Science Times previously reported that a double Venus flyby will happen 33 hours apart from each other. The first of these two flybys was successfully completed by the European Space Agency's Solar Orbiter, a collaboration project with NASA.

The spacecraft recently flew 5,000 miles away from Earth's hottest neighbor in the Solar System early Monday morning. It is bound to go to the inner part of the Solar System to observe the Sun and its magnetic field.

 Venus Flyby: ESA's Solar Orbiter Visits Earth's Hottest Neighbor for the Second Time
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
Artist’s impression of NASA’s Solar Probe Plus spacecraft on approach to the Sun. Set to launch in 2018, Solar Probe Plus will orbit the Sun 24 times, closing in with the help of seven Venus flybys. The spacecraft will carry ten science instruments specifically designed to solve two key puzzles of solar physics: why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is so much hotter than the Sun’s visible surface and what accelerates the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system.

Solar Orbiter's Successful Second Venus Flyby

Solar Orbiter is a partnership between ESA and NASA to study the sun and its magnetic field. The spacecraft did its first Venus flyby in December 2020, making the recent one its second time.

According to Daily Mail, the Solar Orbiter has to repeatedly make Venus flybys throughout its mission to get close to the Sun. These flybys will boost Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo out of the ecliptic plane to complete their mission in the Sun and Mercury, respectively.

It is one of the two spacecrafts that are set to do a flyby on Venus. The second one is BepiColombo which is a spacecraft by ESA in collaboration with the Japanese space agency JAXA.

The Solar Orbiter was on its way to the polar regions of the sun to determine its 11-year cycle and made its approach to Earth's neighbor at 12:42 am EST, according to ESA.

ESA posted an update to their official Twitter account that the Solar Orbiter has successfully approached behind the planet for its second Venus flyby. They also mentioned that their New Norcia monitoring station in Australia has lost contact with the Solar Orbiter as expected.

Unfortunately, the Solar Orbiter would not be able to capture high-definition images of Venus as it must remain facing the Sun, as well as BepiColombo because its cameras are shielded. But their camera could provide black and white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixels, which will be downloaded in batches.

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Solar Orbiters Main Mission

According to ESA, Solar Orbiter was launched in February 2020 and sent back its first images in July of the same year. A few months later, in November, the spacecraft began its routine science operations to mark the official start of its mission.

Solar Orbiter is the most comprehensive scientific laboratory ever launched to the sun, with the goal of taking closer photographs of its polar regions, measuring the composition of solar winds, and learning more about its beginnings. 

Scientists hope to find answers to questions about the Sun and the Solar System, like what drives its 11-year cycle and subsiding magnetic activity, or what hearts up its atmosphere, or what drives the solar wind, or how do the sun and its solar wind affect Earth.

According to NASA, the closest distance it has been to the star of the Solar System was 48 million miles, where it snapped the closest pictures of the Sun to date. Although there could be other orbiters that went closer, none of them carried Sun-facing imagers like the Solar Orbiter.

RELATED ARTICLE: Double Venus Flyby Offers New Opportunity To Study Earth's Hottest Neighbor at Two Different Locations

Check out more news and information on Venus in Science Times.