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9 magnificent images of Mercury

By: Katherine Butler on Nov. 11, 2019, 10:17 a.m.
Mercury Eminescu crater, illuminated by a bright halo of material around its edge

Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

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Craters on Mercury

MESSENGER was able to detail the planet's surface as never before. This is the Eminescu crater, illuminated by a bright halo of material around its edge.

MESSENGER's goal was to answer some key questions about the planet, such as the composition of its atmosphere and conditions on its surface. Mercury is extremely dry, very hot and almost completely airless. It has no moons. The sun's rays are seven times stronger on Mercury than Earth, according to NASA, and the sun itself appears to be two and a half times as big from the surface.

No evidence for life has been found there. Daytime temperatures can reach 430 degrees Celsius (800 degrees Fahrenheit) and drop to minus 180 degrees Celsius (minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit) at night. It's unlikely that life — at least as we know it — could survive on this planet.