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Looking at Mercury closely

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On the morning of Thursday, June 23, a BepiColombo . probecreated by the European Space Agency (ESA) in cooperation with the Japanese agency (JAXA), has made a new one close pass To Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun. The necessary maneuver of the probe to approach the planet, which will last until 2025, has made it possible to capture some new images of Mercury, which may be useful for new analyzes of its surface properties and composition.

BepiColombo passed just 200 kilometers from the planet, but when the spacecraft began its close pass over the night part of Mercury, the first images were taken about five minutes later when the spacecraft was 800 kilometers away.

The spacecraft continued to take pictures for 40 minutes as it continued to move away from the planet. This made it possible to take pictures of Mercury with the rays of the pastoral sun, thanks to which the roughness of the Earth became more noticeable.

Among other things, BepiColombo photographed the Caloris Basin, a crater formed after the collision of another celestial body with a diameter of about 1,400 kilometers. The basin appears today as a great plain and is the greatest influence found on Mercury, near the Montes Caloris, mountains two thousand meters above sea level.

Meanwhile, the probe continued its journey, which will lead it to get closer and closer to Mercury, so that it can be analyzed more closely and quietly during the actual scientific mission, which will begin in the first months of 2026.

The name “BepiColombo” derives from Giuseppe Colombo, better known as Bepi, an Italian mathematician and astronomer who in the 20th century devoted many of his studies and exploration to Mercury. It was Columbus, for example, who proposed to NASA the system of interplanetary paths to track, taking advantage of the orbital thrust of Venus, to allow the Mariner 10 probe to make close passes.

BepiColombo consists of two probes. The Mercury Planetary Probe (MPO) will maintain an altitude between 480 and 1,500 kilometers from the surface of Mercury. It has many tools for conducting surveys and experiments. Among them there are several designed in Italy: ISA, to study the internal structure of the planet, More to discover the gravitational field with more accuracy, SERENA to study the interactions between Mercury and the Sun, SIMBIO-SYS to study the geological history of the planet, planet formation and soil.

The second probe, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO), will act as a kind of upper spinner, spinning 15 times per minute, between 590 and 11,640 kilometers from Mercury’s surface. It will have the task of collecting data on Mercury’s magnetosphere, that is, the magnetic field that the planet generates, despite its small size. From observations of previous probes, we know that the planet is able to divert a portion of the solar wind, reducing processes that would quickly consume its surface (erosion).

Mercury is a rocky planet like Earth, but its proximity to the Sun certainly makes it inhospitable: the temperature on its surface varies, depending on periods and regions, between 430 ° C and -180 ° C. At its poles there are constantly shaded areas, where there are glaciers, but on average their surface is roasted by the sun’s rays. The presence of craters and irregularities tells us that earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur on Mercury, as in our country. Mercury is only 4,879 kilometers in diameter, less than half the radius of our planet.

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Maggie Benson

"Bacon trailblazer. Certified coffee maven. Zombie lover. Tv specialist. Freelance communicator."

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