This is a false color image of a mosaic of Mercury.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA.
Mercury's orbit is so close to the Sun that it is difficult to see by
ground-based observers. This
explains why some early astronomers
never saw the planet. Viewed from Earth, Mercury is never far from
the Sun in the sky. Because of the glare of the Sun, it can only be
seen in twilight.
Timocharis made the first recorded observation of
Mercury in 265 BC. Other early astronomers that studied Mercury
include Zupus (1639), who studied the planet's orbital phases, and
Schorster and Harding (1800) who studied the very
faint surface markings on the planet visible from Earth.
is so difficult to make out features on the surface of the planet
from Earth, it was not until the 1960s that scientists determined the
correct rotation rate (59 Earth days) of the planet on its axis.
This also showed that Mercury's rotation period and orbital period
are in resonance.
The one and only space mission to visit
which passed by the planet three times in 1974. Images taken by
Mariner 10 are the only close up images we have of the planet's
surface. However, NASA has recently revealed a new mission to Mercury. Messenger (the Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) will begin its journey to the small planet in 2004
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to create and support such experiences?...more
Prior to the Mariner 10 mission of Mercury, it was very difficult to see any markings on the surface of the planet from Earth. This image shows a view of Mercury obtained from a telescope on Earth. Initial...more
The Mariner 10 mission (USA) to Mercury was launched on November 3, 1973 and arrived at Mercury on March 29, 1974. The spacecraft made three separate passes by the planet, and obtained about 10,000 images...more
NASA has chosen the next two projects that will join a special series called the Discovery Program. This program specializes in low cost, scientific projects. Out of 26 possible projects, Messenger (the...more
It takes Mercury about 59 Earth days to spin once on its axis (the rotation period), and about 88 Earth days to complete one orbit about the Sun. However, the length of the day on Mercury (sunrise to...more
Mercury's orbit is so close to the Sun that it is difficult to see by ground-based observers. This explains why some early astronomers never saw the planet. Viewed from Earth, Mercury is never far from...more
Mercury, like the other planets, is believed to have formed in the earliest stage of the evolution of the solar system as dust came together to form even larger clumps and eventually small planets or...more
Mercury, the innermost planet of the solar system, is a little bigger than the Earth's Moon. The surface of the planet is covered with craters, like the Moon, but temperatures there can reach over 80...more