A European-Japanese spacecraft had just flown past Venus on its long, winding path to Mercury, capturing some stellar views along the way.
BepiColombo launched in October 2018 and is scheduled to arrive on Mercury in 2025. But to reach it, it must first complete a series of nine gravitational support fields – one from Earth, two from Venus and six from Mercury – before finally entering orbit around the innermost planet of the solar system. These carefully planned loops guide and propel the vessel to make sure it is winding as intended.
BepiColombo approached from Earth on April 1
Connected: The BepiColombo spacecraft passes by Venus on the long road to Mercury
While BepiColombo headed just 6,660 miles (10,720 kilometers) from the planet, the three cameras aboard the mercury transfer module on the probe captured some spectacular images. The camera is activated 20 hours before the nearest probe approach and operates up to 15 minutes after the meeting.
In images that are sewn together in a delayed video, Venus first appears as a small white disk and then becomes much larger as the vessel approaches the hot planet. The planet’s harsh white face is hampered only by the elongated limbs of the Mercury-associated probe, which will have to perform other gravitational assistance on the planet before moving to its final destination.
“With each completion of the flight, we are one step closer to answering some of these confusing questions about the mysterious planet Mercury,” said Johannes Benhoff, a scientist at the European space agency BepiColombo Project. says a statement from ESA. “Learning more about Mercury will shed light on the history of the entire solar system, helping us to better understand our own place in space.”
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