Instruments on board the Orbiter solar probe of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the US Space Agency (Nasa) captured the transit of the planet Mercury in front of the Sun. The images were taken on January 3, but they were disseminated until now.

In the filming, captured by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI), Mercury; the closest inner planet to our star, it appears as a black circle that moves in front of the central body of our planetary system.

Images captured by the probe of the European and American space agencies on January 3, 2023

The European and United States space agencies, respectively, explained that large-volume gaseous structures can also be seen in the Sun’s outer atmosphere. The images show Mercury with some imposing gaseous structures in the Sun’s outer atmosphere in the background.

For the Solar Orbiter satellite, this particular transit offered an opportunity to calibrate their instruments. “It is a certified black object that travels through its field of vision,” project member Daniel Müller explained to the agency. Europe Press.

“It’s not just seeing Mercury pass in front of the Sun, but it’s passing in front of the different layers of the atmosphere,” says Miho Janvier, Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, France, SPICE Associate Project Scientist currently on secondment to ESA. the agency.

The ESA describes how the Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (SPICE) instrument splits the Sun’s light into its constituent colors to isolate the light from different atoms in the Sun’s lower atmosphere.

‘These atoms have been chosen to reveal the different layers of the Sun’s atmosphere, which exist at different temperatures. Neon (Ne VIII) is at a temperature of 630,000 K, Carbon (C III) is at 30,000 K, Hydrogen (Ly Beta) is at 10,000 K, and Oxygen (O VI) is at 320,000 K .k”, describes the agency

What is the use of capturing this traffic?

It is worth noting that Mercury revolves around the Sun in only 88 Earth days to complete its translation journey, but in terms of its rotation movement it is much slower than Earth, so Mercury days last about 58 Earth days.

Mercury is very close to the Sun, about 57.649 million km, only 0.4 astronomical units. The temperature during a Mercury solar cycle can reach 430 degrees Celsius, however, despite being the closest to the sun, it is not where the highest temperatures are estimated, because on Venus, the second after the sun and the closest to earth it is estimated that the temperature reaches 462ºC.

Precisely to withstand the extreme conditions of Venus, NASA announced that collaboration with the American company Advanced Thermal Batteries (ATB) develops a new system of thermal batteries capable of operating for longer on the Venusian surface, of which the only images and data They were provided, between the 1970s and 1980s, by Soviet probes from the Venera program, now two NASA and ESA missions to Venus are scheduled.

First color photographs taken of the surface of Venus by the Venera-13 space probe. The Venera 13 probe lasted just 127 minutes before succumbing to the extreme environment on the Venusian surface. Credit: NASA

Calculations are useful for future missions

ESA uses the transit method to study exoplanets on its current Cheops mission (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite). In the near future, the PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO) mission will use transits to search for Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones of up to a million stars. And in 2029, ESA’s Ariel (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large Survey) survey will use transits to study the atmospheres of around 1,000 known exoplanets.

For Solar Orbiter, this particular transit offered a valuable opportunity to calibrate the instruments. “It’s a certified black object that travels through your field of view,” says Daniel Müller, Solar Orbiter project scientist at ESA. Therefore, any brightness recorded by the instrument within Mercury’s disk must be caused by the way the instrument transmits its light, called the point spread function. The better this is known, the better it can be removed. So study this event, the quality of Solar Orbiter data can be further improved.

To get a closer look at Mercury, ESA has sent the BepiColombo mission. It will make its next close flyby of the planet in June 2023. Meanwhile, Solar Orbiter will make its next close flyby of the Sun in April .


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