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European-Japanese mission sends images of Mercury

date of publication:
Oct 04, 2021 6:13 GMT

Update date: Oct 04, 2021 7:10 GMT

The European Space Agency (ESA), in cooperation with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), succeeded in capturing images of Mercury, the smallest and closest planet to the Sun, on October 1, when the BepiColombo spacecraft flew over the planet using gravitational energy.

The BepiColombo is a joint mission between the two agencies and is currently conducting space operations.

The image was taken using a surveillance camera when the spacecraft was about 2,418 km from the surface of the planet, and the camera took other pictures closer when it was about 199 km away, according to the website “The Verge”.

“It was very exciting to see the first BepiColombo images of Mercury, and to work on what we see,” said David Rothrie, ESA’s Mercury mission team leader. The images made me even more excited to study the scientific data that we will get when we are in orbit around Mercury, because this is a planet that we do not fully understand yet.”

For its part, the European Space Agency (ESA) explained that the surveillance camera provides black and white footage only with a resolution of 1024 x 1024, noting that the part of the planet that we see in the image is the northern hemisphere, including the “Sihtu Planitia” region covered with lava. .

She also explained that the smoothest and brightest part of the image is the plains surrounding Calvino crater, known as the Rudaki Plains.

The agency pointed to one of the largest volcanic craters visible in the image called “Lermontov Crater”, with a diameter of 166 km, and it is considered the brightest crater on the planet’s surface, due to the unique feature of Mercury known as “hollows”.

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A hollow is a landform on a planet that contains areas where volatile elements escape into space, and contains an opening where volcanic eruptions have occurred before.

These features will be studied in more detail once BepiColombo is in Mercury’s orbit.

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It is worth noting that Mercury’s gravity greatly aided the final maneuver, the fourth of nine total maneuvers that the spacecraft will make. The mission will take seven years and will include trips to multiple planets in the solar system.

The BepiColombo spacecraft is named after Italian scientist Giuseppe Colombo, better known as “Bepi”, who helped develop the gravity assist procedure sent by NASA’s first spacecraft, Mariner 10, in 1974.