Shop Windows to the Universe

Science, Evolution, and Creationism, by the National Academies, focuses on teaching evolution in today's classrooms. Check out the other publications in our online store.
This is a false color image of a mosaic of Mercury.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA.

Mercury's Interior and Surface

Mercury, the innermost planet of the solar system, is a little bigger than the Earth's Moon. The surface of the planet is covered with craters, like the Moon, but temperatures there can reach over 800oF because Mercury is so close to the Sun and rotates so slowly. Scientists believe that the interior structure of Mercury includes a metallic core, an intermediate rocky layer, and a thin brittle crust. The composition of Mercury is probably high in iron, although surface features indicate that volcanic activity once existed at the surface. There is little evidence of motions near the surface of the planet now, although at earlier times during Mercury's evolution the surface was much more active. We know relatively little about Mercury, compared to most of the other planets, because it is relatively difficult to see and only one spacecraft has studied the planet.


Last modified August 11, 2010 by Randy Russell.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books on science education!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Science, Evolution, and Creationism

How did life evolve on Earth? The answer to this question can help us understand our past and prepare for our future. Although evolution provides credible and reliable answers, polls show that many people turn away from science, seeking other explanations with which they are more comfortable....more

Surface of Mercury

Images of the surface of Mercury obtained by Mariner 10 showed a planet covered with craters, looking very much like the Earth's Moon. During its three passes by the planet, Mariner 10 took pictures of...more

Structure of Mercury's Interior

Mercury has a radius of 2439 km (1524 mi), and the metallic iron-nickel core is believed to make up about 75% of this distance. Measurements of the planet's magnetic field made by Mariner 10 as it flew...more

Surface Features of Mercury

The surface of Mercury has numerous interesting features, including a variety of craters, ridges, and terrains ranging from heavily cratered to nearly crater free. These features, and their distribution...more

Evolution of Mercury

Mercury, like the other planets, is believed to have formed in the earliest stage of the evolution of the solar system as dust came together to form even larger clumps and eventually small planets or...more

Mariner 10 Mission to Mercury

The Mariner 10 mission (USA) to Mercury was launched on November 3, 1973 and arrived at Mercury on March 29, 1974. The spacecraft made three separate passes by the planet, and obtained about 10,000 images...more

Mercury's Interior and Surface

Mercury, the innermost planet of the solar system, is a little bigger than the Earth's Moon. The surface of the planet is covered with craters, like the Moon, but temperatures there can reach over 80...more

The Caloris Basin

The Caloris Basin is the largest feature on the surface of Mercury. This crater was formed by the impact of a large meteorite near the end of the period of frequent impact cratering in the early solar...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA