For the first time, Europe's BepiColombo spacecraft snaps a photo of Mercury, the Solar System's innermost planet.
Space.com said that the spacecraft immediately took the photos after the probe flew over the little world at a speed of 124 miles (200 kilometers) per hour.
A total of five further flybys are planned, with each one relying on Mercury's gravitational pull to help regulate the spacecraft's speed.
Bepi's goal is to move slowly enough to ultimately settle into a stable orbit around the Earth.
A spacecraft carrying two orbiters is part of the BepiColombo cooperative project between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
It was launched in 2018 and will arrive in late 2025 after a seven-year journey.
BepiColombo Shares Stunning Photo of Mercury
ESA obtained the black-and-white photos Friday. The agency then published Saturday after the spacecraft passed by the solar system's innermost planet to perform a gravity assist maneuver. The said feature involves slowing the spacecraft down by utilizing gravitational force.
The photos, which ESA obtained through the spacecraft's monitoring cameras around 1,500 miles from Mercury, show a portion of the planet's northern hemisphere that has been flooded by lava. A portion also shows a smoother and brighter area that characterizes the plains around a huge crater.
Some of the spacecraft's structural parts, such as its antennae and magnetometer boom, are also visible in the images. An observational instrument is a magnetometer.
According to the ESA, Mercury's surface is black virtually everywhere and was formed billions of years ago by massive outpourings of lava. The incident resulted in a scarred and cratered surface that resembles the Earth's moon at first look.
Once in orbit above Mercury, BepiColombo will investigate these characteristics and Mercury's magnetic field, composition, geophysics, atmosphere, and history. It will also attempt to put Einstein's theory of general relativity to the test while sustaining temperatures of over 660 degrees Fahrenheit (349 degrees Celsius).
Elsa Montagnon, the mission's spacecraft operations manager, said in a statement that the flyby was flawless from the spacecraft's point of view. She expressed her happiness in seeing their target planet, too.
Spacecraft to Make More Gravitational Flybys to Mercury
This was the first of six planned "gravitational flybys" of Mercury, each one refining the spacecraft's course before being captured by Mercury's gravity and entering its orbit.
To accomplish so, BepiColombo must follow a specific route that scientists have painstakingly calculated over many years.
The said spacecraft initially dispatched to investigate Mercury performed when it passed by the planet in 1974.
The mission's second Mercury flyby is scheduled for June 23, according to the European Space Agency.
Meanwhile, people may look forward to additional rare pictures being revealed in the coming days.
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