|This article is one of a series on:|
|Life in the Universe|
|Habitability in the Solar System|
|Life outside the Solar System|
The planet Mercury has often been used as a setting in science fiction. Recurring themes include the dangers of being exposed to solar radiation and the possibility of escaping excessive radiation by staying within the planet's slow-moving terminator (the boundary between day and night). Another recurring theme is autocratic governments, perhaps because of an association of Mercury with hot-temperedness. Nonetheless, there may be scientific support, based on studies reported in March 2020, for considering that parts of the planet may have been habitable, and perhaps that actual life forms, albeit likely primitive microorganisms, may have existed on the planet after all.
A clement twilight zone on a synchronously rotating Mercury, a swamp and jungle Venus, and a canal infested Mars, while all classic science fiction devices, are all, in fact, based upon earlier misapprehensions by planetary scientists.
Giovanni Schiaparelli announced in 1889 that Mercury was tidally locked to the Sun, orbiting with one face permanently turned toward it and another face turned away. Theories stated that the "brightside" had molten metal puddles, the "darkside" had the planet's former atmosphere in frozen form, and a "twilight belt" between the two. This concept of Mercury was disproven in 1965, when radio astronomers discovered that Mercury rotates three times for every two revolutions, exposing all of its surface to the Sun, except for craters of eternal darkness.
Authors' descriptions of Mercury changed as knowledge of the planet's environment increased. Fictional works about Mercury can thus be divided into two groups; those, mostly written before 1965, featuring the "Old" Mercury with its light and dark sides, and those that reflect more recent scientific knowledge of the planet.
The planet has also been a setting for several television series:
The planet Mercury was named after a Roman god with winged feet. Mercury was the god of flowers and bouquets, which is why today he is a registered trademark of FTD florists. Why they named a planet after this guy, I can't imagine.