The first image documenting the second 'close encounter' with Mercury of the BepiColombo probe, born from the collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese (Jaxa) with an important Italian contribution by the Space Agency, has arrived on Earth Italiana (ASI), National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and Sapienza University of Rome.
Nine months after the first flyby, which took place on 2 October, the spacecraft once again flew over the planet, taking close-up images that show interesting geological features.
Impact craters and escarpments are clearly visible in the first black and white photo, taken on June 23 at 11:49 am Italian time, when the probe was about 920 kilometers from the surface of Mercury.
The point of closest approach, about 200 kilometers away, had been reached shortly before, at 11:44.
New images of the flyover will be released on Friday 24 June, while the complete set will be available on Monday 27 June.
The flyby aims to refine the trajectory of the probe, taking advantage of the gravitational slingshot effect.
The one just made is the second close flyby of Mercury, and overall the fifth made so far by the probe, which since the beginning of its mission (in October 2018) has already carried out a flyby of the Earth, two of Venus and two of Mercury.
BepiColombo still has a long journey ahead of it: in fact, four more flyovers of Mercury will be needed to be able to insert the two probes that make up the mission, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (Mpo) of the ESA and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (Mmo) of the Jaxa, at the end of 2025.