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European space probe makes first flyby of Mercury

European space probe makes first flyby of Mercury

The European Bepicolombo probe flew over Mercury just after midnight on Saturday. The European Space Agency (EPA) announced the news on October 2 at Press release. After the flyby, Bepicolombo continued to fly, but the plan is to return the probe several times before putting it into orbit around the planet.

The spacecraft was launched in October 2018 and is the result of a collaboration between the European and Japanese space agencies. After the flyby, the spacecraft continues to fly through the solar system. It is meant that the sensor Five more flights Mercury will do this, after which it should eventually enter into orbit around the planet in 2025. These maneuvers are done so that the probe can safely establish itself in orbit around Mercury.

Although this is Mercury’s first flight, Bepicolombo has previously made one flight to Earth and two to Venus. The last flight on Mercury is not scheduled until January 2025. After that, the probe will enter orbit around Mercury in December of the same year.

Until a few years ago, scientists would describe Mercury as uninteresting. However, after it was found that there is water ice on this planet, astrophysicists decided that there was something to be learned from this planet. With the launch of Bepicolombo, the European Space Agency aims to clear some of the mysteries surrounding the smallest planet. That’s it by the way No more Plutoto the dismay of many.

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The biggest question about Mercury is how the planet appeared. After all, the planet revolves around the sun three times closer than the Earth. But Mercury’s chemical makeup Not matching With a planet very close to the sun. According to scientists, the composition of Mercury is very similar to that of Mars, which is impossible according to current models of the formation of the solar system. Scientists are now trying to find out if the planet originated much further, and later migrated to its current distance.

battle of the titans

Another great mystery surrounding Mercury is its giant core. Although the diameter of the planet is only 5,000 km, the diameter of its core is 4,000 km. For comparison, the planet Earth has only a core with a diameter of 1,200 km, while the diameter of the Earth is 12,700 km. According to Johannes Benkhoff, one of the scientists who helped develop Bepicolombo, a possible explanation could be that Mercury collided with another planet in the past. In doing so, a significant portion of Mercury’s mass was lost.

According to some scientists, the planet Mercury may once have been the Earth itself. Our moon later formed from the wreckage of this collision. Here they assume that Mercury is the mysterious planet clothes Will be. Most scientists now agree that the moon formed after a protoplanet called Theia struck Earth 4.5 billion years ago. However, there is no evidence yet that Mercury and Thea are the same planet.

water and fire

The European Space Agency also wants to investigate whether there is indeed water ice on the planet. Temperatures on Mercury can reach 450 degrees Celsius. So scientists were surprised when they did this a few years ago Water ice has been detected on the planet. Some of the craters on Mercury are said to be deep enough to never be exposed to sunlight, which makes temperatures extremely low.

Bepicolombo will also investigate whether or not Mercury is geologically active or dead. Scientists will also investigate why the planet is darker than it should be. Finally, they also want to know why the tiny planet has a magnetic field.

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View a summary of Bepicolombo’s goals below