BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter have close encounter with Venus
The BepiColombo orbiter probe has passed within 552 km (343 miles) of Venus as it completed one of nine flybys on its way to the planet Mercury. Shortly after the close encounter, the ESA/JAXA joint mission snapped a picture of Venus at a distance of 1,573 km (977 miles) using the double spacecraft's Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 3.
The flyby on August 10 at 13:57 GMT came after the NASA/ESA Solar Orbiter flew by Venus at a distance of 7,995 km (4,968 miles) at 04:42 GMT on August 9. However, Solar Orbiter was unable to return any images because it had to point its camera away from Venus to keep its solar panels toward the Sun.
During the two flybys, the two spacecraft gathered data about Venus's magnetic and plasma environment. Meanwhile, JAXA's Akatsuki spacecraft, which is already in orbit around the planet, gathered additional information, allowing for comparison of observations from three different positions.
The 1024 x 1024-pixel resolution image returned to Earth from BepiColombo had to be slightly enhanced to improve contrast and use the full dynamic range of the exposure. Along with Venus, the high-gain antenna and part of the body of ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter component is visible.
The flyby was the second for the mission of Venus after flybys of Earth and Venus in 2020. These will be followed by six flybys of Mercury beginning in October 2021 to place it into a stable orbit around the planet.
BepiColombo is scheduled to reach Mercury in 2025. After arrival, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter and JAXA's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter will separate and carry out a comprehensive survey of Mercury's magnetic field, magnetosphere, and the planet's surface and interior over one year.