First magnificent mercury images beamed back from BepiColombo space mission

BepiColombo 10.1.2021 photo of Mercury

Crossing Mercury.

© ESA / BepiColombo / MTM

If Mars has become too crowded for you, what about all that rovers (and helicopters) buzzing around (or collection dust), why not take your holiday on Mercury? Or at least dreams of doing so.

A new image of the planet, beamed back by the common European Japanese BepiColombo mission, lets you fantasize about listening to some sweet tunes while strolling across Mercury’s Rudaki plains or kicking back with a good book while chilling on the edge of the Lermontov crater.

“The region shown is part of Mercury’s northern hemisphere, including Sihtu Planitia, which has been flooded by lava,” the European Space Agency said on Saturday on its website. “A round area that is smoother and brighter than its surroundings characterizes the plains around the Calvino Crater, called the Rudaki Plains. The 166 km wide Lermontov Crater is also visible, which looks bright because it contains features that are unique to “Mercury, called ‘caves’ where volatile elements escape into space. It also contains a vent where volcanic explosions have occurred.”

BepiColombo 10.1.2021 photo of Mercury annotated

See all the sights on the planet closest to the sun.

© ESA / BepiColombo / MTM

Loren Roberts / The Planetary Society

The BepiColombo mission seeks to learn more about how the planet closest to the sun formed, what it is made of, and what it tells us about the birth of our solar system, a joint project between ESA and the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA. .

Read more: Why BepiColombo wants to explore our smallest, wrinkle-tested planet

Only the third mission is aimed at Mercury. NASA’s Mariner 10 mission was launched in 1973, and its Messenger mission took off in 2004.

The new shot of Mercury was taken by ESA’s Mercury Transfer Module on Friday about 1,500 miles from the planet during the first of six planned flight towns of Mercury. Earlier, according to ESA, the spacecraft had arrived within about 125 miles of the planet.

The mission consists of two circuits, ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, which travel together via the Mercury Transfer Module. Orbiter’s pair is scheduled to orbit Mercury in December 2025, when they will part to study and map the planet in more detail than ever before.

Earlier in its long journey, the mission has sent back shot of Venus and the earth. Oh, and of course some selfies.

You can learn more about the BepiColombo mission in this overview by CNET’s Claire Reilly.


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