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Tour the solar system: Mercury

Observers have known about Mercury's existence since antiquity, but it's difficult to study because of its position in the solar system. In the first installment of the "Tour the solar system" series, Associate Editor Liz Kruesi explores what scientists know about the innermost planet and what they're still hoping to learn in the future.
mercury_video_01
NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington
Observers have known about Mercury's existence since antiquity. It's one of the five planets visible to the naked eye, along with Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Named after the swift Roman god of trade, Mercury takes just 88 Earth days to orbit the Sun. However, its day (from one sunrise to the next) is double that — it's 176 Earth days. So Mercury's day is two of its years.

This innermost planet is also the smallest. It's about 38 percent as wide as Earth and contains about 5.5 percent of our planet's mass. Mercury is the second densest — right behind Earth.

Learn more about the innermost planet by registering with Astronomy.com and gaining access to the video, "Tour the solar system: Mercury."

The full text of this article is available to registered users of Astronomy.com. Register now!

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