BepiColombo is the joint European and Russian mission to Mercury, which has recently captured an image of Earth as it comes by for its final flyby of the planet.
The image was captured by one of the “selfie“ cameras of BepiColombo, which are placed on the Mercury Transfer Module. There are three cameras, which take black and white pictures of 1,024×1,024 pixels in resolution. These pictures are used in order to monitor the status and the integrity of parts of the craft, such as the solar array and the Mercury Planetary Orbiter.
This image shows the Earth, illuminated, with the moon barely visible, as a speck placed above the end of the solar array. You can also see one of the sun sensors on the Mercury Transfer Module. Keep in mind that the picture was taken from over 300.000 miles away from Earth after the spacecraft spun around our planet. Its next stop is the solar system towards Mercury.
BepiColombo is bound to use its two orbiting spacecraft, MPO – the Mercury Planetary Orbiter, and MMO – the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter. One of the biggest questions they want to answer is how Mercury was formed due to the fact that it is a small planet that travels very close to the sun. Scientists believe that it may have been formed in another place in the solar system and that it then moved to its current position after.
Also, the planet has an unusually large core, if we are to compare it to its size, thing that shows that something tragic has happened. “One theory is that this big impact in the past, in addition to possibly pushing Mercury to where it is today, also stripped away most of the crust material and left behind the dense core with only a thin outer layer.”