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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Goodbye, Planet Mercury!

Goodbye to planet Mercury! In the next few evenings, Mercury will fade from the night sky. It is heading back towards the sun.

Mercury's egg-shaped orbit takes it around the Sun every 88 days. It will not be visible in the evening sky again until next July.

If you can watch the sky tonight, you will see Venus, Mercury, and earth's moon close together. You can see all three about a half hour to an hour after sunset.

Look toward the west, near the horizon. Venus will be very bright tonight. Our moon will be just a sliver of light. You can see it below Venus and to the lower right.

Mercury will rest below the moon. (You may need to use binoculars to see it.)

This beautiful photo of Mercury was taken by the MESSENGER spacecraft on its January 14 flyby.

NASA scientists believe that the orange splotches may be volcanic vents.

The large crater that you see is called an impact basin. It was made when an asteroid slammed into Mercury's surface.

The sun superheats the face of Mercury. At night temperatures drop hundreds of degrees below freezing.

Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system. It is only a little bigger than earth's moon.

For more information about Mercury, go to

Photo courtesy NASA.

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