• Question: is the planet mercury made out of the element mercury?

    Asked by cjay_is_not_here to Simon, Julia, Delma, Andrew, Alex on 10 Dec 2015.
    • Photo: Andrew Winnard

      Andrew Winnard answered on 10 Dec 2015:

      Hi cjay, the name might make you think so, but no, Mercury is a rocky planet a little bit like Earth. It is closer to the sun though so gets much hotter and stops life developing. Temperatures on the planet can reach as high as 801 degrees. A small body like Mercury would have a difficult time holding on to an atmosphere in the best of circumstances. Because of the close distance between Mercury and the sun, Mercury also feels the brunt of the solar wind, which constantly sweeps away the thin atmosphere the planet does manage to gather.

    • Photo: Simon Challis

      Simon Challis answered on 10 Dec 2015:

      In Roman and Greek Mythology Mercury (or Hermes in Greek) was the messenger of the gods famous for travelling superfast across the Earth and the heavens.

      As Andrew points out the planet Mercury is not made out of the element Mercury but both share this name because of their “god like properties”.

      For the element it is because it is a shiny liquid metal, for the planet it is because it has the shortest orbit of all the planets and so moves the fastest in the night sky, as was noted by our ancestors.

      I wonder why Fred Mercury took this name as well… any ideas? 🙂