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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Mercury getting a spacecraft closeup tomorrow

The BepiColombo mission is swinging by Mercury for its second close-up look tomorrow (June 23) and will zoom just 125 miles (200 km) above the surface. Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun and it is important to study it to learn more about the history of rocky planets like our Earth.

However, the flyby will be used primarily to refine BepiColombo’s trajectory to ensure it is on the right track for a long-term investigation. Nevertheless, science will continue during this close approach, including photographs of the planet’s surface, and environmental monitoring of magnetic fields, superheated gas and particles called plasma.

This environmental monitoring is good for understanding how the Sun’s intense energy interacts with the planet, which again has implications for understanding such effects on Earth.

The European Space Agency, which is participating, said “closer images should be possible to identify large impact craters and other major geological features associated with tectonic and volcanic activity, such as scarps, wrinkle ridges and lava plains on the planet’s surface.” ” mission with Japan, said in a statement.

ESA said, “Mercury’s heavily cratered surface records a 4.6 billion-year history of asteroid and comet bombardment, along with unique tectonic and volcanic curiosities that help scientists unlock the secrets of the planet’s place in the evolution of the Solar System.” will do.”

Camera images will be available at an altitude of about 500 miles, as the closest approach will be on Mercury’s night and the cameras are designed for daylight conditions, ESA noted.

The spacecraft will make several such flybys before being placed on the right track to orbit (or orbit) Mercury in 2025. While flybys mean more time in space for BepiColombo, they have the value of saving fuel and allowing the spacecraft to take off. More tools to study this intriguing world.

ESA’s BepiColombo project scientist Johannes Benkhof said the flyby would also zoom past an area that would not be available during orbital operations. It also has another value for investigators, Benkhoff noted in the release: a “head start” on helping the engineering team prepare the spacecraft for its orbiting mission and assembling the science “as quickly and easily as possible.” ” will get.

You can follow Maneuver Tomorrow on Twitter@Esaoperations And @bepicolombo, Closest approach is scheduled for 5:44 a.m. EDT (9:44 GMT).

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