Mankind has long gazed at the canvas of sky with the hope of unraveling the mysteries of life which goes far beyond one’s immediate reality. The quest beyond Earth (the place we call ‘home’) has always fascinated the human mind.
Many a times, I’ve wondered what it would be like to be an astronaut, travelling beyond the Earth’s atmosphere into space, witnessing the existence of other planets or celestial bodies. Since, I’ve only the desire and not the mindset required for space travel – I’ve decided to expand my horizon by reading and exploring various aspects of astronomy through World Wide Web or any other trusted/available sources.
I’m going to begin with planets and hope to explore other topics in future. I’m sure, we all know that there are 8 or maybe 9 planets ( Oh poor Pluto, I think this controversy will have to wait for now). As the title suggests, Mercury is the planet for today’s post.
What I already know about Mercury?
Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system. It is the closest planet to the sun (sounds like they share a special bond). Argh, I seem to know very little about it! Anyway here’s a table I found on goggle, consisting of usual facts:
Now, let’s move on to some interesting facts that I could make sense of, despite my lack of expertise in the field of astronomy.
“Temperatures on Mercury’s surface can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius). Because the planet has no atmosphere to retain that heat, nighttime temperatures on the surface can drop to -280 degrees Fahrenheit (-170 degrees Celsius).”
Until now, I considered Mercury to be the hottest planet regardless of day and night just because it’s positioned close to the sun. However, according to the fact, Mercury’s nighttime temperature can drop up to -170 degrees Celsius because the planet has no atmosphere to retain the heat. This reminds me of Earth’s atmosphere and the green house gases effect.
“Scientists have long puzzled over the planet Mercury’s excessively dark surface. New research suggests that carbon from passing comets could be the planet’s mystery darkening agent.”
According to the recent research, the planet Mercury’s dark surface and the low reflectance is due to the dusting of carbon from the passing comets which has over the years painted Mercury black. These comets as they approach the sun tend to break apart. Since, Mercury is located closest to the sun, the carbon particles from these crumbling comets gets collected on its surface.
“As if Mercury isn’t small enough, it not only shrank in its past but is continuing to shrink today.”
As a matter of fact, Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system and is only slightly larger than the Earth’s moon. So, if it’s going to continue shrinking, I doubt whether we’ll have 8 planets in the future despite the controversy regarding Pluto. To me, this piece of information sounds like, over the years, Mercury is capable of vanishing altogether from our solar system.
As of now, I’m not sure what purpose Mercury serves in our solar system or how it’s existence impacts life on Earth.
- Brown University. (2015, March 30). Comet dust: Planet Mercury’s ‘invisible paint’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 20, 2017 from sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150330122437.htm