A joint mission conducted by the ESA and the Japanese space agency JAXA called BepiColombo recently made a close approach to Venus. The close approach happened on October 15, and the main sequence of 64 images was captured by the Monitoring Camera 2 aboard the Mercury Transfer Module.
The images were snapped from 40 minutes before until 15 minutes after the closest approach of 10,720 kilometers from Venus. Images were taken every 52 seconds and were black-and-white. The images are relatively low resolution at 1024 x 1024 pixels. In the images, Venus is in the top right behind the Mercury Planetary Orbiter’s magnetometer boom and moves towards the spacecraft’s medium-gain antenna, which is the short stubby appendage seen in the top left corner of the image.
As Venus moves through the image frame, we can clearly see the boundary between the fully illuminated day side and the fully shadowed nightside of the planet. During the flyby, the spacecraft was curving around from the dayside to the nightside of the planet. The ESA notes the images are lightly processed to enhance the brightness and contrast.
The ESA also notes that the illuminated disc of the planet is so bright that it’s saturated, even using the shortest possible camera exposure time in the images. Very faint structures seen at the planet’s terminator can be seen, but the ESA says they appear to be due to ghosting in the camera optics rather than features in Venus’ atmosphere.
Horizontal striping seen in the images is due to the effects of the electronics. The October 15 flyby was the first gravity assist maneuver at the planet and the second of nine flybys overall. The flybys are designed to help steer the spacecraft to Mercury. BepiColombo’s trip to Mercury is a seven-year mission and will reach Mercury and enter orbit in 2025.