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Mercury

Mercury
mercury

Mercury is the innermost and smallest planet in the Solar System, orbiting the Sun once every 87.969 days. The orbit of Mercury has the highest eccentricity of all the Solar System planets, and it has the smallest axial tilt. It completes three rotations about the axis for every two orbits. The perihelion of Mercury's orbit precesses around the Sun at an excess of 43 arcseconds per century; a phenomenon that was explained in the 20th century by Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity. Mercury is bright when viewed from Earth, ranging from −2.0 to 5.5 in apparent magnitude, but is not easily seen as its greatest angular separation from the Sun is only 28.3°. Since Mercury is normally lost in the glare of the Sun, unless there is a solar eclipse, Mercury can only be viewed in morning or evening twilight. 
Comparatively little is known about Mercury; ground-based telescopes reveal only an illuminated crescent with limited detail. 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 mapped another 30% during its flyby of January 14, 2008. A final flyby took place in September 2009. MESSENGER is scheduled to attain orbital insertion around Mercury in 2011, and will then survey and map the entire planet. 
Mercury is similar in appearance to the Moon: it is heavily cratered with regions of smooth plains, has no natural satellites and no substantial atmosphere. However, unlike the moon, it has a large iron core, which generates a magnetic field about 1% as strong 
as that of the Earth. It is an exceptionally dense planet due to the large relative size of its core. Surface temperatures range from about 90 to 700 K (−183 °C to 427 °C, −297 °F to 801 °F),[11] with the subsolar point being the hottest and the bottoms of craters near the poles being the coldest. 
Recorded observations of Mercury date back to at least the first millennium 
BC. Before the 4th century BC, Greek astronomers believed the planet to be two separate objects: one visible only at sunrise, which they called Apollo; the other visible only at sunset, which they called Hermes.The English name for the planet comes from the Romans, who named it after the Roman god Mercury, which they equated with the Greek Hermes(ρμς). The astronomical symbol for Mercury is a stylized version of Hermes' caduceus.


Craters on Mercury range in diameter from small bowl-shaped cavities to multi-ringed impact basins hundreds of kilometers across. They appear in all states of degradation, from relatively fresh rayed craters to highly degraded crater remnants. Mercurian craters differ subtly from lunar craters in that the area blanketed by their ejecta is much smaller, a consequence of Mercury's stronger surface gravity.
The largest known craters are Caloris Basin, with a diameter of 1,550 km,[37] and the Skinakas Basin with an outer-ring diameter of
 2,300 km.[38] The impact that created the Caloris Basin was so powerful that it caused lava eruptions and left a concentric ring over 2 km tall surrounding the impact crater. At the antipode of the Caloris Basinis a large region of unusual, hilly terrain known as the "Weird Terrain".

 One hypothesis for its origin is that shock waves generated during the Caloris impact traveled around the planet, converging at the basin’s antipode (180 degrees away). The resulting high stresses fractured the surface.[39] Alternatively, it has been suggested that this terrain formed as a result of the convergence of ejecta at this basin’s antipode.[40] 
Overall, about 15 impact basins have been identified on the imaged part of Mercury. A notable basin is the 400 km wide, multi-ring on Tolstoj which has an ejecta blanket extending up to 500 km from its rim and a floor that has
 been filled by smooth plains materials. has a similar-sized ejecta blanket and a 625 km diameter rim.[36] Like the Moon, the surface of Mercury has likely incurred the effects of space weathering processes, including Solar wind and micrometeorite impacts

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