BepiColombo captures its first views of Mercury on Oct. 1, 2021. Credit: ESA / JAXA
The first close views of Mercury by the BepiColombo spacecraft were snapped as the mission made a gravity assist pass on its journey to eventually orbit the closest planet from the Sun.
Taken over a period of four hours, the photos were snapped Oct. 1, 2021, by the probe, which is a collaboration of the European Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, ESA and JAXA.
An annotated view of Mercury taken by the BepiColombo mission’s cameras. Credit: ESA / JAXA
The close approach occurred at approximately 7:34 p.m. EDT (23:34 UTC) Oct. 1. Captures of the planet’s surface were made from the spacecraft’s observational cameras in combination with scientific data collected from an array of science gathering instruments also onboard.
BepiColombo’s photos were taken on Mercury’s night side at a distance of about 1,000 kilometers, starting about five minutes after closest approach in order for conditions to be optimal for imagery.
“It was an incredible feeling seeing these almost-live pictures of Mercury,” said Valetina Galluzzi, co-investigator of BepiColombo’s SIMBIO-SYS imaging system that will be used once in Mercury orbit. “It really made me happy ...