Video of Venus caught by the Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager aboard ESA/NASAs Solar Orbiter. Credit: ESA/NASA/NRL/ SoloHI/Phillip Hess
On August 9, 2021, ESA/NASAs Solar Orbiter spacecraft passed within 4,967 miles (7,995 kilometers) of the surface of world Venus. In the days leading up to the method, the Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager, or SoloHI, telescope caught this gleaming view of the planet.
The images show Venus approaching from the left while the Sun is off electronic camera to the upper. The planets nightside, the part hidden from the Sun, appears as a dark semicircle surrounded by a bright crescent of light– glare from Venus exceptionally brilliant sunlit side.
” Ideally, we would have been able to fix some features on the nightside of the world, but there was just too much signal from the dayside.” stated Phillip Hess, astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. “Only a sliver of the dayside appears in the images, but it shows enough sunshine to cause the intense crescent and the diffracted rays that appear to come from the surface.”
2 bright stars are likewise visible in the background early in the sequence, before being eclipsed by the planet. The rightmost is Omicron Tauri, and above and to the left of it is Xi Tauri, which is actually a quadruple galaxy. Both become part of the Taurus constellation.
This was Solar Orbiters 2nd Venus flyby, with an Earth flyby in November 2021 and 6 more Venus flybys prepared from 2022 to 2030. The spacecraft uses Venus gravity to draw it closer to the Sun and tilt its orbit, swinging it up and out so as to “look down” on the Sun. From this perspective, Solar Orbiter will ultimately catch the very first images of the Suns north and south poles.
On August 10, just one day later, ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agencys BepiColombo objective also flew by Venus. Discover more about the double flyby and see BepiColombos images in ESAs coverage of the event.
This was Solar Orbiters 2nd Venus flyby, with an Earth flyby in November 2021 and six more Venus flybys prepared from 2022 to 2030. The spacecraft uses Venus gravity to draw it closer to the Sun and tilt its orbit, swinging it up and out so as to “look down” on the Sun. From this vantage point, Solar Orbiter will eventually capture the very first images of the Suns north and south poles.