Earth returns to Mercury
On Friday evening, BepiColombo, a joint mission of the European and Japanese space agencies, will launch. It will only be the third spaceship to visit the innermost planet of the solar system.
The mission actually contains two spacecraft that share a Mercury journey, but then split on separate orbits to make various observations. It will be a long wait for the main phase of the mission – the spacecraft will not begin orbiting Mercury, the innermost and smallest planet of the solar system, by December 2025.
When will BepiColombo start and how can I see it?
The spaceship is on an Ariane 5 rocket in French Guiana, the South American territory of France, which hosts the launch site for most European Space Agency missions.
The launch is scheduled for 21:45. Eastern time on Friday. The European Space Agency scatters online at 9:15 am
Why does it take seven years to get to Mercury?
It's easy to get to Mercury quickly. The difficult part stops
Flying to the sun is like a steep hill. At the bottom of the hill, it's hard to slow down, which is essentially what BepiColombo needs to do before it can orbit Mercury rather than just whiz.
The first spacecraft to travel to Mercury, NASA Mariner 10 in 1974, made the journey in less than five months. But that was just a quick flyby that was 450 miles off the surface. He made two extra fly-bys, but never into orbit.
A rocket engine could act as a brake, but that would require far more fuel than BepiColombo could carry.
Instead, the spacecraft often uses a strategy recommended when the brakes of your car fail – Sidewipe slow some obstacles. In terms of orbital mechanics, this means moving planets sideways. BepiColombo will use a series of Earth, Venus and Mercury buffs to decelerate to the extent that they are covered by Mercury gravity.
Why do scientists study the planet Mercury?
The four innermost planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars – call scientists terrestrial planets. Each one has an iron core and an outer shell of rockier material. Mercury is the smallest of the group. It is barely larger than the Moon, but contains a disproportionately large iron core.
"Why Mercury?" Joana Oliveira, a scientist from the European Space Agency, said during a September press conference, "This is the first question we ask. We should ask: Mercury is a small piece of the puzzle that helps us to understand the evolution of our solar system." [19659002PlanetaryscientistsdonotunderstandhowMercury'sstrangemakeupcametobewhichmeansthattheydonotfullyunderstandtheformationofplanetsinthesolarsystem
In addition, studies on how the solar wind blows in and around Mercury could Give hints to the possibilities of life around other stars.
Scientists have begun to study the Earth's size Planets orbiting in recent years close to small, dark stars called Red Dwarfs, data from BepiColombo could show whether these distant earths retaining an atmosphere or air would be stripped off by the strong stellar winds. For example, the numerous planets around the Red Dwarf Trappist-1 are much closer to this star, but in our solar system Mercury provides the closest analog for study.
"This topic will be the key step Future science, the habitability of the exoplanets," said Go Murakami, the project scientist for Japan's part of BepiColombo.
What other spaceships were to Mercury?
In addition to the Mariner 10, NASA launched its Messenger probe in 2004. Like BepiColombo, it traveled a cumbersome 6.5-year journey before entering orbit in 2011. It spent four years in orbit before the fuel for its engines went out and crashed into the planet.
What have we already learned about Mercury?
The photographs of Mariner 10 showed a heavily cratered surface similar to Earth's Moon. Messenger revealed further details on broader stripe surface, including a long dead volcano, larger than Delaware, cracks in the outer crust as the planet cools and s hrinks and a thin atmosphere caused by the intense bombardment of the Surface through high-energy particles of the sun.
Messenger's data also excluded some hypotheses about why Mercury is so rich in iron. While some scientists have suggested that the planet would experience extensive warming during and after its formation, Mercury still contains lighter, more volatile elements that would boil away in this scenario.
What is on board the space probe BepiColombo?
The Japanese orbiter named Mio will focus on measuring the interaction between Mercury's weak magnetic field and the stream of charged particles emitted by the Sun.
The range of instruments on board the European Mercury Planetary Orbiter is similar to the NASA Messenger. "We have a little overlap, but many of the instruments have a higher resolution," said Johannes Benkhoff, project scientist for BepiColombo at the European Space Agency.
Since both orbiters carry magnetometers, they can pick up what is. It will happen in two places at the same time, providing a more global picture of the magnetic field of Mercury.
"There will be two spaceships one ," said Sean Solomon, who served as principal investigator of the Messenger mission, in an email. "They will be in orbits with approximately comparable coverage of the northern and southern hemispheres, and together they will carry far more instruments than messengers."
Why is the spacecraft called BepiColombo?