BepiColombo flies by Earth
April 10, 2020

BepiColombo flies by Earth

At 04:25 UTC this morning, BepiColombo made its closest approach to Earth at a low altitude of 12,700 km. This was its first and only flyby of Earth. BepiColombo, the first ESA mission to Mercury, will make a series of nine gravity-assist manoeuvres to reach its final destination. The next two flybys will be of Venus in October 2020 and August 2021.


Below are images of the flyby submitted by observers around the world for the BepiColombo Earth Flyby Photo Competition. The closing date for the competition is Sunday 19 April – 23:59 CEST.


Submitted images and videos with their full descriptions:

Credit: Kiso Observatory, UTokyo
Location of image or observation: Kiso, Nagano, Japan ( 137°37″31’5 [E], 35°47″50’0 [N], Altitude: 1132m )
Time of image or observation: 2020:04:10 20:56 – 21:08 (JST)
Time zone: JST (UTC+9)

YouTube
About your image or observation: This image was taken by the wide-field CMOS camera Tomo-e Gozen on 1.0-m Kiso Schmidt telescope without a wavelength-selective filter with a 12-min exposure from 11:56 on Apr. 10th 2020 (UT). The field-of view is 31.7′ x 17.8′. The center of the image is located at (RA, Dec) = (9:42:23, -0:13:26). North is up.


Credit: Alain Maury, Jean Marc Mari and Joaquin Fabrega
Location: IAU site number W94, or close to 22°57’09.8” South and 68°10’48.7” West
Time zone : Right now UT-4h (winter time)

The video is made mostly from individual frames taken with a 40cm telescope. I also included some of the ESA images because I thought they are quite impressive.


Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories
Location: 51.554679, -0.372070
Time: 10-04-2020 21:13 UTC
Time Zone: British Summer Time (GMT+1)

We used the observatories 0.25m Ritchey-Chretien and QHY42 CMOS camera to obtain astrometry on BepiColombo before it left the vicinity of Earth.
A piece of space debris also passes through the field of view. We identified it as INSAT 2D, a defunct geostationary satellite.


Credit: KURASHIKI SCIENCE CENTER. BepiColombo Earth Flyby 2
Credit: KURASHIKI SCIENCE CENTER
Location of image or observation: Hattoji, Okayama, Japan ( 134d15m6s [E], 34d54m50.0s [N], Altitude: 376m )
Time of image or observation: 11:57 – 12:09 UTC, 10 April 2020
Time zone: GMT+9 JST
Description: Image taken by Kazuhisa Mishima (Planetarium Director)
Telescope: Takahashi Epsilon E-180ED Astrograph(f=500mm)
Camera: NIKON D850 (ISO6400)
Exposure: 30 sec. x 19
Name: Go Murakami and Seiko Takagi (Credit: JAXA/Hokkaido Univ.). Taken by using Pirka Telescope (1.6 m) of Hokkaido University V-band 10sec exposure each, 70 images
Name: Go Murakami and Seiko Takagi (Credit: JAXA/Hokkaido Univ.)
Location of image or observation: 157-1 Nisshin, Nayoro-shi, Hokkaido 096-0066, Japan
Time of image or observation: 19:45-19:59 on 10 April 2020 (JST)
Time zone: JST
Social media contacts: Twitter: @gomuramura
About your image or observation: Taken by using Pirka Telescope (1.6 m) of Hokkaido University
V-band
10sec exposure each, 70 images

Credit: Hiroyuki Naito, Nayoro Observatory. Using a 40-cm Chura telescope + unfiltered CCD camera (STL-1001E). The image is combined with 30 frames (a total exposure time is 30 minutes).
Name: Hiroyuki Naito, Nayoro Observatory
Location of image or observation: 142 28 58.01 E, 44 22 25.10 N
Time of image or observation: 2020 April 19.51414 UT
Time zone: Japan Standard Time (JST)
Social media contacts: @kitasubaru
Description: Using a 40-cm Chura telescope + unfiltered CCD camera (STL-1001E).
The image is combined with 30 frames (a total exposure time is 30 minutes).

Credit: Nayoro Observatory, Hokkaido University. The image was taken using the 1.6-m Pirka telescope + MSI (unfiltered) with the exposure time of 120 sec.
Name: Nayoro Observatory, Hokkaido University
Location of image or observation: 142 28 58.01 E, 44 22 25.10 N
Time of image or observation: 2020 April 19.48402 UT
Time zone: Japan Standard Time (JST)
Social media contacts: @kitasubaru
Description: The image was taken using the 1.6-m Pirka telescope + MSI (unfiltered) with the exposure time of 120 sec.
Credit: Rikubetsu Space and Science Museum. BepiColombo
Credit: Rikubetsu Space and Science Museum
Location of image or observation: Uenbetsu Rikubetu-cho,Ashoro-gun,Hokkaido,Japan (E 143.770 N 43.453)
Time of image or observation: 2020/04/19 12:43:19~13:18:23(UT)
Time zone: Japan(+9)
Social media contacts: @ginganomori_obs
About your image or observation: 1.15m f/5.6 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and Canon EOS 6D. Stack of 32x 60-second exposures.

Credit: Yasuo Sano. BepiColombo Earth Flyby
Credit: Yasuo Sano
Location of image or observation: Nyoro Hokkaido Japan, E 142.446890 N 44.353290
Time of image or observation: 2020/04/10 11h02m49s(UT) – 11h09m17s(UT)
Time zone: UTC + 9
Twitter Handle name 佐野康男
About your image or observation: SCT-0.36m FL3850mm F11, 10secX34 , CCD FLI ML1001E

Credit: Yasuo Sano. BepiColombo Earth Flyby
Credit: Yasuo Sano
Location of image or observation: Nyoro Hokkaido Japan, E 142.446890 N 44.353290
Time of image or observation: 2020/04/10 10h13m46s(UT) – 10h19m04s(UT)
Time zone: UTC + 9
Twitter Handle name 佐野康男
About your image or observation:SCT-0.36 m FL3850mm F11, 5secX48 , CCD FLI ML1001E

Credit: T. Oribe @ Saji Observatory
Location of image or observation: N35 20 31 E134 07 10
Time of image or observation: 2020 04 10.4868 UT, 2020 04 11.4738 UT, 2020 04 14.4651 UT, 2020 04 16.5468 UT
Time zone: +9h
About your image or observation: 1.03-m reflector F4.6, STL-11000M, V filter

Credit: Masanori Mizutani
Location of image or observation: E 134.25 N 34.91 Okayama Japan
Time of image or observation: 2020 04 10 10:52 ~ 12:08 UT
Time zone: UT + 9:00

Social media contacts: Nozomigaoka Observatory
Description: OTA : 200mmRC 1600mm
Mount: Takahashi EM-400
Camera: MoravianG2 KAF 8300

Credit: Yuji Tanaka. BepiColombo Flyby
Name: Yuji Tanaka
Location of image or observation: Koryou-cho, Kitakatsuragi-gun, Nara, Japan
Time of image or observation: 2020′ 04/10 20:40:36
Time zone: JST

Description: Telescope: 0.20m Reflector F3.8 (C8N + Closeup lens AC No.4)
Camera: ASI174MM

Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories. BepiColombo, imaged on the evening of April 11th, using Northolt Branch Observatories' 0.25m f/8 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and QHY42 CMOS camera.
Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories
Location of image or observation: 51.554679, -0.372070
Time of image or observation: 10-04-2020 21:08-21:20 UTC
Time zone: British Summer Time (GMT+1)

Twitter: @NBObservatories, Facebook
Description: BepiColombo, imaged on the evening of April 11th, using Northolt Branch Observatories’ 0.25m f/8 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and QHY42 CMOS camera.
The data collected for this image, even though it was submitted to the Minor Planet Center as artificial satellite 2018-080A (BepiColombo’s official designation), led to it being mistaken for a Near Earth asteroid. The “discovery”, announced by the Minor Planet Center as asteroid 2020 GL2, was retracted soon after (https://minorplanetcenter.net/mpec/K20/K20G97.html).
This was the third time a spacecraft had been mistakenly announced as a “new asteroid” during an Earth flyby, after Rosetta a.k.a. 2007 VN84 and Gaia a.k.a. 2015 HP116. Incidentally, all three of these are ESA missions.

Credit: Hiroki Fukuyama. BepiColombo and satellite
Name: Hiroki Fukuyama
Location of image or observation: N34.69 E135.76
Time of image or observation: 2020/4/10 10:48:25(UT) 19:48:25(JST)
Time zone: Japan(+9)

About your image or observation: Celestron C8+Meade F3.3 FocalReducer+Vixen GP2 Equipmount
ZWO ASI174MC Gain254 3.0s×4 flames

Name: Gianluca Masi
Location of image or observation: Ceccano (FR), ITALY
Time of image or observation: 10 Apr. 2020, 03:40:32 UTC
Time zone: GMT+2 DST

Twitter: @virtualtelescop, @masi_gianluca
Description: I managed to track the exciting BepiColombi flyby. Incredibly, we grabbed the spacecraft while it was imaging planet Earth and our telescope location, exactly at the same time.
The image puts together several pieces. First of all, we have an image of our planet captured by BepiColombo, with parts of the probe in the foreground. It is part of a stunning movie released by the European Space Agency (ESA) and by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). In this image, we indicated with an arrow where the Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) is placed on the Earth (Central Italy). On the left, there is a snapshot of the simulated approach of the probe, again from ESA. On the bottom left, you see an image of BepiColombo we captured with our robotic telescope, where the spacecraft is indicated by an arrow. Incredibly, both the images (the Earth by BepiColombo and BepiColombo by the Virtual Telescope on Earth) were taken at the very same time: 10 Apr. 2020, 03:40:32 UTC. Of course the snapshot from the simulator comes from the same moment.
We find this to be a truly inspiring mutual glance, bringing us a very special feeling of global connection, so precious in the critical moment we are facing all together.
Godspeed, BepiColombo!

Credit: Kenichi Shirakami. BepiColombo Flyby
Credit: Kenichi Shirakami
Location of image or observation: N:34.9140231 E:134.2515778
Time of image or observation: 11:05:00-11:40:00
Time zone: UT

Facebook: Kenichi Shirakami
Description: TAKAHASHI ε-250 FL:854mm F3.4
Canon EOS 60Da ISO6400
70set of 28sec exp. + 2sec interval
70 flames composite

Credit: KURASHIKI SCIENCE CENTER. Image taken by Kazuhisa Mishima (Planetarium Director) Telescope: Takahashi Epsilon E-180ED Astrograph(f=500mm) Camera: NIKON D850 (ISO6400) Exposure: 30 x 40 sec.
Credit: KURASHIKI SCIENCE CENTER
Location of image or observation: Hattoji, Okayama, Japan ( 134d15m6s [E], 34d54m50.0s [N], Altitude: 376m )
Time of image or observation: 11:10:15 – 11:33:58 UTC, 10 April 2020
Time zone: GMT+9 JST

Description: Image taken by Kazuhisa Mishima (Planetarium Director)
Telescope: Takahashi Epsilon E-180ED Astrograph(f=500mm)
Camera: NIKON D850 (ISO6400)
Exposure: 30 x 40 sec.

Name: Cyprien Pouzenc. BepiColombo et (4904) Makio
Name: Cyprien Pouzenc
Location of image or observation: Lat: 44° 00′, Long: 5° 29′
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10, from 20:24 TU to 22:23 TU
Time zone: Paris/France
Description: Instrument: télescope ASA Astrograph 10N 254 mm F/3,6
Camera: Sbig STL11K
Exposure: 10 min. by unit (binning 1×1)
Processing in Siril and Darktable.
Asteroid (4904) Makio is on the picture too.
Full-size picture
Crop on BepiColombo
Crop on (4904) Makio
Webpage

Credit: Nick James. BepiColombo
Name: Nick James
Location of image or observation: 51 44′ N 0 29′ E
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-11 21:54
Time zone: UTC

www.nickdjames.com
Description: Image obtained using a HD11 SCT, FLI6303 camera and measured in Astrometrica. Astrometry from the image:
BEPICO KC2020 04 11.91010 09 02 55.12 +04 37 09.7 16.6 R 970
BEPICO KC2020 04 11.91547 09 02 50.88 +04 37 23.1 16.9 R 970

Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories. A tale of two spacecraft": As we were observing BepiColombo, we caught a second man-made object passing by. We identify it as an old geostationary satellite.
Name: Northolt Branch Observatories
Location of image or observation: 51.554679 N, 0.372070 W
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10 21:13-21:16 UT
Time zone: British Summer Time (GMT+1)

Twitter: @NBObservatories, Facebook
Description: “A tale of two spacecraft”: As we were observing BepiColombo, we caught a second man-made object passing by. We identify it as an old geostationary satellite.
Image taken with the observatories’ 0.25m f/8 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and QHY42 CMOS camera. Stack of 25x 5-second exposures.

Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories. We used the observatories' 0.25m Ritchey-Chretien and QHY42 CMOS camera to collect further astrometry of the spacecraft as it moves away from Earth. Each image in the sequence is a stack of 15x 10-second exposures, stacked on the spacecraft's apparent motion using synthetic tracking.
Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories
Location of image or observation: 51.554679, -0.372070
Time of image or observation: 11-04-2020 21:18-21:34 UT
Time zone: British Summer Time (GMT+1)

Social media contacts: Twitter: @NBObservatories, Facebook
Description: We used the observatories’ 0.25m Ritchey-Chretien and QHY42 CMOS camera to collect further astrometry of the spacecraft as it moves away from Earth. Each image in the sequence is a stack of 15x 10-second exposures, stacked on the spacecraft’s apparent motion using synthetic tracking.
24 hours after our last observations, and about 40 hours after the flyby, BepiColombo has faded to 16.9 mag.

Credit: Sergei Schmalz. BepiColombo observed on April 10, 2020 at the Astronomical Observatory of Castelgrande (MPC code L28) in Italy with a 22-cm telescope equipped with a FLI ML 09000 CCD camera.
Name: Sergei Schmalz
Location of image or observation: Astronomical Observatory of Castelgrande (MPC code L28), latitude = 40.817566, longitude = 15.463387, altitude = 1256.21
Time of image or observation: April 10, 2020 between 18:59:27 UT and 20:18:30 UT
Time zone: CET

Twitter: @SergeiSchmalz
Description: BepiColombo was observed by me on April 10, 2020 at the Astronomical Observatory of Castelgrande (MPC code L28) in Italy with a 22-cm telescope equipped with a FLI ML 09000 CCD camera; the observation lasted from 18:25:00 till 00:16:32. The presented animation is made of a selection of 49 subsequent images with exposure time of 15 seconds each. Original FITS images were fully calibrated in a typical procedure. During the observation BepiColombo was in the star field of the Hydra constellation. In the animation Bepi is passing by from the upper right to the lower left corner.

Credit: Gianluca Masi - Virtual Telescope Project. BepiColombo is a sharp dot of light, perfectly tracked. This man-made interplanetary traveler is “flying” in front of the stars on the background.
Image by Gianluca Masi – Virtual Telescope Project
Location of image or observation: Ceccano (FR) – ITALY
Time of image or observation: between 03:34:48 and 03:40:44 UTC, 10April 2020
Time zone: GMT+2 DST

At 03:20 UTC, when the target had to be in the clear part of my SE horizon, I did send to the remote telescope the command to slew to the BepiColombo expected position, asking it to track at the expected motion rates. Once the scope finished slewing and begun tracking, I started capturing images and… Bepicolombo was inside the field of view! It was breathtaking, to say the least. It was a sharp dot of light, perfectly tracked. Image after image, I could see this man-made interplanetary traveler “flying” in front of the stars on the background. I managed to capture a few tens of images before BepiColombo disappeared behind an obstacle I have in the SE direction. The last image I could capture was at 03:41:27 UTC, when the spacecraft was at about 22.300 km from my telescope. At that very moment, the motion rate of BepiColombo as seen from my observatory was of more than 54 deg/hour. Using 44 images taken back to back between 03:34:48 and 03:40:44 UTC, I managed to make this animation, where the spacecraft is moving 81X times faster than in reality. (Full Description)

BepiColombo passing through the Blue Horsehead Nebula. Credit: Sergio Silva
Image by Sergio Silva
Location of image or observation: Porto Feliz, SP, Brazil
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10UT04:39:58
Time zone: GMT-3

I looked at the ephemerids of the flyby and realized it would cross a region I’ve been photographing recently at the Blue Horsehead Nebula (IC4592). I pointed the telescope and trusted newtons laws… Sure enough, at 1:40AM local time in Porto Feliz, SP, Brazil the BepiColombo craft passed trough the field.
Equipment :
Telescope : Celestron C11 Edge HD
Lens: Hyperstar
Camera: ZWO ASI071MC-Pro
Mount: iOptron CEM60
Exposure: 3 hours for IC4592, 4×15 sec. for BepiColombo

Credit: INOUE Takeshi. BepiColombo Earth Flyby. The central objects are Antennae Galaxies,(NGC 4038 / NGC 4039).
Image by INOUE Takeshi
Location of image or observation: US – Mayhill, New Mexico
Time of image or observation: 2020 April 10 / 5:50:57 UTC / an exposure of 30 sec
Time zone: +6h

I am Director of Akashi Municipal Planetarium, JAPAN.
I took this image remotely with iTelescope T11 (20″ Planewave)
https://go.itelescope.net/Default.aspx
The central objects are Antennae Galaxies,(NGC 4038 / NGC 4039).
I made an observation plan using Stella Navigator 11, excellent astronomical software.
Special thanks to all concerned.

Credit: Edgar J. Kaiser. My first acquisition of Bepi-Colombo's X-band downlink signal after the flyby. Trees were obstructing in the beginning. Looks like all is in good shape.
Image by Edgar J. Kaiser
Location of image or observation: 54.353222° N, 10.279056 E
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10, 16:15 UTC
Time zone: CEST

My first acquisition of Bepi-Colombo’s X-band downlink signal after the flyby. Trees were obstructing in the beginning. Looks like all is in good shape. See also: https://twitter.com/df2mz/status/1248703447664414721

Image by Edgar J. Kaiser. Location of image or observation: 54.353222° N, 10.279056 E
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10, 04:10 UTC
Time zone: CEST. It was a very short encounter with Bepi-Colombo. The spectrogram shows the x-band signal on 8420.44 MHz. There is only a short blip at 03:55 and a 10 min long faint trace afterwards. The prognosed elevation was only 3° maximum and thus the spacecraft probably remained behind local obstructions and I only saw scatter signals.
Image by Edgar J. Kaiser.
Location of image or observation: 54.353222° N, 10.279056 E
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10, 04:10 UTC
Time zone: CEST
It was a very short encounter with Bepi-Colombo. The spectrogram shows the x-band signal on 8420.44 MHz. There is only a short blip at 03:55 and a 10 min long faint trace afterwards. The prognosed elevation was only 3° maximum and thus the spacecraft probably remained behind local obstructions and I only saw scatter signals. The blip was strong though. So see you later this afternoon Bepi Colombo.

Image by Edgar J. Kaiser.
Location of image or observation: 54.353222° N, 10.279056° E. Time of image or observation: 2020-04-04, 19:48:04 UTC
Time zone: CEST. I observed Bepi-Colombo’s X-band downlink signal on 8420.43 MHz. I am using a 1 m parabolic dish antenna. I am planning to go ahead with these observations in the days ahead and I might have a short time window even during the flyby a few minutes before perigee. I am also planning to stream my observation live on Youtube during the flyby. For me Bepi-Colombo will not be out of “sight” after the flyby!

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