Q:

What are the characteristics of the planet Mercury?

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Quick Answer

Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system, and it is only slightly larger than Earth's moon. The closest planet to the sun, Mercury takes just 88 Earth days to complete a single orbit.

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Full Answer

Mercury is a small, rocky planet with no moons or rings. Due to its proximity to the sun, surface temperatures on Mercury can reach up to 840 degrees Fahrenheit. Mercury does not possess a true atmosphere, but it has an exosphere made up of atoms that have been blasted from the planet's surface by solar radiation. This exosphere is too thin to retain heat, so temperatures can fall to -275 Fahrenheit at night, resulting in the largest swing in surface temperature of any planet in the solar system.

Mercury possesses a metallic core and an active magnetic field, although this field is only 1 percent as strong as Earth's magnetic field. An asteroid roughly 60 miles wide struck the planet some 4 billion years ago creating the Caloris Basin, an impact crater larger than the state of Texas. In 2012 water ice was discovered by NASA's Messenger probe. This ice is located in Mercury's craters around its north pole, a region thought to be permanently protected from the heat of the sun.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are some facts about the planet Mercury?

    A:

    The planet Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system and the closest planet to the sun. It revolves around the sun at a distance of approximately 36 million miles, taking 88 Earth days to complete each orbit.

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  • Q:

    How big is Mercury?

    A:

    Mercury has a radius of 2,439.7 kilometers, making it smaller than some moons and the smallest planet in the solar system. Its mass is equal to 0.055 of Earth's.

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  • Q:

    How far away is Mercury from Earth?

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    According to Universe Today, when Mercury is at its closest point to Earth, it is approximately 48 million miles away, and at its farthest point, Mercury is approximately 138 million miles away from Earth. This difference is due to the fact that both Mercury and the Earth orbit the sun.

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  • Q:

    From Earth, when can we see Mercury?

    A:

    The best time to see Mercury is just after sunset in late winter and early spring and before sunrise in late summer and early fall. Mercury is cited as the most difficult to see of the five bright planets

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