Engineers removing Proba-V's perspex solar panel protectors and instrument covers in advance of its encapsulation within the Vega launch fairing on 17 April. The minisatellite is seen sitting on top of the Vespa adapter containing two other satellites, VNREDSat and ESTCube-1.
The Universe is rarely static, although the timescales involved can be very long. Since modern astronomical observations began we have been observing the birthplaces of new stars and planets, searching for and studying the subtle changes that help us to figure out what is happening within.
The bright spot located at the edge of the bluish fan-shaped structure in this Hubble image is a young star called V* PV Cephei, or PV Cep. It is a favourite target for amateur astronomers because the fan-shaped nebulosity, known as GM 1-29 or Gyulbudaghian’s Nebula, changes over a timescale of months. The brightness of the star has also varied over time.
Images of PV Cep taken in 1952 showed a nebulous streak, similar to a comet’s tail. However, these had vanished when new images of the star were obtained some twenty-five years later. Instead, the blue fan-shaped nebula had appeared. Twenty-five years is a very short period on cosmic timescales, so astronomers think that the mysterious streak may have been a temporary phenomenon, such as the remnants of a massive stellar flare — similar to the solar flares we are used to seeing in the Solar System.
At the same time as this was happening, the star itself was brightening. This provided the light to illuminate the newly formed fan-shaped nebula. This brightening might be related to the start of the hydrogen-burning phase of the star, which would mean that it was reaching maturity.
PV Cep is thought to be surrounded by a disc of gas and dust, which would stop light from escaping in all directions. The fan-like appearance is therefore probably a result of starlight escaping from the dust disc and projecting onto the nebula.
PV Cep is located in the northern constellation of Cepheus at a distance of over 1600 light-years from Earth.
A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures competition by contestant Alexey Romashin.
This face-on colour view of Enceladus was taken by the international Cassini spacecraft on 31 January 2011, from a distance of 81 000 km, and processed by amateur astronomer Gordan Ugarković.
The Cassini–Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and ASI, the Italian space agency. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington DC, USA.
This image was featured as Space Science image of the week on 22 April 2013.
Artist’s concept showing how a defunct satellite could be grappled for a controlled reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, where it would burn up and be destroyed harmlessly.
This is one of several concepts for clearing dead satellites from orbit being studied by space agencies and industry across Europe.
A sunset at Concordia research station in Antarctica. The wooden platforms are for observation posts for astronomers. At the southern tip of the world Concordia receives no sunlight for around four months each year.
ESA is studying the effects of living in such an extreme environment because it is similar in many ways to a mission in space.
ESA’s Vega VV02 rocket is now fully assembled on its launch pad, 22 April, 2013. Final preparations are in full swing for the rocket’s flight.
Vega VV02 is the first of the five flights scheduled in ESA’s Vega Research and Technology Accompaniment – VERTA – programme, which aims to demonstrate the flexibility of the launch system. At a minimum rate of two launches per year, the programme will allow the smooth introduction of Vega for commercial exploitation.
VV02 will loft Proba-V, the first of four ESA missions, into space. Proba-V carries a reduced version of the Vegetation instrument currently flying on the Spot satellites to provide a daily overview of global vegetation growth.
This first VERTA flight will also demonstrate Vega's capability to launch multiple payloads. The second payload is the Vietnam Natural Resources, Environment and Disaster Monitoring Satellite (VNREDSAT) built by Astrium for the Vietnamese government.
Vega VV02 is scheduled for liftoff from the Spaceport on 4 May, 2013 (GMT).
The Lighthouse Atoll in the Belize Barrier Reef is featured in this image acquired on 29 March 2011 by Japan’s ALOS satellite. In the upper-central part of the image, an underwater sinkhole known as the Great Blue Hole appears as a dark blue circle. Surrounded by the shallow waters of the coral reef, the Great Blue Hole measures over 300 m in diameter and about 123 m deep. Formed when the sea level was much lower, rain and chemical weathering eroded the exposed terrain. Water later filled the hole and covered the area when the sea level rose at the end of the ice age.
Also visible in the image are two coral islands – green with vegetation – called cayes. The larger to the west is Long Caye, and the smaller Half Moon Caye is to the east.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
The ghostly figure of a Concordia base resident, whilst taking long exposure photographs of the stunning Antarctic scenery and stars.
The French–Italian Concordia station's programme of research includes glaciology, human biology and the atmosphere. ESA uses the base to prepare for future long-duration missions beyond Earth. During the winter, Concordia is under almost total darkness, with an average temperature of –51°C and a record low of –85°C. It is an ideal place to study the effects on small, multicultural teams isolated for long periods in an extreme, hostile environment.
Week In Images
22-26 April 2013