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A European-Japanese space mission seeking to learn more about Mercury caught its first glimpse of the planet late Friday when a European spacecraft shot a photo of it from over 2,400 kilometers away.
“Hello, Mercury! 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,” the joint BepiColombo mission tweeted early Saturday. The tweet mentioned the European Space Agency’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter, which shot the photo.
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
The photo was taken at approximately 11:44 p.m. UTC (or 7:44 p.m. ET). Only 10 minutes prior, the spacecraft had been less than 200 kilometers away from the planet. The European Space Agency noted that it was the first gravity assist maneuver at the planet.
More incredible first impressions of #Mercury as we made our first #MercuryFlyby last night. I cannot wait to get more data about this truly beautiful planet I hope you enjoy these postcards as much as me in the meantime!https://t.co/GnWRupanhA#ExploreFarther pic.twitter.com/dM1Vd5tSY3
The mission, which includes ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, was launched in October 2018 to study the evolution and origin of Mercury and will examine the planet’s magnetic field, exosphere and core-to-surface processes.
The mission also seeks to find out if there is any water on Mercury, why it has a magnetic field and if the planet is alive or dead.
The overall operation is expected to take seven years and includes a flyby of Earth, two at Venus and six at Mercury, according to ESA.
Scientists expect the spacecraft to arrive at Mercury on Dec. 5., 2025.
The mission was named after Giuseppe ‘Bepi’ Colombo, an Italian mathematician and engineer, whose calculations helped inspire a previous orbit around Mercury.
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