Lesson Plan - Get It!
Did you know that ice has been discovered on Mercury? Could life exist there?
Mercury is the planet closest to the sun. It is a small planet, and is only about the size of our moon.
Mercury got its name from the Romans. They named it after a Greek god who was a quick messenger of the gods. Given that Mercury travels around the sun in 88 days, compared to Earth’s 365, it makes sense that they would name this planet after what the Roman's understood as a speedy messenger! One year on Mercury is only three months on Earth. Time flies! In this lesson, you will explore Mercury through video, online resources, and fun activities and projects.
1. Read the following information about Mercury:
- Even though Mercury’s revolution (the time it takes to travel around the sun) is much shorter than Earth’s, it takes a lot longer to rotate (spin). One day on Mercury is equal to about 59 days on Earth.
- Mercury and Earth are very different. Mercury is very heavy. It is made mostly of iron covered in a thin shell of rock. There is no way that humans could live on Mercury because this planet lacks the temperature and atmosphere that humans need for survival.
- Mercury has very extreme temperatures. They are so extreme that during the day, the temperature can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit! As the planet rotates to night, the dark side temperature can get to be as low as -300 degrees Fahrenheit!
- Mercury also has almost no air, which we depend on for survival! Because it is so close to the sun, there is no way that it can hold an atmosphere like Earth.
- Since Mercury has no atmosphere, the planet has been exposed to constant bombardment from space debris. As a result, Mercury's surface looks a lot like our moon. Unlike Earth, where most meteors burn up when they travel through the atmosphere, on Mercury, objects from space barely slow down at all and bump right into the surface of this planet.
- Also, without an atmosphere, there can be no weather and the sun's rays are much more intense than on Earth, where we have an atmosphere to protects us.
- Even in these harsh conditions, ice has been discovered on Mercury in areas permanently shaded from the sun. If water exists on Mercury, could there be life? Scientists say, "No." Without an atmosphere, life is all but impossible.
2. Watch The Planet Mercury: Astronomy and Space for Kids (FreeSchool, below) to learn more about Mercury:
3. View pictures of Mercury at Welcome to the Planets – Mercury (nasa.gov).
Discuss what you have learned with your teacher, then continue on to the Got It? section to further compare Mercury and Earth.