When it rains it pours. Such is the case with the planet Venus, a fascinating planet that may have had liquid water 700 million years ago. The celestial body has not had any probe visits since 2015 and it's about to get two within 33 hours of each other.
"Solar Orbiter and BepiColombo are set to make space history with two Venus flybys just 33 hours apart on 9 and 10 August," writes an ESA statement.
"The two spacecraft need the gravitational swingby to help them lose a little orbital energy in order to reach their destinations towards the center of the Solar System. The double flyby also offers an unprecedented opportunity to study the Venus environment from different locations at the same time and, moreover, in locations that are not typically visited by a dedicated planetary orbiter."
Solar Orbiter, a partnership between ESA and NASA, will fly by Venus on 9 August with a closest approach of 7995 km at 04:42 UTC while BepiColombo, a partnership between ESA and JAXA, will fly by Venus at 13:48 UTC on 10 August at an altitude of just 550 km. The first is attempting to get the best – and first – views of the Sun’s poles while the second is aiming for Mercury.
Sadly, neither probe will be able to take high-resolution images of Venus.
"It is not possible to take high-resolution imagery of Venus with the science cameras onboard either mission – Solar Orbiter must remain facing the Sun, and the main camera onboard BepiColombo is shielded by the transfer module that will deliver the two planetary orbiters to Mercury. However, two of BepiColombo’s three monitoring cameras will be taking photos around the time of close approach and in the days after as the planet fades from view," further explains ESA in its statement.
These cameras will provide black-and-white snapshots in 1024 x 1024 pixel resolution that will be downloaded in batches with the first image expected to be available in the evening of 10 August, and the majority on 11 August.
If this article has piqued your interest, find out why scientists say that life on Venus is unlikely.