Mercury

5 Reasons why Mercury is underrated

Mars has rovers and ancient lake beds. Saturn’s got those stunning rings. Jupiter has beautiful, swirling storms, and moons that could harbor alien life. What about Mercury?

NASA/JPL

The closest planet from the Sun may not have flashy traits like liquid water or beautiful rings, and it may not be an immediate target for human travel, but Mercury is still worth celebrating.

NASA/JPL

Here are five amazing facts about Mercury.

1. Without Mercury, Einstein might not have been able to perfect his Theory of Relativity.

NASA/JPL

Mercury’s elliptical orbit around the Sun is not static — the orbital path itself also moves around the Sun. (This diagram of the Moon's shifting orbit around Earth is similar.)

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Newtonian gravity couldn’t explain this, but Einstein realized that his budding new Theory of General Relativity could. Einstein was able to accurately predict Mercury’s orbit based on the Sun’s effect on space-time.

2. Mercury is geologically active. The tiny planet is contracting, and new faults are appearing on its surface. This means that Mercury is the only geologically active planet besides Earth in our Solar System that we know of.

NASA/JPL

3. Mercury’s hollows: A big ol’ geological mystery. Mysterious shallow depressions peppering Mercury’s impact craters are very young and could be forming today... but no one knows why, or how.

4. Mercury is the only other rocky planet in the Solar System with a magnetic field. Although Mercury’s magnetic field is just one percent as strong as Earth’s, it's evidence that the small planet still has a molten core.

5. In permanently shadowed craters at Mercury’s poles, scientists have detected water ice.

What's especially bonkers is that the ice could have formed from the Sun’s heat energizing hydroxyl molecules (containing one hydrogen and one oxygen) which makes them crash into each other — and form water.

Read more space stories here.

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