The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite brings us over the Bering Sea, north of the Alaska Peninsula, on 26 March.
Seasonal sea ice dominates the upper part of the image. Ice plays an important role in the sea’s ecosystem. Growing algae attach to the bottom of the ice; when the ice melts in the spring, it leaves behind a layer of nutrient-rich freshwater on which the algae thrive. Organisms higher up the food chain then eat the algae.
In the top-right corner, we can see part of Alaska’s mainland blanketed with snow, as well as Nunivak Island appearing like a massive piece of floating ice.
At the centre of the image are the islands of Saint Paul and Saint George – part of the Pribilof Islands. An estimated two million seabirds nest on these islands annually.
The swirling clouds on the right side of the image are the result of a meteorological phenomenon known as a von Kármán vortex street. As wind-driven clouds pass over the Unimak Island on the right edge of the image, they flow around the high volcanoes to form the large spinning eddies that can clearly be seen in the image.
This image, also featured on the Earth from Space video programme, was captured by Sentinel-3’s Ocean and Land Colour Instrument, which helps monitor ocean ecosystems, supports crop management and agriculture, and provides estimates of atmospheric aerosol and clouds.
Traditionally, it has been very difficult to perform live, in-flight testing of newly developed software for satellites. No one wants to take any risk with an existing, valuable satellite, so it there are only limited opportunities to test new procedures, techniques or systems in orbit.
ESA’s new cubesat, dubbed ‘OPS-SAT,’ will help solve this.
It’s a small, low-cost and extremely robust platform that will enable a wide community of industry, research labs, academia and even individual developers to test their software and tools in orbit.
It consists of a satellite that is only 30cm high but that contains an experimental computer that is ten times more powerful than any current ESA spacecraft.
This week, the engineering model of OPS-SAT, seen on a test bench in this photo, was connected to its control system at ESA’s ESOC mission control centre for the first time. Both spacecraft and the ground system are using innovative new protocols to inter-communicate and both will now undergo an extensive testing and validation campaign.
The flight model is expected to be ready for launch in 2018.
A vintage view of ESA’s Geos-1 satellite being prepared for flight at ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands, which was launched 40 years ago this month.
This first ‘Geostationary Scientific Satellite’ is seen being prepared for a boom deployment test inside the Dynamic Test Chamber of the ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Note the solar cells mounted on the spin-stabilised satellite body.
Geos-1 was designed for geostationary orbit to study the particles, fields and plasmas of Earth's magnetosphere using seven instruments provided by ten European laboratories. Because of its high orbit and the sophistication of its payload, Geos-1 was selected as the reference mission for the global 'International Magnetospheric Study'.
Unfortunately, Geos-1 was left in a low transfer orbit following launch because of a problem with its US Delta launcher, reducing its ability to gather observations.
As a result, the mission’s qualification model was subsequently launched as Geos-2 on 14 July 1978 with an identical payload and successfully reached the planned orbit. In spite of its orbit, Geos-1 made a significant contribution to IMS, and its mission formally ended on 23 June 1978.
The Cygnus CRS OA-7 cargo spacecraft, SS John Glenn, makes its way to the International Space Station three days after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, on an Atlas 5 rocket on 18 April.
Among its three and half tonnes of cargo are crew supplies, vehicle hardware and science experiments is the Aalto-2 cube satellite making its space debut.
The first Finnish satellite in space, the Aalto-2 was designed and built by students from Aalto University. The satellite is part of the international QB50 mission that aims to study the layer between Earth’s atmosphere and space known as the ‘thermosphere.’ Part of a constellation of other nanosatellites, Aalto-2 will be released from the Station within a month from the Japanese Kibo module that has a spring-loaded satellite launcher.
CubeSats are miniature satellites that weigh between 1 and 10 kg designed to test new space technologies and often used for Earth observation missions.
Cygnus is an American spacecraft built by Orbital ATK and uses a pressurised hull designed in Europe by Thales Alenia Space.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, the international Cassini–Huygens mission made its final close flyby of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, coming within 1000 km of the atmosphere-clad world.
The latest flyby used Titan’s gravity to slingshot Cassini into the final phase of its mission, setting it up for a series of 22 weekly ‘Grand Finale’ orbits that will see the spacecraft dive between Saturn’s inner rings and the outer atmosphere of the planet. The first of these ring plane dives occurs on Wednesday.
Cassini will make many additional non-targeted flybys of Titan and other moons in the Saturnian system in the coming months, at much greater distances. Non-targeted flybys require no special manoeuvres, but rather the moon happens to be relatively close to the spacecraft’s path.
A final, distant, flyby of Titan will occur on 11 September, in what has been nicknamed the ‘goodbye kiss,’ because it will direct Cassini on a collision course with Saturn on 15 September. This will conclude the mission in a manner that avoids the possibility of a future crash into the potentially habitable ocean-moon Enceladus, protecting that world for future exploration.
A press conference will be held on 25 April at 13:30 GMT (15:30 CEST), at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, to preview the Grand Finale, as well as celebrate the scientific highlights of Cassini’s incredible 13-year odyssey at Saturn.
Just today a new result was published in Nature Astronomy that finds that when viewed from Cassini's orbit, Titan's nightside likely shines 10-200 times brighter than its dayside. Scientists think that this is caused by efficient forward scattering of sunlight by its extended atmospheric haze, a behaviour unique to Titan in our Solar System.
Cassini–Huygens is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and ASI, the Italian space agency.
John Halligan, Ireland’s Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation beside a mock-up of Europe's Columbus module of the International Space Station.
On 24 April 2017 ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands was honoured with a visit by John Halligan, Ireland’s Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation. Minister Halligan and his group were greeted by Franco Ongaro, Head of ESTEC and ESA’s Director of Technology, Engineering and Quality.
The Minister was joined by Private Secretary Katrina Flynn; James Lawless T.D, Spokesperson on Science, Research and Development for the opposition Fianna Fail Party; Michael Davitt, Head of the Irish Delegation to ESA and fellow members of the Delegation and Enterprise Ireland, as well as Kevin Kelly, Ireland’s Ambassador to the Netherlands.
The visitors were shown ESTEC’s satellite Test Centre, the Planetary Robotics Laboratory and Erasmus Human Spaceflight Centre, where they met Irish ESA employees and representatives of partner companies.
Heavy rains following Tropical Cyclone Debbie have caused rivers in eastern Australia to breach their banks, inundating roads and homes.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite mission captured this images of an area about 120 km northwest of Rockhampton, near the Junee State Forest. Here we see sediment-filled floodwaters from the Mackenzie and surrounding rivers inundating the land on 1 April.
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet shared this image on social media, commenting "Europe by night, under clear skies is a carpet of lights!".
Thomas' Proxima mission is the ninth long-duration mission for an ESA astronaut. It is named after the closest star to the Sun, continuing a tradition of naming missions with French astronauts after stars and constellations.
During Proxima, Thomas will have performed around 50 scientific experiments for ESA and France’s space agency CNES as well as take part in many research activities for the other Station partners. The mission is part of ESA’s vision to use Earth-orbiting spacecraft as a place to live and work for the benefit of European society while using the experience to prepare for future voyages of exploration further into the Solar System.
Connect with Thomas via http://thomaspesquet.esa.int
In space, being outshone is an occupational hazard. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image captures a galaxy named NGC 7250. Despite being remarkable in its own right — it has bright bursts of star formation and recorded supernova explosions— it blends into the background somewhat thanks to the gloriously bright star hogging the limelight next to it.
This bright object is a single and little-studied star named TYC 3203-450-1, located in the constellation of Lacerta (The Lizard), much closer than the much more distant galaxy. Only this way a normal star can outshine an entire galaxy, consisting of billions of stars. Astronomers studying distant objects call these stars 'foreground stars' and they are often not very happy about them, as their bright light is contaminating the faint light from the more distant and interesting objects they actually want to study.
In this case TYC 3203-450-1 million times closer than NGC 7250 which lies over 45 million light-years away from us. Would the star be the same distance as NGC 7250, it would hardly be visible in this image.
Week In Images
24-28 April 2017