European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) sent BepiColombo to Mercury, hoping that it will bring some light on the planet’s formation and presumably icy poles. It will take some time for BepiColombo to get to Mercury’s orbit.
2025 is the year when it is expected to arrive there, and the space route it needs to take is quite circuitous. One flyby of Earth, two flybys of Venus, and six flybys of Mercury are not what you’d call a direct route.
For now, it only just ended its flyby of Earth and sent back a cinematographic black and white picture of our planet seen from 300,000 miles away. The 1024 x 1024 pixels picture’s resolution is impressive and shows a very small Earth illuminated against the black of space.
The mission of BepiColombo is to find out more about Mercury
The astronomers tend to gossip a lot, especially when they don’t know a lot about something. And Mercury is a subject that made them tell quite the story. Without specific proof, they’ve assumed that Mercury was once involved with another spatial object and that the interaction left Mercury poles become icy.
Astronomers like to think that story because that would mean that there is water on Mercury. But the ice was never detected directly. Another reason that led them to trust their cheesy assumption is that Mercury has little crust covering its core. Only something as powerful as a collision could explain to them this unusual condition that Mercury has.
“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,” said Johannes Benkhoff, ESA BepiColombo Project Scientist.
The most outrageous part of their scientific knowledge on Mercury is the it wasn’t here since the beginning — it is a nomad coming from another place in the Solar System and hovered near the Sun.