The space probe Bepi Colombo has taken a first image of Mercury, during a mission that constitutes the first European exploration of the inner system of the solar system.
The probe was launched at the end of October 2018, in a collaboration between the European Space Agency Esa and the Japanese Jaxa.
Will explore Mercury’s surface
Bepi Colombo is the first European spacecraft sent to Mercury, the solar system’s smallest and least explored planet, with temperatures up to 250 degrees Celsius. The probe’s mission includes exploring the planet’s surface and its interior.
On Friday, October 1, Bepicolombo passed Mercury at a distance of 242 miles, taking a picture of the planet’s northern hemisphere. The picture shows Mercury’s crater-rich surface reminiscent of the moon.
Carries on Swedish measuring instruments
It will take another four years before Bepi Colombo enters Mercury’s orbit. There, two satellites will be launched, which will further study the planet’s magnetic field, exosphere and internal processes.
Bepi Colombo travels in a so-called gravitational throw where it accelerates the planets’ gravitational pull and circulates in a spiral, closer and closer to Mercury. During its journey, it has passed Venus twice.
The probe is powered by solar panels and with the help of gravity from various celestial bodies. In 2025, the probes will enter Mercury’s atmosphere, but even during the journey until then, some instruments will collect data, including about Venus, which will also be passed.
Three measuring instruments on board the satellites have been developed with the help of the Swedish Institute for Space Physics.
This splendid view of part of Mercury’s northern hemisphere was captured by @ESA_MTM about 10 mins after #MercuryFlyby close approach, from a distance of 2420km. https://t.co/jjGKrsQXDH#ExploreFarther pic.twitter.com/EMhMJ5tKiN
– Bepi (@ESA_Bepi) October 2, 2021