In pictures, Mercury brushed by the BepiColombo space probe

Traveling from one telluric planet to another (except Mars) in the inner solar system, the BepiColombo probe has just completed its second flyby of its eventual target, Mercury. Fascinating new images of the planet closest to the Sun. Still little known, the ESA (European space agency) and Jaxa (Japanese space agency) space probe BepiColombo has once again come close to Mercury. Thursday, June 23, was his second flyby of the smallest planet in the Solar System (4,880 kilometers in diameter), his final destination. For the moment, the ship benefits from gravitational assistance, the second of six planned, as well as that of the Earth (once) and Venus (twice), before inserting itself into orbit in 2025 and starting its scientific investigations. The video above brings together 56 images taken on the fly about fifteen minutes after it passed closest to the surface of Mercury, just 200 kilometers away. The photos of the two series were captured with an interval of 15 to 20 seconds when the spacecraft was between 920 and 6,099 kilometers approximately, for the first camera (MCAM-2), and between 984 and 6,194 kilometers, for the second (MCAM- 3). In the foreground, we recognize several elements belonging to the space probe. As for the planet itself, we discover very beautiful details of its distinctive and unique reliefs, such as the relatively recent Debussy impact crater, surrounded by its ejecta. What does the first flyby of Mercury by the BepiColombo probe tell us?Article by Adrien Coffinet published on October 21, 2021 The magnetic and particulate environment around Mercury was sampled by BepiColombo during the flyby on October 1 and 2, 2021, while the The planet's gravitational pull was felt by its accelerometers. Magnetic and accelerometric data were converted into sound files. As we reported in the article below, BepiColombo made its first flyby of Mercury on the night of October 1 to 2. In addition to the photos we presented to you, the Euro-Japanese space probe (ESA and Jaxa) acquired various data on the planet, both on its magnetic and particle environment and on its gravitational field. Johannes Benkhoff, BepiColombo project scientist at ESA, explains that, “for some of the BepiColombo instruments, [this flyby] marked the start of their scientific data collection and a chance to really start preparing for the main mission. . These flybys also provide the opportunity to sample regions around Mercury that will not be accessible once we are in orbit.” An overview that is already rich in lessonsThe Phebus ultraviolet spectrometer has collected data on the elements present in the very sparse atmosphere of the planet, or exosphere. The Gamma Ray and Neutron Spectrometer for Mercury (MGNS) detected significant fluxes of neutrons and gamma rays. These emissions are produced by the interaction of galactic cosmic rays with the upper surface layers of Mercury and also provide information about the composition of the surface. A detailed analysis of the data – also acquired during the flyby of Venus – is in progress. Sensors on the magnetometer boom recorded details of the solar wind and magnetic field around Mercury. The magnetometer team was particularly excited to collect data so close above the planet's southern hemisphere because, until now, only Mercury's northern hemisphere had been examined magnetically, by NASA's Messenger mission. Sonification of Mercury's magnetic field data, captured with DFO's onboard magnetometer. We mean two synthesizers controlled by three characteristics of the magnetic field. The height of the first synthesizer represents the slowly changing amplitude of the background magnetic field. First the solar wind is heard, then the increase and decrease of the planetary magnetic field, then again the solar wind. The lower the height, the stronger the magnetic field. The height of the second synthesizer is itself controlled by variations in the amplitude of the magnetic field. A more turbulent magnetic field is represented by a faster change in height. The crossing of the magnetosheath, after the passage closest to the planet (dotted line), is very clear. Using the amplitude envelope as a volume control for the second synthesizer emphasizes the different magnetospheric regions. © ESA/BepiColombo/MPO-MAG/IGEP-IWF-IC-ISAS The data has been converted into sound to be audible to the human ear. The resulting sonification captures the variation in intensity of the magnetic field and solar wind, including when the spacecraft passed through the magnetosheath, i.e. the highly turbulent boundary region between the solar wind and the magnetosphere around the planet. The Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA), aboard ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), recorded the accelerations measured by the probe as it experienced the gravitational pull of the planet during the flyby, and its response to temperature change as it entered and exited the planet's shadow. The ISA also detected movement of the Phebus spectrometer when it clicked into its “parking” bracket after completing its operations. Spectrogram created from data recorded by the ISA. These detections are not audible to the human ear but have been “sonified” and associated with a frequency plot to better visualize the different events. The first two distinct sounds correspond respectively to the probe entering and leaving Mercury's shadow. Another distinct sound is heard around 00 h 05 UTC, corresponding to the return of the Phebus instrument to its “parking” position. The closest pass of the planet took place at 23:34:41 UTC on October 1. © ESA/BepiColombo/ISA/ASI-Inaf The ISA will contribute to the study of the internal structure of Mercury and will test Einstein's theory of general relativity with unprecedented precision. It will also be essential to accurately determine the orbit of DFO around Mercury and Mercury's center of mass around the Sun. Preparation for the main mission Once in orbit of Mercury, complementary measurements of the magnetic field carried out by DFO and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO or Mio) of Jaxa will lead to a detailed analysis of the magnetic field of the planet and its source. , to better understand the origin, evolution and current state of the planet's interior. In addition, the two orbiters will cross different areas of Mercury's magnetosphere and on different time scales, simultaneously measuring the evolution of the magnetic field in time and space and its relationship with the solar wind. Meanwhile, Daniel Heyner of the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany, who leads DFO's magnetometer research group, and his colleagues will begin to follow up on questions such as: the magnetic field characteristics of the hemisphere north can they be easily transferred to the southern hemisphere? Has the magnetic field generated by the dynamo changed over the past six years after the Messenger mission, as it does continuously on Earth? New flyby data from BepiColombo – and eventually data from its primary science mission – will be compared with global magnetic field models created from the Messenger mission to produce the most accurate picture yet of Mercury's magnetic field. . The first images of Mercury grazed by the BepiColombo probe this weekendArticle by Xavier Demeersman, published on October 4, 2021 The space probe of the European and Japanese space agencies (ESA and Jaxa) BepiColombo has completed its very first visit of a series of six to Mercury. Here are its first images transmitted to Earth. It was 11:34 p.m. in universal time, Friday, October 1, when the space probe BepiColombo grazed Mercury. Or 1:34 a.m. on October 2 in mainland France. The photos you see here were taken five minutes after it passed closest to the surface of this atmosphereless planet. After flying over Earth and twice over Venus since its departure almost three years ago, the Jaxa and ESA spacecraft has just made its very first visit to the planet closest to the Sun, its destination final, around which it will settle definitively in orbit… on December 5, 2025. Annotated versions of these images taken during its removal mark the most important craters like Lermontov, impact basin of some 166 kilometers in diameter . A region that BepiColombo will be keen to study closely, from the start of its mission in 2026. A space probe will graze Mercury, the least explored planet in the Solar System, tonightArticle by Margaux Abello, published on October 1 2021 On October 2, in the early morning, BepiColombo will finally pass over the little-known star so coveted by the scientists of the Euro-Japanese mission. But although only a few hours away from reuniting with Mercury, the space probe will be forced to continue its tedious journey until 2025. Since its launch on October 20, 2018, the orbiters grouped together on board BepiColombo have already carried out several flybys (flyby) planets, receiving gravitational assistance (once from Earth and twice from Venus) in an effort to reach the only planet in the Solar System without an atmosphere. Once the probe arrives near Mercury, it will still have to make six more flights around the celestial body to sufficiently slow down its course, until it is gravitationally captured. These brief vis-à-vis, looking like missed appointments, are essential to achieve positioning in orbit around the immediate neighbor of the Sun and finally deploy its panoply of instruments dedicated to the meticulous study of the smallest planet. telluric. BepiColombo invites planetologists in turmoil to the scheduled interview with MercuryOn the night of October 1 to 2, 2021, around 01:34 a.m. in France (UTC+2, summer time), the probe will graze Mercury, about 200 kilometers away of its cratered surface, in order to patiently begin its slow slowing down. During a window of four hours, BepiColombo will then take advantage of the closeness to take pictures and carry out preliminary analyzes of the planet. The data collected will provide the first scientific insight into what will happen when the main mission is engaged in December 2025. After seven years of travel and nine flybys…all facets of Mercury will be scrutinizedTo date, only two other space probes have been designed to observe Mercury: Mariner 10 (1973 to 1975) and Messenger (2010-2015). BepiColombo is the first non-American Mercury mission, aiming to map and analyze the surface composition of the planet. From its core to its magnetic and gravitational fields, through the examination of its exosphere, the latest technological means mobilized in situ will help researchers to dispel the thick mystery surrounding its formation and its evolution. The next planned flyby of Mercury will not take place until June 2022. — Futura in the Stars is the unmissable event for astronomy and space enthusiasts. Every 1st of the month, find us for a complete tour of the ephemerides of the month, with advice for best observing what is happening in the sky. 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