Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, 1-7 July 2019


At the University of Leicester's 'BepiColombo' stand visitors could find out all about this exciting joint mission of the European and Japanese space agencies, and the unique 'MIXS' X-ray telescope which it is carrying to the planet Mercury. There was plenty to see and do including an exact scale replica of MIXS.

MIXS was designed and built at the University of Leicester, drawing on more than half a century of expertise in X-ray astronomy. It will be the first imaging X-ray instrument to visit another planetary body. Data from MIXS will be collected and analysed by planetary scientists at the University of Leicester, revealing amazing new insights into this little-known world.

Launched on 20 October 2018, BepiColombo consists of two craft: ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO). The MPO spacecraft carries two complementary instruments, MIXS (Mercury Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer) and SIXS (Solar Imaging X-Ray Spectrometer). This exciting mission will study the composition of Mercury, both on the surface and at the planet’s core. It will address questions that have puzzled scientists since Mariner 10’s visit more than 40 years ago, including:

  • Why does Mercury have a magnetic field when Venus and Mars don’t?
  • Why is Mercury denser than any other inner planet?
  • Is there ice within the permanently shadowed craters at the planet’s poles?

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