BepiColombo is a joint ESA - JAXA mission to Mercury. It was launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on 20 October 2018.
During its seven year Journey, BepiColombo will perform multiple fly-bys of Earth, Venus and Mercury itself before entering into orbit around the innermost planet on 5 December 2025.
This simulation shows BepiColombo’s first and only fly-by of Earth on Friday 10 April, 2020, as seen by an observer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The spacecraft can be seen flying in relation to constellations of stars behind it, which may make it easy to look for in the night’s sky!
More than a year after its launch, this will be the last time BepiColombo will be so close to home, and is our final chance to wave goodbye.
The perigee (point of closest approach) is highlighted as a dot on the cyan-coloured trajectory, and will be passed at 04:24 UTC (06:24 CET).
Local conditions permitting, BepiColombo can be expected to be observable from Brazil first. It should reach 10 degrees of elevation for a local observer in Rio de Janeiro just before the perigee pass.
BepiColombo will be in Earth’s shadow for 33 minutes. During this time, it cannot be observed. At 05:34 UTC (07:34 CET), the spacecraft will re-emerge from the shadow becoming visible to most of North and South America while it quickly flies away from Earth into the vastness of interplanetary space.
The distance to BepiColombo (or ‘Range’) and the angles between the Sun/Moon, spacecraft and observer in Rio de Janeiro are displayed on the left hand side.
Disclaimer: The spacecraft is not to scale and shown in an arbitrary attitude not representing the actual attitude during the fly-by.
Earth Texture: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Visible Earth
Milky Way: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Scientific Visualization Studio
Spacecraft model: ESA, sci.esa.int/bepicolombo/