Two Spacecraft Flew Past Venus Last Week. Here’s How It Was Like


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Two spacecraft flew past Venus recently in a rare double flyby that captured unique imagery and data. This data is now being analysed, but scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) have been able to translate some of it into sounds to let people experience how it would feel if a gigantic planet flew next to them. The ESA shared a video, asking people to “enjoy the sights, sounds and ‘feels’ of a Venus flyby”. It said the video showed the round-up of first impressions of the data recorded by the spacecraft so far.

The space agency said that its Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo spacecraft passed the planet within 33 hours of each other. The Orbiter flew past Venus on August 9 at a distance of 7,995 km, while the BepiColombo mission skimmed past at just 552 km from the planet’s surface on August 10, the ESA said in a statement.

It added that the flybys were needed to give the spacecraft a “gravity assist” to help them reach their next destinations. BepiColombo is set to make another flyby at Mercury on October 1-2 night and then enter orbit in 2025. Solar Orbiter will make a close Earth flyby on November 27.

The Venus flybys required extremely precise deep-space navigation work from ESA scientists. During BepiColombo’s flyby, the spacecraft felt an expected rapid increase of heat as it passed from the nightside to the dayside of the planet. The Orbiter too recorded an increase of 110 degrees Celsius on one of its eight solar panels, from -100ºC to +10ºC. Within the spacecraft, only a temperature increase of 2-3 degrees was observed because of the insulation.

However, with the science cameras onboard the aircraft, it was not possible to take high-resolution images of Venus, but both captured black-and-white imagery.

The BepiColombo spacecraft is a joint mission of the European and Japanese aerospace agencies. And the ESA launched the Solar Orbiter project in partnership with the American NASA.

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