CHRIS BUTLER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CHRIS BUTLER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Surface of Mercury. Computer artwork of an asteroid impact crater on the surface of the planet Mercury. The Sun (upper right) and Earth (blue, left of Sun) are seen in the sky. Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, orbiting at an average distance of 58 million kilometres, less than half the Earth-Sun distance. The solar wind blasts atoms from its rocky surface, forming a very thin atmosphere that is constantly lost to space. The surface temperature extremes are the greatest in the solar system, ranging (day-night) from 400 to -170 degrees Celsius. The Sun rises every 176 days (two Mercury years), but the stars move three times faster across the sky as Mercury takes 59 days to rotate on its axis.
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