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The Ariane 5 launch vehicle with the BepiColombo space probe on board is about to launch at the Kourou spaceport in 2018. Photo: Janne Kieselbach/picture alliance via Getty Images

A European-Japanese spacecraft has returned its first close-up pictures of Mercury in a long-awaited flyby.

Why it matters: The European Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the BepiColombo mission to Mercury in 2018, and the two spacecraft should make it into orbit around the innermost planet in 2025.

Driving the news: The space probes made the first flyby of Mercury at 7:44 p.m. EST on Friday, passing within 124 miles of the planet to capture images of dozens of craters.

  • The region shown in photos Friday reveal Mercury's northern hemisphere, including Sihtu Planitia, which is flooded by lava, according to the European Space Agency.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

What's next: The next Mercury flyby is scheduled for June 20, 2022, which will be followed by four more flybys in June 2023, September and December 2024 and January 2025. The space probes are expected to enter orbit around Mercury on Dec. 5, 2025.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Fatal stabbing of British MP David Amess declared a terrorist incident

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Authorities have declared the death of David Amess a terrorist incident, hours after the Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K. was fatally stabbed while meeting with local constituents in a church in eastern England on Friday.

The big picture: The Metropolitan Police has found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."

Biden: DOJ should prosecute those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas

President Biden speaks with reporters at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that the Justice Department should prosecute those who defy subpoenas from the Jan. 6 select committee.

Why it matters: The president's remarks come one day after Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon failed to show up for a deposition before the committee.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Bill Clinton hospitalized for non-COVID-related infection

Former President Bill Clinton. Photo: Win McNamee/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Bill Clinton was admitted to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center on Tuesday for a non-COVID-related infection, his spokesperson Angel Ureña said Thursday.

The latest: In an update on Friday, Ureña said Clinton's health indicators are "trending in the right direction, including his white blood count which has decreased significantly."