Skip to main content

This Mercury flyby video shows the planet in amazing detail

The European Space Agency (ESA) has released a video showing a flyby of Mercury, the planet closest to our sun. The images that make up the clip were captured by ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter last week during a flyby that took it close to the planet’s surface.

The impressive imaging sequence (below) comes just a few days after ESA released a couple of images from the same flyby. The video shows numerous craters caused by asteroid and comet strikes across billions of years, including the 963-mile-wide (1,550 kilometer) Caloris Basin (at the 15-second mark), identifiable by its bright appearance caused by the highly reflective lavas on its floor.

BepiColombo’s second Mercury flyby

The BepiColombo mission is a joint endeavor with Japan’s space agency, JAXA, which has sent along its own spacecraft, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. The mission goal is to analyze Mercury’s core-to-surface processes, magnetic field, and exosphere in an effort to discover more about the origin and evolution of a planet that orbits at a close proximity to its parent star. ESA and JAXA are aiming to expand the body of knowledge about Mercury following NASA’s Messenger mission to the planet between 2011 and 2015.

The Mercury Planetary Orbiter’s most recent approach took place on June 23, taking it to within about 124 miles (200 kilometers) of the planet’s surface. Jack Wright, a team member overseeing the spacecraft’s three monitoring cameras, helped to plan the imaging sequence for the flyby.

“I punched the air when the first images came down, and I only got more and more excited after that,” Wright said in comments on ESA’s website. “The images show beautiful details of Mercury, including one of my favorite craters, Heaney, for which I suggested the name a few years ago.”

Mercury’s Heaney crater (below) is about 78 miles (125 kilometers) across and features smooth volcanic plains. We can expect even more detailed images of Heaney once the spacecraft settles into its Mercury orbit in 2025.

Mercury viewed from an ESA spacecraft.

The spacecraft’s recent flyby comes eight months after its first one, which took it to within 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) of Mercury’s surface. A further four flybys are planned, with the next one taking place 12 months from now.

“Our instrument teams on both spacecraft have started receiving their science data and we’re looking forward to sharing our first insights from this flyby,” said Johannes Benkhoff, ESA’s BepiColombo project scientist. “It will be interesting to compare the data with what we collected on our first flyby, and add to this unique dataset as we build toward our main mission.”

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Stunning space station video shows glorious aurora over Earth
An aurora as viewed from the ISS.

NASA has released a breathtaking time-lapse video showing a recent aurora over Earth.

The footage was captured by a camera on the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits our planet at an altitude of around 250 miles. Besides the Earth and the gorgeous green aurora, it also shows several of the station’s solar panels moving slowly to capture the sun's rays.

Read more
Watch NASA’s video celebrating 2022’s amazing achievements
The Pillars of Creation, imaged by the James Webb Space Telescope

It’s been an extraordinary year for NASA and its international partners.

To celebrate, the U.S. space agency has released a video featuring some of the highlights from the last 12 months, together with a rousing speech delivered by NASA chief Bill Nelson at an event at Rice University in Houston, Texas, earlier this year.

Read more
Cool SpaceX video shows droneship view of rocket launch and landing
A SpaceX rocket launch captured from a SpaceX droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX has shared an awesome video (below) showing one of its Falcon 9 rockets launching and then landing -- all in a single clip shot by the same camera.

The camera was located miles from land on a SpaceX droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The droneships are used as a landing spot for the first-stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, which return to Earth shortly after launch once they've sent the second stage and payload to space. Landing boosters in this way allows SpaceX to use them again in future missions, enabling it to reduce the cost of getting payloads to orbit.

Read more