moons and rings.
Read more: Jupiter’s Ten Most Interesting Facts!
- Mercury is the planet that is nearest to the Sun.
- Mercury is also the Solar System’s smallest planet.
- Mercury is not just the tiniest planet, but it is also shrinking!
- In the Solar System, Mercury has the most craters.
- Mercury’s largest crater is large enough to fit Western Europe.