A beautiful sequence of 56 images taken by the monitoring cameras on board the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission as the spacecraft made its second close flyby of its destination planet Mercury on 23 June 2022.
The compilation includes images from two monitoring cameras (MCAM) onboard the Mercury Transfer Module, which provides black-and-white snapshots at 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution. The MCAMs also capture parts of the spacecraft: MCAM-2 sees the Mercury Planetary Orbiter’s medium-gain antenna and magnetometer boom, while the high-gain antenna is in the MCAM-3 field-of-view.
The image sequences lasted about 15 minutes starting soon after closest approach to Mercury, which was at an altitude of 200 km. The first sequence showcases images taken by MCAM-2, starting from a distance of around 920 km from the surface of the planet and finishing at about 6099 km. The second sequence shows images from MCAM-3 covering a similar distance range (approximately 984 km – 6194 km).
During the flyby it was possible to identify various geological features that BepiColombo will study in more detail once in orbit around the planet. While craters dominate the landscape, numerous volcanic plains can also be made out, as well as roughly linear ‘scarps’ – cliff-like features created by tectonic faulting. In this flyby, the planet’s largest impact basin Caloris was seen for the first time by BepiColombo, its highly-reflective lavas on its floor making it stand out against the darker background as it rotated into the MCAM-2 field of view.