Earlier this week, scientists announced the discovery of phosphine in the clouds of Venus. It is not yet known how this substance was formed there, but it may have been created by some type of Venusian life. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait long for a ship to collect more data from the planet in an attempt to hit the hammer in this quarter, since BepoColombo is approaching there right now.
BepiColombo is a ship programmed to study the planet Mercury, but to get there, you will need to fly over Venus; first to slow down, and then to get a gravitational impulse. In this way, the spacecraft uses the force of Venus’ gravity to save fuel while following its trajectory.
Although the observation of Venus had already been planned by the BepiColombo team since last year, there was no real clue at the time to search for life forms on such a planet. But, of course, researchers should not miss this new opportunity. After all, if there is any chance to look more closely at Venusian phosphine and try to confirm whether or not there are chances of finding life forms in the planet’s atmosphere, why not take advantage of it?
Well, this is what they will do – even if the spacecraft’s instruments were designed to specifically study Mercury’s atmosphere. According to Jorn Helbert, a member of the team that helps manage the orbiter’s instruments, the Mercury Radiometer and Thermal Imaging Spectrometer (MERTIS) device may be able to study the atmosphere of Venus. “It’s a perfect time,” he said. “We are now seeing if our sensitivity is good enough to make observations.”
Right now, however, we need to contain expectations, as there are chances that we won’t get results this time. The device on board BepiColombo was not designed to analyze the Venusian atmosphere, and the spacecraft will be at a distance of more than 9,978 km from Venus. Still, it is worth trying, especially during the second flyby, which will take place at a distance of only 547 km from the planet.
While the first flight will take place in October this year, the second should take place in August 2021. In any case, there will be two great opportunities to look at Venus up close, as this is the first time that this type of observation has happened since the Soviet Venera 15 mission in 1983.
Source: Space Daily