Aug 11, 2018

Live: sneak preview of this year’s mission to Mercury

Posted by in category: space

By New Scientist staff

It’s time to return to Mercury. The solar system’s boiling-hot innermost planet will have a visitor soon – a probe called BepiColombo, which is set to launch in October 2018. After seven years of journeying through the inner solar system, the spacecraft will enter Mercury’s orbit in 2025, and help to unravel the mysteries of this tiny, scorched planet.

Mercury is a bit of an enigma. Despite being so close to the sun and reaching temperatures of 350°C, NASA’s Messenger probe saw what looked like ice in the craters near the planet’s poles when it passed by in 2012. Messenger also found that Mercury has a tenuous atmosphere, even though it is blasted with intense radiation from the sun. And in 1974, NASA’s Mariner 10 probe detected a magnetic field on Mercury – a surprising find, as Venus, Mars, and the moon don’t have one.

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