The European and Japanese team behind the mission BepiColombo a Mercury has shared the first image from the spacecraft’s recent flyby of the distant planet.
The black-and-white image shows the planet in incredible detail, its surface pockmarked by numerous craters from billions of years of asteroid and comet bombardment.
Hello again Mercury!
— Bepi (@ESA_Bepi) June 23, 2022
It was captured by the mission’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter from about 570 miles (920 kilometers) above the planet’s surface on June 23. The European Space Agency (ESA) noted that the spacecraft made an even closer approach just five minutes before the image was taken, coming within just 124 miles (200 kilometers) of Mercury’s surface.
Parts of the Mercury Planetary Orbiter are also visible in the image. The spacecraft’s magnetometer arm, for example, can be seen running from bottom left to top right, and a small part of the medium-gain antenna at bottom right is also in frame.
Look towards the lower left of the image and you can see the 124 miles wide (200 kilometers). multi-ring basin, part of which is obscured by the magnetometer plume.
This week’s flyby is the second made by the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and occurs eight months after the firstwhich captured an image about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) above the planet’s surface.
“Even during fleeting flybys, these scientific ‘grabs’ are extremely valuable,” said Johannes Benkhoff, ESA’s BepiColombo project scientist. “We can fly our world-class science lab through diverse and unexplored parts of Mercury’s environment that we won’t have access to once in orbit, while also getting a head start on preparations to make sure we transition to Earth.” main science mission as quickly and smoothly as possible.
The main science mission will see ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter, together with Japan’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, which is also part of the BepiColombo mission, analyze Mercury’s core-to-surface processes, magnetic field and exosphere in an attempt to learn more about the origin and evolution of a planet that orbits so close to its parent star.
ESA said the observations will be “key to understanding solar wind-driven magnetospheric processes, and BepiColombo will break new ground by providing unparalleled observations of the planet’s magnetic field and the solar wind’s interaction with the planet at two different locations at the same time.” ».
The orbiter is currently transmitting additional images back to Earth, and the team is expected to share them online Friday morning. All images will be released to the public at the Planetary Science Archive on Monday June 27, ESA confirmed.