BepiColombo Make Approach To Mercury
BepiColombo Makes Second Closest Approach To Mercury; ESA Shares Fascinating Picture
On June 23, the BepiColombo spacecraft made its second close encounter with Mercury. The spacecraft, which was launched on October 20, 2018, passed just 200 kilometres over Mercury’s surface at 3:14 p.m. (IST). The Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2 snapped a photo earlier today, five minutes after the closest approach, at a distance of 920 kilometres. The image was released by the European Space Agency (ESA).
ESA identified Mercury’s topography and impact craters in the spacecraft’s photograph. The straight, sunny scarp at the bottom of the photograph, known as “Challenger Rupes,” is a significant feature that may be seen. About 170 kilometres of the 200-kilometer-long, two-kilometer-tall feature have been captured on camera. It’s interesting to note that the International Astronomical Union Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature gave it its name as early as this month.
The smooth plains Catuilla Planum and Kunisada, as well as craters like the Izquierdo, are other notable characteristics of Mercury that are emphasised by the unusual illumination. According to ESA, the lighting in this image is not like any other case that has been observed. According to the agency, BepiColombo’s examination of the 130 km wide Eminescu crater, which is near the upper right of the photograph, would be interesting since it has “hollows,” which are geological features specific to Mercury.
Additionally, the light streaks emanating from the 24 km wide Xiao Zhao have attracted the attention of experts. According to a statement from the ESA, “these ‘rays’ are produced from material expelled during the impact event that carved out the crater, and they fade away within a few hundreds of millions of years.” This indicates that Xiao Zhao is one of Mercury’s more recent impact craters. Notably, before entering Mercury’s orbit in December 2025, BepiColombo will do a total of six flybys.