The European Space Agency (ESA) has released a series of images of Venus taken from its mercury-bound BepiColombo spacecraft.
BepiColombo swung past Venus and caught his first glimpse of our immediate planetary neighbor, who as tiny circular spot that is visible just below the vehicle's instruments.
The barrage of black and white snapshots was captured between 7:58 a.m. and 2:57 p.m. CET on Wednesday, which is approximately 372,000 to 248,000 miles from Venus.
Another set of images, taken at an even closer approach on Thursday, about 6,660 miles from Venus, offer a much larger view of the planet from right to left across the field of view.
The UK-built ship, which was launched in 2018, is now adjusting its course on its way to Mercury, the smallest and innermost planet in the solar system, which it is expected to reach by December 2025.
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The BepiColombo mission is named after the Italian mathematician and engineer Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo (1920–84).
The seven-year trip is a joint mission between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
One device on board, the Mercury Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer (MIXS), was built by the University of Leicester and funded by the UK Space Agency.
Together with a second spectrometer called SIXS, it will analyze the surface composition using fluorescent X-rays when it arrives in Mercury in December 2025.
BepiColombo has a number of complex devices that can be used to examine Mercury. However, three cameras are attached to the hull of the spaceship, which deliver black and white snapshots with a resolution of 1024 x 1024 pixels.
BepiColombo's first Venus flyby. The second imaging option produced the much larger image of Venus than the first, where it appeared as a small speck
These new images were captured by surveillance camera 3 on the Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) – one of three components that separate into independent spacecraft upon arrival in Mercury.
An ESA animation of all 64 images taken together shows Venus clearly moving across the field of view near the body of the spacecraft on the left.
Then Venus becomes increasingly larger in the field of view as the spaceship approaches.
A picture was taken approximately every three minutes for the composite.
Venus appears as a small, peaceful white sphere in the dark borders of space, surrounded by the spaceship BepiColombo
ESA's artistic impression of the BepiColombo in & # 39; Cruise Mode & # 39; on the way to Mercury
BEPICOLOMBO MISSION OBJECTIVES
– Investigate the origin and evolution of a planet near the parent star
– Study Mercury as a planet: its shape, internal structure, geology, composition and crater
– Study Mercury's atmosphere (exosphere): its composition and dynamics
– Mercury's probe magnetized envelope (magnetosphere)
– Determine the origin of the mercury magnetic field
– Examine polar deposits – including their composition and origin
– Take a test of Einstein's general theory of relativity
"After the successful Earth flyby, during which our instruments worked even better than expected, we look forward to seeing what comes out of the Venus flyby," said Johannes Benkhoff, ESA's BepiColombo project scientist.
"We hope to be able to provide some temperature and density profiles of the atmosphere, information about the chemical composition and cloud cover, as well as about the interaction of the magnetic environment between the Sun and Venus."
BepiColombo approached Venus for a so-called gravity assistant or sling maneuver.
By approaching a planet, satellites can use their gravitational pull to increase momentum, increase its speed, and propel it forward.
BepiColombo needs these gravitational slings to set course for Mercury's orbit.
Together with the spacecraft's solar electric propulsion system, they will help steer BepiColombo against the strong pull of the sun.
Wednesday's flyby is the second gravity assist from Venus that the spaceship needs for its seven-year journey to Mercury.
On the next flyby, scheduled for August 10, 2021, the spacecraft will pass just 550 km from the surface of Venus – roughly the same distance as between London and Edinburgh – which will result in a much larger and more detailed shot our rocky neighbor.
Voyage from BepiColombo, which will make a second flyby in August 2021 before continuing on its route to Mercury
An & # 39; Ariane 5 & # 39; rocket with the multi-part BepiColombo spacecraft & # 39; Europe's historic first mission to Mercury starts on October 19, 2018 in Kourou, French Guiana
BepiColombo will later make six flybys of Mercury itself to slow down before arriving at its poles in 2025.
ESA has described the $ 1.5 billion mission as one of the most difficult to date due to the extreme temperatures of Mercury, the Sun's strong gravity, and the glowing solar radiation.
The protective measures for BepiColombo include a heat shield, a new type of ceramic and titanium insulation as well as ammonia-filled "heat pipes".
Upon arrival in Mercury, the spaceship and its two orbiters will separate – the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) from ESA and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MIO) from JAXA.
Both will maneuver to their specific polar orbits around the planet – MPO will fly into Mercury's inner orbit, while MIO will collect data from further away.
Both probes are designed for temperatures of both extremes – from 430 ° C (806 ° F) on the sun-facing side to -180 ° C (-292 ° F) in the shadow of Mercury.
After arriving in Mercury at the end of 2025, the spacecraft will separate and its two orbiters – the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) from ESA and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MIO) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency – both with different orbital times
The protective measures for BepiColombo (picture) include a heat shield, a new type of ceramic and titanium insulation, ammonia-filled “heat pipes” and, in the case of the Japanese orbiter, “roast-on-a-spit” spinning
BepiColombo launched from French Guiana on October 20, 2018 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket and flew by from Earth on April 10 of this year to provide some poignant images of our planet amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Images and videos of the moment the ship flew 12,700 km above the South Atlantic were beamed to headquarters on Earth.
The researchers hope the mission will help them understand more about Mercury, which is only slightly larger than Earth's moon (3,031 miles in diameter versus 2,158 miles) and has a massive iron core.
The last spacecraft to visit Mercury was NASA's Messenger probe, which ended its mission in 2015 after four years of orbit.
Before that, NASA's Mariner 10 flew past the planet in the mid-1970s.
BepiColombo took pictures of the earth during a flyby in April. Images and videos of the moment the ship flew across the South Atlantic were beamed to headquarters on Earth
HOW DOES BEPICOLOMBO COME TO MERCURY?
The two orbiters from BepiColombo, the Japanese Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter and the Mercury Planetary Orbiter from ESA, are brought together by the Mercury Transport Module.
The carrier will use a combination of electric propulsion and multiple gravity aids on Earth, Venus and Mercury to complete the 7.2-year journey to the solar system's mysterious innermost planet
Once in Mercury, the orbiters separate and move in their own orbits to take complementary measurements of the interior, surface, exosphere, and magnetosphere of Mercury.
The information will tell us more about the origin and evolution of a planet near its parent star and provide a better understanding of the overall evolution of our own solar system.
The scientists will first try to launch a so-called "technological masterpiece" with an eight-week launch window from Kourou in French Guiana on the back of an Ariane rocket on October 5, 2018, in case there are any difficulties.
"The arrival in Mercury is scheduled for the first time … December 5, 2025," added Reininghaus.
BepiColombo has three components that separate upon arrival:
Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) for the drive, built by ESA
Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) built by ESA
Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) or Mio, built by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
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