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Mercury is a small planet, which orbits closer to the sun than any other planet in our solar system. Like all the planets, Mercury is named after one of the Roman gods worshipped by the Ancient Romans. It was named after the Roman messenger god who was known for his ability to travel quickly with wings on his feet. In Roman mythology, Mercury is the god of communication, commerce, travel and thievery.
See the fact file below for more information on the Mercury or alternatively, you can download our 27-page Mercury worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Moons: 0
- Mass: 5.5% of Earth
- Diameter: 3031 miles
- Distance from the sun: 36 million miles
- Mercury is a terrestrial and barren planet covered with craters from impacts from asteroids and other objects. It looks very similar to the Earth’s moon.
- As a result of its long day and little atmosphere, Mercury has some wild extremes in temperature. The side facing the sun is incredibly hot (800 degrees F), while the side away from the sun is super cold (-300 degrees F).
- Mercury’s surface resembles that of Earth’s moon. Collisions with meteoroids and comets have resulted in many impact craters. While there are areas of smooth terrain, there are also lobe-shaped scarps or cliffs, some hundreds of miles long and soaring up to a mile (1.6 kilometers) high, formed by early contraction of the crust.
- There is evidence that the planet Mercury has been known since 3000 B.C. by civilizations such as the Sumerians and Babylonians – they called the planet Nabu.
- Galileo was the first to observe Mercury with a telescope in the early 1600s. Several other astronomers since then have added to our knowledge about the planet.
- Since Mercury is close to the sun, it is very difficult to send spacecraft to explore the planet.
- There have been two space probes sent to Mercury.
- The first spacecraft to see Mercury up close was Mariner 10 back in 1974.
- Unfortunately, it was only able to see one hemisphere of the planet in total over the course of three flybys.
- The probe revealed that Mercury is a heavily cratered world with a mass much greater than originally thought. This would seem to indicate that Mercury has an iron core, which makes up 75 percent of the entire planet.
- Many of the missing pieces were filled in by NASA’s Messenger spacecraft, which completed its first flyby in January 2008.
- Messenger was launched by NASA in 2004 and has been orbiting Mercury since 2011. Its first flyby in January 2008 provided new high-quality images of some of the terrain not seen by Mariner 10. Since then, Messenger has taken over 250,000 global mosaic photographs covering the entire planet.
Layers of Mercury
- Like Earth, Mercury has a crust, mantle and core.
- Crust: Mercury has a thick crust that is composed mostly of silicate rocks. Mercury may have small ice caps at its north and south poles; this ice stays frozen inside deep craters that are shaded from sunlight.
- Mantle: Beneath the crust is the mantle, also made of silicate rocks, that is 500-700 kilometers thick.
- Core: At the center of Mercury is a partly-molten iron core about 2,300 miles (7,500 km) in diameter (almost half of the diameter of Mercury). This core accounts for about 80% of Mercury’s mass. This core generates a magnetic field (which is how we know that Mercury has an iron core).
Craters on the Moon
- A crater is a bowl-shaped depression produced by the impact of a meteorite, volcanic activity or an explosion.
- Mercury has a huge crater called the Caloris Basin with a diameter of 1,550 km. The impact that caused this crater was so huge that it formed hills on the other side of the planet.
- Craters larger than 250 km in diameter are referred to as “basins”. Overall, about 15 impact basins have been identified on the imaged part of Mercury. A notable basin is the 400 km-wide, multi-ring Tolstoj Basin that has an ejecta blanket extending up to 500 km from its rim and a floor that has been filled by smooth plains materials. Beethoven Basin has a similar-sized ejecta blanket and a 625 km diameter rim.
Naming a Crater
- Most Mercurian craters are named after famous writers, artists and composers. To celebrate the end of NASA’s Messenger mission, they named five craters.
- The new crater names have been approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The rules of the IAU state that Mercury features must be named after an artist, composer or writer who was famous for more than 50 years and died at least three years ago.
- Carolan Crater
Turlough O’Carolan was an Irish composer in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
- Enheduanna Crater
Enheduanna, a princess of the Sumerian city of Ur in ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Kuwait), is the first known poet and author.
- Kulthum Crater
Umm Kulthum, an Egyptian singer, songwriter and film actress, who was known for her work between the 1920s and the 1970s.
- Rivera Crater
Diego Rivera, a Mexican painter and muralist, who was active between the 1920s and 1950s.
- Karsh Crater
Yousuf Karsh, an Armenian-Canadian, was a famous portrait photographer in the 20th century.
Mercury fun facts
- Mercury does not have any moons or rings.
- The element mercury was named after the planet.
- Mercury is only the second hottest planet.
- Scientists used to think that the same side of Mercury always faces the sun, but in 1965 astronomers discovered that the planet rotates three times during every two orbits.
- Since Mercury has hardly any atmosphere, it does not have weather like storms, clouds, wind or rain. Its surface temperature can reach 801 Fahrenheit during the day (because it is so close to the sun) and can drop to -279 Fahrenheit at night (because there is no atmosphere to trap the daytime heat).
- Earth observers can watch Mercury pass across the face of the sun, an event called a transit. These rare transits fall within several days of May 8 and November 10.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Mercury across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Mercury worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Mercury which is a small planet, which orbits closer to the sun than any other planet in our solar system. Like all the planets, Mercury is named after one of the Roman gods worshipped by the Ancient Romans. It was named after the Roman messenger god who was known for his ability to travel quickly with wings on his feet. In Roman mythology, Mercury is the god of communication, commerce, travel and thievery.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Mercury Facts
- Think Out of the Box
- True or False
- The Swift Planet!
- Choose Wisely
- Deep to the Core!
- Matchy Matchy!
- High Five Craters
- Hunting Time!
- Discovery Time
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Link will appear as Mercury Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, June 1, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.