This planet is rarely seen by many. Saturn and Jupiter may roam the sky for a year at a time; Mars and Venus, months at a time. But Mercury appears for a few weeks at the most, sometimes just days, appearing to dart into the sky and depart again almost immediately. This elusive planet was known to the ancients as Mercury, the swiftest among the gods, the Messenger, the Bearer of News.
BepiColombo, a satellite originating from Earth, passed about 1500 miles from this planet on October 1, 2021 and sent photos. The fly by was the first of six planned flybys. Each is a calculated gravity-assist maneuver, slowing down the satellite and rounding its trajectory with the long term goal of capture in Mercury’s orbit in 2025 for longer term scientific study.1