The BepiColombo spacecraft makes the second gravitational assistant to the planet Mercury – takes spectacular close-ups

BepiColombo Search for volcanoes

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this sight of Mercury on June 23, 2022, as the spacecraft flew past the planet for its second of six Mercury gravity assistance maneuvers. This image was taken at 09:51:07 UTC by Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 3, when the spacecraft was 1406 km (874 miles) from the surface of Mercury. The nearest approach of 200 km (124 miles) took place shortly before, at 09:44 UTC. In this view is north up. Credit: ESA / BepiColombo / MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

ESA /[{” attribute=””>JAXA BepiColombo mission has made its second gravity assist of planet Mercury, capturing new close-up images as it steers closer towards Mercury orbit in 2025.

The closest approach took place at 09:44

A beautiful sequence of 56 images taken by the surveillance cameras on board the ESA / JAXA BepiColombo mission when the spacecraft made its second close flight of the destination planet Mercury on 23 June 2022.

“We have completed our second of six Mercury city tours and will be back this time next year for our third before arriving on Mercury orbit in 2025,” said Emanuela Bordoni, ESA’s BepiColombo Spacecraft Operations Officer.

Because BepiColombo’s closest approach was on the planet’s night side, the first images of Mercury were taken about five minutes after close proximity, at a distance of about 800 km (500 miles). Pictures were taken about 40 minutes after the near approach when the spacecraft moved away from the planet again.

BepiColombo sunrise and shadows

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this sight of Mercury on June 23, 2022, as the spacecraft flew past the planet for its second of six Mercury gravity assistance maneuvers. This photo was taken at 09:48:22 UTC of the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 1 (MCAM-1) when the spacecraft was 680 km (420 miles) from Mercury, the first image that captured the illuminated surface of Mercury during the bypass. Credit: ESA / BepiColombo / MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

As BepiColombo flew from night to day, the sun apparently rose above the planet’s crater surface, casting shadows along the terminator – the boundary between night and day – and dramatically highlighting the terrain’s topography.

Jack Wright, a member of the MCAM team and a fellow based at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Center (ESAC) in Madrid, helped plan the image sequence for the bypass. He said: “I was blown away when the first pictures came down, and I just got more and more excited about it. The photos show beautiful details of Mercury, including one of my favorite craters, Heaney, whose name I suggested a few years ago. “

BepiColombo maps Mercury's rich geology

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this sight of Mercury on June 23, 2022, as the spacecraft flew past the planet for its second of six Mercury gravity assistance maneuvers. This image was taken at 09:51:07 UTC by Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 3, when the spacecraft was 1406 km (874 miles) from the surface of Mercury. In this view is north up. Credit: ESA / BepiColombo / MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Heaney is a 125 km (78 miles) wide crater covered by slippery volcanic plains. It hosts a rare example of a candidate volcano on Mercury, which will be an important target for BepiColombo’s high – resolution image processing package once in orbit.

Just minutes after the closest approach and with the sun shining from above, Mercury’s biggest impact feature, the 1550 km (960 mile) wide Caloris Basin, made its first appearance, with right-reflecting lavas on the floor that made it stand out. darker background. The volcanic lava flows in and around Caloris are believed to date the formation of the pool itself by a hundred million years or so, and measuring and understanding the compositional differences between these is an important goal for BepiColombo.

“Mercury flyby 1 images were good, but flyby 2 images are even better,” commented David Rothery of Open University, who heads ESA’s Mercury Surface & Composition Working Group and is also a member of the MCAM team. “The images highlight many of the scientific goals we can achieve when BepiColombo comes into play. I want to understand the volcanic and tectonic history of this amazing planet. “

BepiColombo first observation of calories

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this sight of Mercury on June 23, 2022, as the spacecraft flew past the planet for its second of six Mercury gravity assistance maneuvers. This photo was taken at 09:55:32 UTC by Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2, when the spacecraft was 2862 km (1778 miles) from the surface of Mercury. In this view, the north is approximately towards the top right. Credit: ESA / BepiColombo / MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

BepiColombo will build on the data collected by[{” attribute=””>NASA’s Messenger mission that orbited Mercury 2011-2015. BepiColombo’s two science orbiters – ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter – will operate from complementary orbits to study all aspects of mysterious Mercury from its core to surface processes, magnetic field, and exosphere, to better understand the origin and evolution of a planet close to its parent star.

Even though BepiColombo is currently in ‘stacked’ cruise configuration, meaning many instruments cannot be fully operated during the brief flybys, they can still grab insights into the magnetic, BepiColombo Timeline

Timeline of flybys during BepiColombo’s 7.2 year journey to Mercury. Credit: ESA

“Our instrument teams on both spacecraft have started receiving their science data and we’re looking forward to sharing our first insights from this flyby,” says Johannes Benkhoff, ESA’s BepiColombo project scientist. “It will be interesting to compare the data with what we collected on our first flyby, and add to this unique dataset as we build towards our main mission.”

BepiColombo’s main science mission will begin in early 2026. It is making use of nine planetary flybys in total: one at Earth, two at BepiColombo Search for Volcanoes Annotated

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this view of Mercury on June 23, 2022, as the spacecraft flew past the planet for its second of six gravity assist maneuvers at Mercury. This image was taken at 09:51:07 UTC by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 3, when the spacecraft was 1406 km (874 miles) from the surface of Mercury. Closest approach of 200 km (124 miles) took place shortly before, at 09:44 UTC. In this view, north is up. Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

BepiColombo Sunrise and Shadows Annotated

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this view of Mercury on June 23, 2022, as the spacecraft flew past the planet for its second of six gravity assist maneuvers at Mercury. This image was taken at 09:48:22 UTC by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 1 (MCAM-1) when the spacecraft was 680 km (420 miles) from Mercury, the first image capturing the illuminated surface of Mercury during the flyby. Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

BepiColombo Surveys Mercury's Rich Geology Annotated

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this view of Mercury on June 23, 2022, as the spacecraft flew past the planet for its second of six gravity assist maneuvers at Mercury. This image was taken at 09:51:07 UTC by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 3, when the spacecraft was 1406 km (874 miles) from the surface of Mercury. In this view, north is up. Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

BepiColombo First Sighting of Caloris Annotated

The joint European-Japanese BepiColombo mission captured this view of Mercury on June 23, 2022, as the spacecraft flew past the planet for its second of six gravity assist maneuvers at Mercury. This image was taken at 09:55:32 UTC by the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2, when the spacecraft was 2862 km (1778 miles) from the surface of Mercury. In this view, north is approximately towards the top right. Credit: ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO