Mercury might collide with Earth one day, annihilating all life on our planet. That's a doomsday scenario that experts say has a modest but genuine chance of happening. Then Mercury can collide with Earth, or it can upset the orbits of the other inner planets, causing Venus or Mars to collide with us instead. Either way, your world would be changed forever.
The Earth and Mercury have been moving towards each other for 3 billion years, so this collision is not something that happened recently - if it did, we would already be done talking. Instead, we've been drifting towards each other ever since the Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago. The last time they were this close was about 375 million years ago, when Mercury was almost completely submerged in ocean water.
You may wonder: why don't we get hit by asteroids? After all, they can be just as destructive as planets! The difference is that planets are big enough to cause an impact crater, while asteroids are small enough to go unnoticed by most telescopes. The Earth has been struck by objects from space before, and will be again. But because these collisions are rare, they don't significantly affect life on Earth.
Scientists think the next major collision with Earth will happen in 30,000 years. By then, the Earth will be covered in ice, due to the Sun becoming more active as it approaches its maximum heat. The end of Earth as we know it!
At some point, the two may align, at which point Jupiter's persistent gravitational tugs may build and drag Mercury off course with a 1-2 percent chance 3–4 billion years in the future. This might cause it to be ejected from the Solar System entirely or send it on a collision path with Venus, the Sun, or Earth. However, since we don't know when this might happen, it's not possible to say for certain what would happen.
The New York Times wrote an article in 2016 about this possible hazard to Earth due to Jupiter's gravity. They reported that scientists had calculated that between 5,000 and 50,000 tons of mercury are released into space every year. It also said that because mercury is so light, it tends to spread out over large areas when it enters the atmosphere from volcanic eruptions or fossil fuel burning, making it more dangerous than other pollutants because people can live for many months without eating any mercury but still suffer health effects from it exposure over time.
So, the possibility of Mercury becoming a planet-destroying asteroid exists but it's unlikely to happen soon.
Scientists think that gravitational forces and other phenomena in space might change planet orbits, implying that Mars could crash with Earth. The following collision would kill the whole planet if this occurred. But it isn't likely to happen for several reasons.
A mass of about 50 million km3 (12.5 million mi3) makes up Earth, while Mars is only one-third as massive. This means that any impactor more than about 8 miles (13 km) in diameter would destroy both planets. An object that large would be destroyed before reaching the surface of either planet.
The estimated rate of impacts on Earth is about 100 times higher than this figure, which means that most impacts don't result in a mass extinction. Also, because planetary masses are related to their radii, objects that break up or compress under their own weight don't produce large effects. For example, an object 10 miles (16 km) in diameter would have a mass about one-seventh that of Mars, but since its radius is only 3 miles (5 km), its relative density is only 7%. That's less than one-quarter of Mars' value, so it wouldn't do much damage upon impact.
Another factor that protects us is our moon.
Mercury is a very deadly and harsh planet. Extreme temperatures are most likely one of the planet's most harmful characteristics. But don't worry, we have dedicated rooms and vehicles that keep the temperatures reasonable and safe. We are susceptible to meteorites because Mercury has no atmosphere. This makes it vulnerable to attack from space.
However, its lack of an atmosphere also protects Mercury in ways that would kill a planet with an atmosphere. Because there is no wind, there are no strong storms like there are on Earth. Also, since there are no clouds to reflect light from the sun back into space, every square mile of Mercury receives nearly 500 times as much sunlight as Earth does. All of these factors combine to create very high temperatures on Mercury!
The center of this image was taken on August 9, 1990, at 11:44 a.m. PDT (8:44 p.m. UTC). At that time, NASA's _Hubble Space Telescope_ was looking down at the planet Mercury. The picture was taken with Hubble's new Faint Object Camera, which uses a special filter to make objects on the far side of the moon or on other planets appear bright enough to see with the naked eye. The photograph has been dark-adjusted and contrast-enhanced to make certain features stand out more clearly.
Mercury, along with Venus, Earth, and Mars, is a rocky planet. It, like our Moon, has a solid surface covered with craters. However, due to its proximity to the Sun, most of Mercury's surface is hot enough to melt ice and rock, which later flows into U-shaped valleys or spreads out across the surface.
Yes, and they are very large! The largest known impact structure on another planet is called "Maria goshen", and it consists of an area of more than 100,000 square miles (260,000 sq km). It is also called "the great red spot" because of the reddish color of the ground caused by iron oxide particles in the rock that were released when the rock was melted.
The Marias were first discovered by Giuseppe Maraldi in 1578, and he named them after his son Marco who was then 12 years old.
However, according to some sources, these features may be much older than we thought! In 2016, researchers made a new model of Mercury's core based on data from MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment GEochemistry and Ranging) and found evidence that it may be as old as 4.5 billion years!
Given that deep craters in Mercury's polar regions might give shielding from the nearby Sun's blistering heat and radiation, a colony on Mercury could be feasible. Any colony would need to be as self-sufficient as feasible in order to be viable. This would include using solar panels to generate electricity for heating and cooling buildings and for powering machinery.
Mercury is so cold that any living organisms would have to be warm-blooded or they would die. Plants use sunlight to synthesize carbohydrates which provide their energy source. Animals convert this carbohydrate food into body heat by using oxygen to burn it with release of carbon dioxide and water as a byproduct. Humans are an example of an animal that uses oxygen to burn sugar with release of carbon dioxide and water as a byproduct. Since Mercury has no atmosphere or water, there are no gases available for burning with oxygen. Instead, any colonists would need to rely on batteries or fuel cells to produce enough energy for survival.
There are many challenges facing any attempt at building a human settlement on Mercury. The biggest obstacle may be the lack of air pressure like on Earth. On Mercury, only 3% of the force of gravity reaches the surface because most of its mass is made up of rocks and ice. This means that objects weigh less there than what we are used to on Earth where objects weigh about 11 pounds per square foot.