Mercury - Known Facts

About mercury, what scientific facts are known including trivia about the orbit, surface, and magnetic field.


Known Facts: Although no longer considered a god-star, Mercury is a distinctive chunk of rambling real estate. It orbits so near the sun that many great astronomers--including Copernicus--never saw it.

Mercury's orbital and axial revolutions combine to give it a sunrise about once every 176 earth days, or approximately 88 days of sunlight followed by 88 days of darkness. Because of the planet's mass and size, a 150-lb. earthling would weigh 55 lb. on Mercury.

Current flybys have photographed most of Mercury's surface. We have seen scarps or cliffs 3 mi. high and 50 mi. long, and basins 1,300 mi. across. Like the moon, Mercury is heavily cratered and covered with fine dust and fragmented rock. Aside from small amounts of hydrogen, Mercury has no atmosphere. Judging from the lack of erosion, it has not had an atmosphere for 4 billion years. However, it does have a light magnetic field with a magnetic tail from which particles constantly stream outward. The magnetic field is presumed due to the iron core extending to within 325 mi. of Mercury's surface. Some 80% of the planet is iron, making Mercury second only to Earth in density.

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