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- Mercury orbits the Sun at an average distance of 36 million miles (58 million kilometers) but covers a broad range from 29 million miles to 44 million miles (46 million km to 70 million km).
- Mercury takes just 88 days to complete one orbit of the Sun.
- Mercury takes 59 days to rotate once on its axis.
- With a diameter of 3,032 miles (4,879 km, or 38 percent of Earth’s), Mercury is the smallest planet in the solar system.
- As you gaze at Mercury from afar, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft studies the planet from orbit. The probe has been circling Mercury since 2011, examining its surface, analyzing its interior, and measuring its magnetic field.
Where Is MESSENGER?
View from MESSENGER to Mercury
This image shows the surface of Mercury as seen from MESSENGER’s current position as well as the MESSENGER spacecraft’s current orbit and orientation. Positions of stars with magnitude 5 or brighter are shown.
This image shows MESSENGER's location in its current orbit as seen from a viewpoint that provides visibility of 100% of the orbit at all times. Positions of stars with magnitude 5 or brighter are shown.
View from Above Mercury’s North Pole
This image shows MESSENGER's location in its current orbit (in blue) as seen from above Mercury’s north pole. Positions of stars with magnitude 5 or brighter are shown. During "dawn-dusk" seasons when the plane of the orbit is nearly aligned with the terminator (the line between day and night), thermal conditions on the spacecraft are the most benign, with relatively constant conditions during each orbit. Conversely, the more thermally challenging "noon-midnight" orbits occur when the plane of the orbit is nearly perpendicular to the terminator. The largest swings in temperature are experienced when the spacecraft transitions between the central nightside and overhead Sun at low elevations over the dayside surface.
General information about Mercury
Basic information about MESSENGER
Technological challenges of the mission, including the spacecraft's trajectory and orbit
Questions the mission hopes to answer