The smallest planet in our solar system was captured by a Japanese-European spacecraft on Friday, making it the closest mission around the world in a seven-year mission.
The BP Colombo mission flew its first flight from Mercury at around 19:34 EDT on Friday, 200 km from the planet’s surface.
“BPColombo is now as close as possible to Mercury, as it will enter six Mercury flights,” the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Twitter.
During the flight, BabyColombo collects scientific information and images and sends them back to Earth.
The mission will actually put two spacecraft orbiting Mercury into orbit: the ESA-led Mercury Orbiter and the JAXA, Mio-led Mercury Magnetic Orbiter. The orbits will be aligned with the Hg transport unit in their current configuration until they are published in 2025.
As the Bepicolombo spacecraft approaches Mercury to begin orbit, the Mercury Transfer Module portion of the spacecraft will separate and two orbiters will begin orbiting the planet.
The two probes will spend a year helping scientists understand the tiny planet Nigo, which means they can find out more about the processes going on at its surface and its magnetic field. This information will reveal the origin and evolution of the nearest solar planet.
During Friday’s flight, the spacecraft’s main camera was protected and could not take high-resolution pictures. But two of the spacecraft’s three surveillance cameras will capture images of the planet’s northern and southern hemispheres after approaching about 1,000 km.
BepiColombo will fly close to the night part of the planet, so the pictures will not show more details as you approach.
The mission hopes the images will show large archaeological craters scattered on the surface of Mercury, like the moon. Researchers can use the images to map the surface of Mercury and learn more about the structure of the planet.
Some instruments operate in both orbits of the flight, so they receive the first breath of Mercury’s magnetic field, plasma, and particles.
The voyage comes 101 years after the birth of Giuseppe Pepe, an Italian scientist and mission engineer of the same name. Colombo’s operation helped explain Mercury’s rotation in the Sun’s orbit, allowing NASA’s Mariner 10 spacecraft to build three Mercury flights using Venus-assisted gravity. He decided that the point at which spacecraft would fly over the planets would, in fact, help pave the way for the future.
The Mariner 10 was the first spacecraft to be sent to study Mercury, successfully completing three of its flights in 1974 and 1975. Then in 2008 and 2009 NASA sent its spacecraft Messenger to make three flights to Mercury and orbited the planet from 2011 to 2015.
Now, as Mercury’s second and most complex orbiting mission, BepiColombo will take on the task of providing scientists with the best information to unravel the mysteries of the planet.
“We are waiting to see the first results of measurements taken near the surface of Mercury,” said Johannes Benkoff, a European Space Agency project scientist at the BepiColombo project. In January 2008, when I started working as a project scientist in BabyColombo, NASA’s Messenger mission made its first Mercury flight. Now it’s our turn. It looks great! ”
Little is known about the history, surface, or atmosphere of Mercury, which is difficult to study because of its proximity to the Sun. It is the least explored of the four rocky planets in the inner solar system, including Venus, Earth, and Mars. The brightness of the sun behind Mercury makes it difficult to observe the smallest planet on Earth.
BepColombo will have to continuously emit xenon gas from two of the four engines designed specifically for constant braking against the sun’s gravitational pull. In addition, it makes it difficult to reach distances from Earth – allowing BPColombo to “fall” more energy than needed when sending missions to Pluto.
A thermal shield and titanium insulation were applied to the spacecraft to protect it from extreme temperatures up to 350 C (662 F).
Orbital instruments examine the ice in the planet’s polar craters, why they have a magnetic field and the nature of the “chambers” on the planet’s surface.
Mercury is full of mystery for such a small planet that is slightly larger than our Moon. Although scientists know that daytime temperatures can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius), the planet’s thin atmosphere means it will drop to minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 180 degrees Celsius).
Although Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun at an average distance of 58 million kilometers from our star, Venus is the hottest planet in our Solar System because it has a dense atmosphere. But Mercury is certainly the fastest of the planets orbiting the Sun once every 88 days – hence the name of the fast-winged angel of the Roman gods.
If we could sit on the surface of Mercury, the Sun would be three times larger than it would be on Earth, and the sunlight would be blind because it is seven times brighter.
The abnormal rotation of Mercury and the elliptical orbit around the Sun mean that our star rises and rises again in certain parts of the planet, and a similar phenomenon occurs at sunset.
CNN’s Anusha Rati and Rob Picheta contributed to this report.
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