Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and the smallest planet in our solar system. The tiny planet has no moon of its own and zips around the sun faster than all the other planets, which is why the Romans named it after their swift-footed messenger god.
The Sumerians also knew of Mercury since at least 5,000 years ago. It was often associated with Nabu, the god of writing, according to a site connected to NASA’s MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) mission. Mercury was also given separate names for its appearance as both a morning star and as an evening star. Greek astronomers knew, however, that the two names referred to the same body, and Heraclitus, around 500 B.C., correctly thought that both Mercury and Venus orbited the sun, not Earth.
Mercury is the second densest planet after Earth, with a huge metallic core roughly 2,200 to 2,400 miles (3,600 to 3,800 kilometers) wide, or about 75% of the planet’s diameter. In comparison, Mercury’s outer shell is only 300 to 400 miles (500 to 600 km) thick. The combination of its massive core and composition, which includes an abundance of volatile elements, has left scientists puzzled for years.
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