World Facts

How Did Mercury Get Its Name?

The naming of Mercury dates back to the Roman Era.

Mercury is the innermost as well as the smallest planet in the solar system. Just like Venus, the planet is considered an inferior planet. Since Mercury is so close to the sun, viewing from the earth is only possible during early evening and morning on the horizon in the east or the west. So far, Mercury has been visited twice by two vessels namely Mariner 10 (1974 and 1975) and the MESSENGER (2004). The surface of the planet is not dissimilar to that of the Moon with features like heavy craters that show lengthy periods of geological inactivity. Despite being studied before by the two vessels, it the least understood planet although that will change as more data from the two vessels is processed.

Naming

The naming of planet Mercury goes as far back as the Roman Era. In that time, they only knew about seven objects in space namely the five brightest planets, the Moon, and the Sun. Since they were a superstitious group, they named these objects after their most important deities. They decided to name the planet after their god Mercury, who was the messenger deity as well as the idol of travelers. Aside from that, Mercury was believed to have winged sandals and a hat for flying. The reason for picking the name was that Mercury is the fastest planet to revolve around the sun. 

Discovery and Exploration

As stated earlier, Mercury is one of the five planets that are visible through the unaided eye. For this reason, it is still unclear as to the exact date the planet was discovered. However, it is known that Thomas Harriot and Galileo Galilei were the first to observe it with a telescope back in the 17th century. In modern days, only the MESSENGER has made it into the planet’s orbit in 2011 until 2015.

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