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Mercury is the smallest planet in the Solar System. It is the closest planet to the sun. It makes one trip around the Sun once every 87.969 days. Mercury is bright when it is visible from Earth, ranging from −2.0 to 5.5 in apparent magnitude. It cannot be easily seen as it is usually too close to the Sun. Because Mercury is normally lost in the glare of the Sun (except during a solar eclipse), Mercury can only be seen in the morning or evening twilight.
Compared to what is known about the other planets in the Solar System, little is known about Mercury. Telescopes on the Earth show only a small, bright crescent. The first of two spacecraft to visit the planet was Mariner 10, which mapped only about 45% of the planet’s surface from 1974 to 1975. The second is the MESSENGER spacecraft, which finished mapping the planet in March 2013.
Mercury looks a lot like Earth's Moon. It has many craters with areas of smooth plains, no moons around it and no atmosphere as we know it. However, Mercury does have an extremely thin atmosphere, known as an exosphere. Unlike Earth's moon, Mercury has a large iron core, which gives off a magnetic field about 1% as strong as that of the Earth. It is a very dense planet due to the large size of its core. Surface temperatures can be anywhere from about 90 to 700 K (−183 °C to 427 °C, −297 °F to 801 °F), with the subsolar point being the hottest and the bottoms of craters near the poles being the coldest.
Known sightings of Mercury date back to at least the first millennium BC. Before the 4th century BC, Greek astronomers thought that Mercury was two different objects: one able to be seen only at sunrise, which they called Apollo; the other that was only able to be seen at sunset, which they called Hermes. The English name for the planet is from the Romans, who named it after the Roman god Mercury, which they thought to be the same as the Greek god Hermes. The symbol for Mercury is based on Hermes' staff.
Even though Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, it is not the warmest. This is because it has no atmosphere, so any heat that the Sun gives to it quickly escapes into space.
Mercury is one of four inner planets in the Solar System, and has a rocky body like the Earth. It is the smallest planet in the Solar System, with a radius of 2,439.7 km. Mercury is even smaller than some of the largest moons in the solar system, such as Ganymede and Titan. However, it has a greater mass than the largest moons in the solar system. Mercury is made of about 70% metallic and 30% silicate material. Mercury's density is the second highest in the Solar System at 5.427 g/cm³, only a little bit less than Earth’s.
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- Pluto was once thought to be the smallest, but, as of 2006, Pluto is now known as a dwarf planet.
- Murchie, Scott L.; Vervack Jr., Ronald J.; Anderson, Brian J. (March 2011), "Space Science: Journey to the Innermost Planet", Scientific American, New York, 304 (3), pp. 26–31<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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- Duncan, John Charles (1946). Astronomy: A Textbook. Harper & Brothers. pp. 125. "The symbol for Mercury represents the Caduceus, a wand with two serpents twined around it, which was carried by the messenger of the gods."
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The Solar System
☾ = moon(s) ∅ = rings
|Mercury||Venus||Earth ☾||Mars ☾|
|Jupiter ☾ ∅||Saturn ☾ ∅||Uranus ☾ ∅||Neptune ☾ ∅|
|Dwarf planets||Ceres||Pluto ☾||Haumea ☾||Makemake|
| Groups and families: Vulcanoids · Near-Earth asteroids · Asteroid belt |
Jupiter Trojans · Centaurs · Neptune Trojans · Asteroid moons · Meteoroids · Pallas · Juno · Vesta · Hygiea · Interamnia · Europa
|See also the list of asteroids.|
|Kuiper belt – Plutinos: Orcus · Ixion – Cubewanos: Varuna · |
Quaoar · Huya
|Scattered disc: Sedna|
|Comets|| Periodic comets and non-periodic comets |
Damocloids · Oort cloud
|See also the list of solar system objects|