Mercury: Facts about the smallest planet

Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and the smallest planet in our solar system. With a diameter of about 3,032 miles (4,880 kilometers), Mercury is less than half the size of Earth, which is about 7,926 miles (12,756 km) in diameter. But what Mercury lacks in size, it makes up for in speed: It orbits the sun faster than any other planet in the solar system.

How did Mercury get its name?

The planet is named after the Roman deity Mercury, the speedy messenger of the gods, who was the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Hermes. Mercury orbits our sun every 88 days — faster than any other planet in the solar system — and a year on Mercury is less than three Earth months. This swift orbit inspired the ancient Romans to associate the small planet with Mercury, according to Cool Cosmosa website run by the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology, while the ancient Greeks associated the planet with Hermes, according to the European Southern Observatory.

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