If you’re looking for someplace warm for your next vacation, it doesn’t get much warmer than Mercury. The problem is getting there. Mercury is so close to the Sun that it’s easy for your spaceship to get lost in the Sun’s gravity. The MESSENGER Probe, currently in orbit of Mercury, took years to get there not because of the distance but because it had to approach at just the right angle with just the right velocity, or else it would’ve crashed into the Sun.
When you finally reach Mercury, you might experience some serious jet lag. According to NASA, one Mercury day is equal to 58.6 days on Earth, and a Mercury year is about 88 Earth days long. Also, because of Mercury’s proximity to the Sun, the planet is in a slight space-time warp, due to Relativity. In fact, the space-time distortions of Mercury’s orbit were one of the first clues supporting Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
Remember to bring sunscreen. The daytime temperature is roughly 800 °F, and there’s no ozone layer to protect you from those UV rays. In fact, there’s not much atmosphere at all, so you may want to pack some oxygen too.
For more information before you plan your trip, check out NASA’s website and be sure to visit Mercury Today for the latest news on the First Planet. You can also read Ben Bova’s science fiction novel Mercury, which I’m sure is 100% accurate.
About the cartoon: Get it? The planet Mercury is really hot, so it’s taking its temperature with a mercury thermometer.