Mercury is the terrestrial (Earth-like) planet about which we know least, and the more we learn the more mysterious it becomes.
In this fully-illustrated presentation Dave Rothery, who heads the European Space Agency's Mercury Surface & Composition Working
Group, will show that behind a superficial façade of similarity to our own Moon, Mercury's origin close to the Sun and subsequent
evolution have given it a complex volcanic and tectonic history, and a dynamic exosphere.
Despite having an enormous iron-core
where its magnetic field is generated, Mercury's rocky surface is perplexing deficient in iron. Dr Rothery will show how three
fly-bys by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft and spectra obtained by telescopes are have provided tantalising glimpses of the riches to
come when MESSENGER achieves orbit in 2011, paving the way for the Europe-Japan BepiColombo orbiters in 2020.
The Speaker - Dr. David Rothery
David has been a Senior Lecturer in the Open University Department of Earth Sciences since 1994. During 1999-2004 he was the
Director of Teaching and Geosciences Programme Director. He has also been Leader of the IAVCEI Commission on Remote Sensing,
and in 2005 he was appointed to the PPARC Solar System Advisory Panel and the BepiColombo Oversight Committee.
In May 2006 David was appointed UK Lead Scientist on MIXS (Mercury Imaging X-ray Spectrometer),
which is the only UK Principal Investigator instrument on BepiColombo,
the European Space Agency mission to Mercury to be launched in 2014.
He is a chairman for ESA's Mercury Surface and Composition Working Group. He is also a member of the Science Advisory Panel
for C1XS , the X-ray spectrometer on Chandrayaan-1 (launched 22 Oct 2008).
In 2006/7 David served on the ESSC/ESF Ad Hoc Group on Definition of a science-driven European scenario for space exploration.
His research interests centre on the study of volcanic activity by means of remote sensing, and volcanology
and geoscience in general on other planets.
David has written many books which have proven to be very successful. Dr. Rothery's books are regularly described as being
well written, informative, fascinating and very interesting. Books that he has written are as follows;
1992 (1st edition), 1999 (2nd edition), Satellites of the Outer Planets:- worlds in their own right, Oxford University Press, New York.
1997, 2003, 2008 Geology, Teach Yourself Series, Hodder & Stoughton Educational
2000, 2003, Planets, Teach Yourself Series, Hodder & Stoughton Educational
2001, 2003, Volcanoes, Teach Yourself Series, Hodder & Stoughton Educational
2007, Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Tsunamis, Teach Yourself Series, Hodder & Stoughton Educational
Mercury crossing across
the Sun Image courtesy of NASA
Mercury in comparison to Earth
Image courtesy of NASA
Fascinating Facts about the Planet Mercury
Mercury is the nearest planet to the Sun and the smallest planet in our Solar System.
Mercury is a bit over one third of the diameter of the Earth.
Mercury is a rather small, rocky planet, only about one and a half times larger than our Moon.
It would take 20 Mercury's to weigh as much as the earth.
Small in diameter, Mercury is the second largest planet when measured by mass.
Mercury is primarily comprised of iron, which accounts for its heavy mass.
Mercury has the largest known impact crater of any planet, named Beethoven and 643 kilometres in size.
Mercury's surface is overall very similar in appearance to that of the Moon, showing extensive mare-like plains and heavy cratering, indicating that it has been geologically inactive for billions of years.
The Caloris Basin, also called Caloris Planitia, is a large impact crater on Mercury about 1,550 km (963 mi) in diameter, one of the largest impact basins in the solar system
Distance from the Sun ranging from 46 to 70 million kilometres.
It takes 88 Earth days for Mercury to come around the Sun. So a year on Mercury is 88 Earth days, or nearly 25% of an Earth year.
Each day on Mercury lasts as long as 176 days on Earth, twice the length of a year on Mercury!
Mercury has no moons.
There is evidence of ice at Mercury's North Pole where it is shaded from the scorching heat of the Sun.
As Mercury is close to the Sun it suffers from enormous extremes of temperatures ranging from -173°C to 427°C
The planet has been mapped by the Mariner 10 Spacecraft.
Mercury is named after the Roman messenger of the gods.
The Hubble Space Telescope has never been used to observe Mercury, and it never will be. The planet is so close to the Sun that the light from the Sun would overwhelm Hubble, and could permanently damage its optics and electronics.
Mercury - A Quick Summary
Length of Day: 176 Earth days
Sidereal Rotation Period: 58.65 Earth days
Length of Year: 88 Earth days
Distance from the Sun: Minimum 46,000,000 km to Maximum 70,000,000 km
Distance from Earth: Minimum 77,000,000 km to Maximum 222,000,000 km
Diameter: 4,878 km vs. 12,756 km for Earth
Surface Gravity: 0.38 (about 1/3) times Earth's gravity
Temperature: -173°C (-279°F) to 427°C (801°F)
The surface of Mercury consists of
cratered terrain and smooth plains
Image courtesy of NASA
Monday 12th April
Basement, SNIAM Building, Trinity College Dublin.
Access can be gained via the Westland Row or Lincoln Place entrances.
Click HERE for a building map of Trinity College campus
Click HERE for Directions. Click HERE for Map of area
€7 (€5 Astronomy Ireland members and concessions)
Places MUST be booked in advance
After the lecture there will be a social reception in The Lombard
and we encourage all of you to come along and have a chat with Dr. Rothery.
All are welcome to attend and food will be kindly provided by The Lombard.