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Surface Features of the Sun

Describes the surface features of the Sun, including sunspots, solar prominences, solar flares and coronal mass ejections.

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The Comet Planet

The Comet Planet

Credit: NASA-APL
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mercury_Globe-MESSENGER_mosaic_centered_at_0degN-0degE.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Mercury is the smallest planet and it is the closest planet to the Sun. Mercury is also a strange planet: both incredibly hot and incredibly cold, with a highly eccentric orbit. It’s proximity to the sun makes Mercury a bit difficult to know.

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Credit: NASA
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:North_pole_of_Mercury_==_NASA.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The polar regions of Mercury are so cold that water ice exists at the bottom of some craters [Figure2]

  • Although the lineup of planets described in the video has passed, it is possible to find information on the web to indicate when will be the next good chance to see Mercury in the night sky.
  • Mercury is hard to see from Earth because it is so close to the Sun. We can sometimes catch it before sunrise and after sunset.
  • Mercury is covered with impact craters, indicating that it has been geologically dead for billions of years.

Can You Apply It?

With the link below, learn more about Mercury. Then answer the following questions.

  1. Why is Mercury so hot?
  2. How could a planet with temperatures hot enough to melt lead in some spots, also have water ice?
  3. What do scientists think the dark substance on the ice is? Where do they think it came from?
  4. Why do scientists think the dark substance came about that way instead of just originating on Mercury?
  5. Why does Mercury have a tail?

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