Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, and the smallest in the solar system. Its diameter is 40% smaller than Earth and 40% larger than the Moon. It is even smaller than the moon of Jupiter, Ganymede or the moon of Saturn, Titan.
Until Mariner 10, little was known about Mercury due to the observation difficulties that Earth's telescopes have. At its maximum elongation it is only 28 degrees from the Sun as can be seen from Earth. Because of this, it can only be observed during sunset or during daylight hours, crossing a considerable mass of the Earth's atmosphere.
Its extreme proximity to the Sun and the fact that, in practice, it does not have an atmosphere, make it experience the highest thermal variations existing on a planet. Under these conditions scientists exclude that the planet can house any form of life.
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