In a near flyby with Venus, a Mercury-bound spacecraft takes a selfie

In a near flyby with Venus, a Mercury-bound spacecraft takes a selfie

On Tuesday (August 10), the European-Japanese BepiColombo probe en route to Mercury flew through Venus, sending back selfies as well as other measurements that could offer new information about the clouded planet’s atmosphere.

On Tuesday evening, the European Space Agency, in collaboration with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, unveiled the very first Venus flyby image, which was captured just following the closest approach of BepiColombo to the planet (Aug. 10). The probe came within 340 miles of Venus during the flyby. European Space Agency has stated that further photos will be made available in the near future. One of the 3 selfie cameras’ aboard BepiColombo acquired the first Venus selfie shot on Tuesday at 9:57 a.m. EDT (13:57 p.m. GMT) when this spacecraft was 977 miles from the surface of Venus.

The three cameras, which provide black-and-white photos with a resolution measurements of 1024 × 1024 pixels, were created to track the launch of BepiColombo’s solar panels after its October 2018 launch. However, the BepiColombo crew has devised inventive ways to take advantage of them throughout the spacecraft’s nine planetary flybys on its path to its goal.

BepiColombo obtained photographs of Earth from a distance of about 7,900 miles in April 2020, as it waved her home planet farewell for the last moment. When the spacecraft swung by Venus at the distance of about 6,650 miles in October 2020, it received its first view at the planet. The encounter on Tuesday was substantially closer to the planet.

The spacecraft, named after Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo, an Italian physicist will take its first look at Mercury in less than two months (October 1). Before achieving its target orbit in 2025, BepiColombo will conduct six flybys of the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet. These flybys are intended to correct BepiColombo’s path and slow it down a bit against the sun’s gravitational pull, allowing it to reach Mercury properly.

The Venus photographs were badly overexposed due to planet’s strong albedo, or reflectivity, according to Johannes Benkhoff, BepiColombo project researcher at European Space Agency, who informed about the newest Venus flyby. “Venus is a bright planet,” Benkhoff explained, “and those selfie cameras weren’t built to monitor such bright objects at such a close distance.”

However, BepiColombo is equipped with a high-resolution stereoscopic camera that will not be used throughout its journey via the inner solar system. Because the satellite is made up of three spacecraft piled on top of one another, some of the equipment are obscured. The spacecraft has two orbiters atop Mercury Transfer Module: The European Mercury Planetary Orbiter as well as Japanese Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter.


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