Fly by Venus
In fact, BepiColombo’s target is: Mercury. But in order to get on the right track, the European-Japanese space probe will have to lose speed. To that end, it has flown through Earth and Venus once since 2018. On Tuesday afternoon, it completed its second and final flight to Venus and took pictures from just 550 kilometers away, but also from a distance.
Astronomers from the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency JAXA have used the flybyss needed to analyze Venus’s dense atmosphere. Among other things, an infrared spectrometer and a radiometer were used for this. Researchers at the DLR and the University of Münster have developed an instrument called MERTIS (Mercury Radiometer and Thermal Infrared Spectrometer). The visit to Venus was an experimental test of the device. When BepiColombo turns into a hot planet’s orbit after six more flights of Mercury in 2025, MERTIS will map the thermal and geological conditions of Mercury’s surface.
BepiColombo reached Venus on its night side and then flew over the boundary of day and night to the sunlit side. MERTIS was supposed to make about 16,000 measurements. The probe’s navigation camera can provide images at wavelengths of visible light. The above image, in which parts of the probe can also be seen, was taken at a distance of 1,573 kilometers.