Is Mercury's core liquid or solid, and why -- on the smallest planet in our solar system -- is it so big? What can the planet closest to the Sun tell us about how our solar system came into being? An unmanned European-Japanese space mission, dubbed BepiColombo, blasted off early Saturday morning from French Guiana, to probe these and other mysteries. "BepiColombo is coming like a white knight with better and more precise data," said Alain Doressoundiram, an astronomer at the Paris Observatory. "To understand how Earth was formed, we need to understand how all rocky planets formed," including Venus and Mars, he told AFP. "Mercury stands apart and we don't know why." First, however, the suite of instruments on board the Ariane 5 rocket will have to travel seven years and nine million kilometres (5.6 million miles) to reach their destination. In a statement after the launch, ArianeGroup said the satellite had successfully escaped Earth's gravity field and was beginning its long journey...

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