Sequence of 89 images taken by the monitoring cameras on board the European-Japanese BepiColombo mission to Mercury, as the spacecraft made a close approach of Venus on 10 August 2021. It was the second of two Venus gravity assist flybys needed to set course with Mercury.

The sequence includes images from all three Monitoring Cameras (MCAM) onboard the Mercury Transfer Module, which provides black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution. It is not possible to image with the high-resolution camera suite during the cruise phase. The images have been lightly processed to enhance contrast and use the full dynamic range. A small amount of optical vignetting is seen in the corners of some of the images

The sequence covers 13:41 UTC on 10 August to 12:21 UTC on 11 August, corresponding to a distance to Venus surface of 3446 km, close approach of 552 km, then increasing to more than 600 000 km away.

The first image is from MCAM 1, and was taken at 13:41:02 UTC, prior to close approach. As such, the spacecraft was still on the nightside of the planet, but the dayside can just be seen creeping into view. Part of the spacecraft’s solar array can also be seen.

The second image was taken by MCAM 2 at 13:51:56 UTC, two seconds after closest approach. With the Venus surface just 552 km away, the planet fills the entire field of view. The camera is not able to image detail of the planet’s atmosphere. The image also captures the Mercury Planetary Orbiter’s medium gain antenna and magnetometer boom.

The rest of the sequence is from MCAM 3, while the spacecraft was pointed at Venus, and then as it slews away and gradually recedes from view, covering the time period 13:53:56 UTC on 10 August until 12:21:26 UTC on 11 August. The high gain antenna of the Mercury Planetary Orbiter is also seen changing orientation as it points towards Earth. 

Listen to this compilation set to music composed especially for the occasion, here.

ESA/BepiColombo/MTM, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO