Twin volcanic plumes – one ash, one gas – from Sicily’s Mt Etna. This image was acquired on 26 October 2013 by the Proba-V minisatellite.
Comet ISON’s brush with the Sun as seen by the ESA/NASA SOHO satellite 27–30 November 2013.
ISON made its closest approach to the Sun during the evening of 28 November, passing just 1.2 million kilometres from the Sun’s visible surface. At first the comet was thought to have disintegrated during its fiery encounter, with just a remnant of its tail continuing along ISON’s trajectory. But, the next day, it seemed clear that something had survived after all – possibly a small chunk of ISON’s nucleus, along with a lot of dust. This progressively faded as it edged towards SOHO’s field of view on 30 November. Over the coming weeks scientists will be analysing the data collected during ISON’s encounter with the Sun to decipher the nail-biting chain of events that took place.
The shaded disc at the centre of the image is a mask in SOHO’s LASCO instrument that blots out direct sunlight to allow study of the faint details in the Sun's corona. The white circle added within the disc shows the size and position of the visible Sun. The images in this sequence coloured blue are from SOHO’s LASCO C3 instrument, which images the corona from about 3.5 solar radii to 30 solar radii; those in red are from LASCO C2, which images the corona from about 1.5 solar radii to 6 solar radii.
Earlier this year, the the city of Malargüe in Argentina held their annual Spring Festival with music concerts, traditional food and a parade.
The week prior to the event, there was a workshop for people interested in wall painting – ‘murales’ in Spanish. On a lovely spring morning, many people – mostly groups of school students – began working on their murales, to be drawn on certain walls where the owners had granted permission.
When the day was done, one of the walls was finished with a wonderful painting showing a satellite together with ESA’s 35 m-diameter deep-space tracking station, opened in December 2012 and sitting just a few kilometres outside the city.
The student artists who created this ‘space mural’ called themselves the ‘Trio Payun’, comprising Hugo Orlando Aravena, Lucas Martin Cerda and Iván Garcia y Ramos, all from the Escuela 3-034 Maestro Julio Andrés Mercado school, Malargüe. The team worked under the supervision of an adult, Omar Riquelme.
The painting includes the students’ initials, as well as the messages ‘Naturaleza y desarrollo’ (Nature and development) and ‘Cuidemosla’ (Let’s take care of it!).
The trio said their artistic aim was to, “Show the economy, flora, fauna and also the ‘big importance’ that this place has for the people of Malargüe.”
Congratulations and sincere thanks to the artists for their excellent work!
Editor’s note: the ESA Communication Department will ensure that the students receive a cool ESA tee-shirt.
Escuela 3-034 Maestro Julio Andrés Mercado in Facebook
ESA Kids' mascot Paxi attending a meeting of ESA's Clean Space initiative on 3 December. Clean Space is devoted to making the space sector more environmentally friendly – both on Earth and in space. Clean Space engineers are studying ways of removing space debris from busy orbits: a net like the one demonstrated here is on a list of methods that also includes clamps, robotic arms, harpoons or even ion beams.
This Envisat radar image was acquired over the city of Boca do Acre in western Brazil.
The city lies within Amazonas state, the largest Brazilian state by area, and almost completely covered by the Amazon Rainforest.
The name Boca do Acre – or ‘mouth of the Acre’ – comes from its location on the banks where the Acre and Purus rivers meet.
Along the river’s main course are free-standing ‘oxbow lakes’, formed when a river changes course.
This scene is a compilation of three images from Envisat’s radar, acquired on 28 October 2005, 12 September 2008 and 17 September 2010. The individual images are each assigned a colour – red, green and blue – and when combined, reveal changes in the surface between Envisat’s passes.
In this image, the colours reveal large areas of deforestation – evident by the large, geometrically shaped plots cut out along linear roads.
Given its size and frequent cloud cover, remote sensing using radar images is the best way to study the Amazon Basin on a large scale, especially for assessing the extent and damage due to deforestation. Radars can observe during both day and night and through any weather conditions.
Satellite observations also support the United Nations’ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries, or REDD, initiative.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen, while trees that rot, are cut down or burnt actually emit carbon dioxide. So preserving forests not only keeps them from releasing the gas, it ensures the absorption of carbon dioxide from other sources.
REDD gives a financial incentive for developing countries to maintain forested areas. Reducing or preventing deforestation is the mitigation option with the largest and most immediate carbon stock impact in the short term, as the release of carbon as emissions into the atmosphere is prevented.
Upcoming missions such as Sentinel-1 and -2, being developed for Europe’s Copernicus programme, as well as ESA’s Biomass satellite, will support REDD in forest mapping and monitoring.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
ESA's celebration of 50 years in space was launched on 5 December, 2013, at the ECSAT naming ceremony on Harwell Campus. The European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications will commence work on its own building on the campus by 2015, which will be named after ESA's first Director-General Roy Gibson. The occasion was marked by current DG Jean-Jacques Dordain, Roy Gibson and UK Minister for Universities and Science, Rt Hon. David Willetts MP laying the stones of a sculpture that will be placed in the future building's courtyard. The sculpture also bears a plaque with the building's name.
Here, Minister Willetts, ESA DG Jean-Jacques Dordain and former DG Roy Gibson hold the ESA 50 years calendars behind the ECSAT sculpture.
On 19 December, ESA's Gaia satellite will be launched on Soyuz Flight VS06 from the European spaceport in French Guiana.
Pictured here is the Soyuz launch vehicle's Block I third stage being mated to the launcher in the MIK integration building. This building, used for horizontal assembly of the rocket and located 700 metres from the pad, is equipped with two traveling cranes for handling launcher segments, along with a rail system for the movement and integration of the stages.
Once the integrated launcher has been checked it will be transferred to the launch pad where the Gaia satellite and the Fregat upper stage will be installed.
Artist’s impression of the Rosetta orbiter deploying the Philae lander to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. After an extensive mapping phase by the orbiter in August–September 2014, a landing site will be selected for Philae to conduct in situ measurements in November 2014. The image is not to scale; the Rosetta spacecraft measures 32 m across including the solar arrays, while the comet nucleus is thought to be about 4 km wide.
Changes in Earth’s gravity field resulting from the earthquake that hit Japan on 11 March 2011 (mE=10-12s-2). A combination of data from ESA’s GOCE mission and the NASA–German Grace satellite, shows the ‘vertical gravity gradient change’. The 'beachball' marks the epicentre.
This new Hubble image shows a peculiar galaxy known as NGC 660, located around 45 million light-years away from us.
NGC 660 is classified as a "polar ring galaxy", meaning that it has a belt of gas and stars around its centre that it ripped from a near neighbour during a clash about one billion years ago. The first polar ring galaxy was observed in 1978 and only around a dozen more have been discovered since then, making them something of a cosmic rarity.
Unfortunately, NGC 660’s polar ring cannot be seen in this image, but has plenty of other features that make it of interest to astronomers – its central bulge is strangely off-kilter and, perhaps more intriguingly, it is thought to harbour exceptionally large amounts of dark matter. In addition, in late 2012 astronomers observed a massive outburst emanating from NGC 660 that was around ten times as bright as a supernova explosion. This burst was thought to be caused by a massive jet shooting out of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy
Seen from the International Space Station at night, Liège, or Luik in Flemish, lights up like a neural network, revealing the city’s long history. Lights from streets and motorways run in seemingly random ways, growing over centuries since the area was first inhabited. The Meuse river that flows through the city centre can hardly be seen between the city lights.
Main pathways — the brighter-lit motorways — link Liege to neighbouring cities and countries: Luxembourg and France at the bottom of the picture, Germany to the right and the Netherlands above.
Subtle differences across international borders are noticeable. The lighting around the city of Aachen, Germany at the top right has a greener tone than the strong yellow seen in Belgium. A motorway leaving Liège that heads straight up in the picture connects the city to Maastricht in the Netherlands. In this image the road seems to end as the light disappears. In reality, Belgium’s northern neighbours do not use the same lighting scheme.
This clear picture was taken using ESA’s Nightpod that helps astronauts track objects on Earth from the International Space Station. Following Earth’s motion automatically, the tripod allows clear images in low lighting with off-the-shelf professional cameras from 400 km above our planet.
Week in Images
02-06 December 2013