Mercury - Next Planet - Back to Planet Walk
Mercury is the planet closest to the sun, 36,000,000 miles away. On this and all other planet markers, we have a picture of each planet that is at the same scale as the sun and the distances between planets in this model. On this scale the planet Mercury is the tiny dot.
We will also present a picture that is 500 times larger in diameter than this scale. To have a model of the solar system on the same scale as these larger pictures, the Sun would be 2400 inches in diameter, (200 feet long, as long as the BS Building) and 8350 feet distant. In this expanded scale, the walk to Pluto would be 51,000 yards, or 30 miles.
The planet Mercury is only about one-third the diameter of the Earth and is smaller than any other planet except Pluto. Mercury is occasionally visible from Earth in the early morning or late evening, however due to Mercury's closeness to the sun, it is difficult to see. Close up, Mercury looks much like the moon, with a surface heavily cratered from meteor impacts. Because it is so close to the sun and has no atmosphere, Mercury has the greatest variation in surface temperature of all planets in our solar system. On the daylight side, the side of Mercury facing the sun, temperatures reach 500 degrees Celsius or 900 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to melt tin. On the night side, the side of the planet away from the sun, temperatures drop as low as -200 degrees Celsius, or -300 Fahrenheit, the temperature of liquid nitrogen. The average temperature on the planet Venus is hotter, but varies less.
Astronomers in the 1800's observed that Mercury's orbit around the sun does not obey Newton's Laws of Motion or Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation as do all other objects in the solar system. They thought that this was due to an undiscovered planet orbiting the sun near to Mercury. The explanation of this deviation was given by Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, providing a concrete, experimental verification of Einstein's theories.
Photo Courtesy NASA.
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