Mercury is the innermost and smallest planet in the solar system, orbiting the Sun once every 88 days.
It ranges in brightness from about −2.0 to 5.5 in apparent magnitude, but is not easily seen; its greatest angular separation from the Sun (greatest elongation) is only 28.3° (it can only be seen in twilight).
Comparatively little is known about the planet: the only spacecraft to approach Mercury was Mariner 10 from 1974 to 1975, which mapped only 40 to 45 percent of the planet's surface. Physically, Mercury is similar in appearance to the Moon as it is heavily cratered.
It has no natural satellites and no substantial atmosphere.
The planet has a large iron core which generates a magnetic field about 1 percent as strong as that of the Earth.
Surface temperatures on Mercury range from about 90 to 700 K (-180 to 430°C) , with the subsolar point being the hottest and the bottoms of craters near the poles being the coldest.
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