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Mercury, Venus and Mars: The Terrestrial Planets
Above is Mercury, whose distance from the Sun is 57,910,000 km.
Above is Venus, whose distance from the Sun is 108,200,000 km.
Above is Mars, whose distance from the Sun is 227,900,000 km.
Mercury - God of Commerce and Travel
Mercury moves very quickly across the sky, therefore they named it after the Roman god Mercury, who was the god of commerce and travel.
The surface characteristics of Mercury are very eerie. Covered with impact craters produced by debris from space, Mercury is similar to the Moon in that it has many craters. However, the craters of Mercury are less steep, resulting in its craters being less prominent than the Moon’s. Mercury also has scarps, which are long and high cliffs. It is suggested that these were caused by Mercury’s crust formation causing the planet to shrink, resulting in such scarps.
Mercury has practically no atmosphere whatsoever. Lead is molten at midday on Mercury. The temperatures reach as high as 450 degrees Celsius, but at night it can get as cold as -180 degrees Celsius. The reason for this is due to the absence of an atmosphere, so no heat can be held in. Since its poles are constantly cold, Mercury has no seasons, either. Shockingly, the ice at its poles has not evaporated, and no one has figured out quite why.
Mercury’s rotation period is 59 days. It circles the Sun in 88 days or so. Moving faster than any other planet in its orbit, it trumps the rest in speed.
With Mercury being the smallest of the eight planets, its diameter is 4880 km. Its mass is only 0.055 of the mass on Earth. Its average density is 5.43 times the average density of water. This planet also has a greater than normal percentage of iron. Mercury also has an incredibly weak magnetic field.
Venus - Goddess of Beauty
Venus was named after the goddess of beauty since it shone the brightest and most beautifully of the five known planets back then for astronomers.
Venus’s surface characteristics has strewn rock and weathered rocks, but also sharp-edged rocks since the wind is calm on the surface. Two thirds of its surface is covered in rolling hills, with craters here and there. As a whole the planet surface is drier than the hottest desert on Earth.
Venus has an atmosphere consisting of 96% carbon dioxide, 3.5% nitrogen, and 20% oxygen. It has small amounts of water and sulfuric acid as well. The planet is highly corrosive, so Venus’ atmosphere is practically unlivable. The winds reach up to 360 km/hr and it goes in the same direction as the planet’s rather slow rotation. Also, the atmospheric pressure there is 90 times that of Earth’s, and the temperatures get up to as high as 867 degrees Fahrenheit.
Venus has a rather slow rotation of about 243 days. It has a period of about 225 days with a nearly constant orbital speed of around 35 km/s.
Similar to Earth in many ways, Venus has a diameter 95% of Earth’s. Its mass is 82% of Earth’s, and its orbit is located closest to us. Its density is also very similar to Earth’s amount of density, which is 5.52 (Venus’ density is 5.24!).
Mars - The God of War
Mars was named after the god of war for its reddish color, which ancient cultures associated with war paint and blood.
Mars contains the largest Martian volcano known in the solar system, Olympus Mons. It is about thrice the size of Mount Everest here on Earth. The terrain is reddish, so what we see from Earth regarding its color is very much real. Mars also has gigantic canyons stretching far across its lands, dry riverbeds, and large craters with frozen ice.
Mars temperatures can get up to 30 degrees Celsius and down to -135 degrees Celsius, resulting from the thin atmosphere Mars has. It is made up of 95% carbon dioxide, and has the same greenhouse effect as Venus. It cannot recycle carbon dioxide through volcanic activity. Mars is so cold that water cannot exist in a liquid form. This planet also has a strong lack of ozone, but an abundance of iron, resulting in the planet having a reddish color since when iron and oxygen combine it produces rust.
Mars orbits the Sun at a distance of about 1.524 AU. Compared to Earth’s orbit of 0.017, it is eccentric in that it is 0.093. It requires 1.88 years to complete its orbit around the Sun.
Mars’ structural characteristics include it having a diameter about half of Earth’s. It also has a volume 0ne-eighth of Earth’s, and about 0.7 of Earth’s density. Its local magnetic fields are scattered all over the planet, interacting with solar wind particles.