Incredible pictures offer new glimpse at Mercury after groundbreaking mission

Incredible pictures of Mercury have been released after a groundbreaking mission to the distant planet.

The European-Japanese BepiColombo spacecraft captured their first up-close look at the planet during a weekend flyby on Friday, October 1, revealing a rocky world covered with craters.

The encounter marked the first of six flybys for BepiColombo, in an effort to slow itself enough to enter orbit around the planet in 2025.

BepiColombo took its first official photo of Mercury at 11.44pm with its Mercury Transfer Module Monitoring Camera 2 as the probe was about 1,502 miles away from the planet, Space.com reports.

According to the European Space Agency, the craft made its closest approach to Mercury just 10 minutes before, as it passed within 124 miles (200 km) of the planet.

Agency officials wrote in a photo description: "The region shown is part of Mercury's northern hemisphere including Sihtu Planitia that has been flooded by lavas.

"A round area smoother and brighter than its surroundings characterizes the plains around the Calvino crater, which are called the Rudaki Plains.

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"The 166 km-wide Lermontov crater is also seen, which looks bright because it contains features unique to Mercury called 'hollows' where volatile elements are escaping to space.

"It also contains a vent where volcanic explosions have occurred."

More photos are expected to be released within the next few days as they are processed by BepiColombo's science team.

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The news comes after a video was posted on YouTube earlier this month by UFO Institute, and it immediately caught the attention of sky-watchers and conspiracy theorists.

The footage, which is nearly five minutes long and was filmed on September 2 by Ruben Ariza from Colombia, shows several lights repeatedly flashing.

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