The Planet Mercury: Astronomy and Space for Kids – FreeSchool

By | December 6, 2019


You’re watching FreeSchool! Mercury, the first planet from the sun, is
also the smallest planet in the solar system. It is even smaller than
some moons in the solar system! Compared to other planets, little
is known about Mercury, despite the fact that it has been
observed by humans for longer than 2,000 years. Because it is so close to the sun, only about
36 million miles away, it usually cannot be seen easily. The
only time to see Mercury from Earth is during the twilight
of sunrise or sunset, however, when Mercury can be seen, it shines
brightly. Mercury was named for the Roman messenger
of the gods, often shown wearing winged sandals because of his great
speed. Like the Roman Mercury, the planet Mercury is very fast.
It has the shortest orbit of any planet in the solar system, completing
an orbit around the sun in just 88 days. Although Mercury orbits
the sun much more quickly than the Earth, it takes much longer
for it to rotate. Earth rotates once every 24 hours, but Mercury
only rotates once every 59 days. Although it is the closest planet to the sun,
Mercury is not the hottest. Because it has almost no atmosphere,
the heat that comes to it from the sun quickly escapes back into
space. Still, the environment on Mercury is harsh. In the sunlight,
temperatures reach hundreds of degrees. At night, temperatures
fall far below freezing. One of the four inner planets in the Solar
System, Mercury has a rocky body, like the Earth. Mercury’s surface
is solid, and covered with craters. It has no moons of its own,
and it has no rings. In appearance, Mercury closely resembles our
moon! Two spacecraft have visited mercury. In 1975,
Mariner 10 provided the first up-close images of Mercury’s surface,
mapping about 45%. In 2011, the MESSENGER mission
achieved an orbit around Mercury which has allowed much of the
remaining surface to be mapped. Although its surface is quiet now, the Messenger
spacecraft discovered evidence that Mercury once had active volcanoes on its surface.
Shield volcanoes and ancient lava flows were revealed in the images that Messenger relayed
to earth. Scientists continue to study Mercury, hoping
to learn more about this small, mysterious planet. I hope you enjoyed learning more about
Mercury today. Goodbye till next time!

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