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The Swiftest Planet
Sun-scorched Mercury is only slightly larger than Earth's moon. Like the moon, Mercury has very little atmosphere to stop impacts, and it is covered with craters. Mercury's dayside is super-heated by the sun, but at night temperatures drop hundreds of degrees below freezing. Ice may even exist in craters. Mercury's egg-shaped orbit takes it around the sun every 88 days.

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  Explore Mercury in 3D Activities

Is There Ice on Mercury?
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Mercury
Mission: MESSENGER (Mercury)

Short Description: Since the 1990's, radio astronomers have mapped Mercury. An outstanding curiosity is that in the polar regions, some craters appear to have "anomalous reflectivity" in the shadowed areas of these craters. One interpretation is that this is caused by sub-surface ice


Magnetic Sensor Measurements with a Graphing Calculator
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Mercury, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune
Mission: Cassini (Saturn), Earth Science (Earth), InSight (Mars), Juno (Jupiter)

Short Description: This activity uses magnetic field sensors with the "Texas Instrument" Graphing Calculator and CBL to measure and plot magnetic fields. This allows the student to prove that magnetic fields decrease as the negative cube of the distance.


Magnetism and Electromagnetism
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Mercury, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune
Mission: Cassini (Saturn), Earth Science (Earth), Juno (Jupiter), MESSENGER (Mercury)

Short Description: In this review of basic magnetism, students map field lines around bar magnets to visualize the magnetic dipole field, and create their own electromagnet using copper wire, battery and a pencil to learn that electric currents create magnetic fields.


The Goldilocks Planets -- Not Too Hot or Cold
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: Heliophysics (Sun), Spitzer (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Once you have discovered a planet, you need to figure out whether liquid water might be present. In our solar system, Mercury and Venus are so close to the sun that water cannot remain in liquid form. It vaporizes! For planets beyond Mars, the sun is so far away that water will turn to ice. Only in what astronomers call the Habitable Zone will a planet have a chance for being at the right temperature for liquid water to exist in large quantities on its surface!


The Orbit Simulator
Grade Level: 3-5
Solar System Body: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Comets
Mission: Voyager 1 (Our Solar System), Voyager 2 (Our Solar System)

Short Description: This simulator lets students explore many aspects of the orbits of planets and one comet.

NGSS Connections:


The Transit of Mercury
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Mercury, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun), Mariner 10 (Mercury), MESSENGER (Mercury)

Short Description: As seen from Earth, the planet Mercury occasionally passes across the face of the sun; an event that astronomers call a transit. From images taken by the Hinode satellite, students will create a model of the solar disk to the same scale as the image, and calculate the distance to the sun.

Is There Ice on Mercury?
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Mercury
Mission: MESSENGER (Mercury)

Short Description: Since the 1990's, radio astronomers have mapped Mercury. An outstanding curiosity is that in the polar regions, some craters appear to have "anomalous reflectivity" in the shadowed areas of these craters. One interpretation is that this is caused by sub-surface ice


Magnetic Sensor Measurements with a Graphing Calculator
Grade Level: 9-12
Lesson Time: 30-60 Minutes
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Mercury, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune
Mission: Cassini (Saturn), Earth Science (Earth), InSight (Mars), Juno (Jupiter)

Short Description: This activity uses magnetic field sensors with the "Texas Instrument" Graphing Calculator and CBL to measure and plot magnetic fields. This allows the student to prove that magnetic fields decrease as the negative cube of the distance.


Magnetism and Electromagnetism
Solar System Body: Our Solar System, Sun, Mercury, Earth, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune
Mission: Cassini (Saturn), Earth Science (Earth), Juno (Jupiter), MESSENGER (Mercury)

Short Description: In this review of basic magnetism, students map field lines around bar magnets to visualize the magnetic dipole field, and create their own electromagnet using copper wire, battery and a pencil to learn that electric currents create magnetic fields.


The Goldilocks Planets -- Not Too Hot or Cold
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars
Mission: Heliophysics (Sun), Spitzer (Our Solar System)

Short Description: Once you have discovered a planet, you need to figure out whether liquid water might be present. In our solar system, Mercury and Venus are so close to the sun that water cannot remain in liquid form. It vaporizes! For planets beyond Mars, the sun is so far away that water will turn to ice. Only in what astronomers call the Habitable Zone will a planet have a chance for being at the right temperature for liquid water to exist in large quantities on its surface!


The Orbit Simulator
Grade Level: 3-5
Solar System Body: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Comets
Mission: Voyager 1 (Our Solar System), Voyager 2 (Our Solar System)

Short Description: This simulator lets students explore many aspects of the orbits of planets and one comet.

NGSS Connections:


The Transit of Mercury
Grade Level: 6-8
Lesson Time: Less Than 30 Minutes
Solar System Body: Sun, Mercury, Earth
Mission: Earth Science (Earth), Heliophysics (Sun), Mariner 10 (Mercury), MESSENGER (Mercury)

Short Description: As seen from Earth, the planet Mercury occasionally passes across the face of the sun; an event that astronomers call a transit. From images taken by the Hinode satellite, students will create a model of the solar disk to the same scale as the image, and calculate the distance to the sun.