A view of Banks Peninsula in New Zealand photographed from the International Space Station by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst. Alexander is currently a member of the resident ISS Expedition 40 crew after arriving with the Soyuz TMA-13M spacecraft on 29 May 2014. Follow Alexander's Blue Dot mission on www.esa.int/bluedot and on social media via alexandergerst.esa.int.
Mount Kenya, the second-highest mountain in Africa, is pictured in this image from Japan’s ALOS satellite from 25 February 2011.
Standing just above 5000 m, this stratovolcano is one of many volcanoes in the East African Rift, an area where two tectonic plates are moving apart.
The mountain has 11 small glaciers but, like all glaciers on the high mountains of tropical Africa, they are rapidly retreating. Less snow accumulates during the winter than melts in the summer, and there is little to no formation of new ice. According to some predictions, there will no longer be any ice on the mountain in the next three decades.
The area around Mount Kenya is a national park protecting the biodiversity and forming an attractive destination for tourists, making it a key economic resource for the region. The area is home to monkeys, antelopes, elephants and leopards.
The Mount Kenya National Park and its natural forest has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
North of the mountain peak we can see a brown patchwork of fields, and a distinct line where the protected area ends and agriculture begins. In fact, a small portion of the park’s borders have fences and other barriers to keep animals within the reserve and off of the farmland.
In the upper right, there are large patches of light green, which are probably areas of failed agricultural development that now belong to the protected area.
Past threats from commercial tree plantations and other habitat destruction have been alleviated through long-term efforts, including the government’s policy of not converting any more natural forest for plantation development. But some areas that had been cleared but never planted are now colonised by grasses, and are being maintained as open grazing lands, rather than being allowed to revert to natural forest.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
This image of Europe is a composite of Proba-V images from 1–10 May 2014. Launched just over a year ago, the washing machine-sized satellite carries the Vegetation imager designed after the French Spot-Vegetation mission, flown on the Spot-4 and Spot-5 satellites.
Spot-Vegetation marked 16 years of service in May, and has now passed the torch to its European counterpart.
Proba-V maps land cover and vegetation growth across the entire planet every two days. The data can also be used for day-by-day tracking of extreme weather, alerting authorities to crop failures, monitoring inland water resources and tracing the steady spread of deserts and deforestation.
A composite view of the Bullet Group reveals its constituents and their peculiar arrangement. The hot gas, imaged with ESA's XMM-Newton, is separated from the rest of the group's mass, which consists of galaxies as well as dark matter.
Read full story: Cosmic collision in the Bullet Group
Massive stars end their lives with a bang: exploding as spectacular supernovas, they release huge amounts of mass and energy into space. These explosions sweep up any surrounding material, creating bubble remnants that expand into interstellar space. At the heart of bubbles like these are small, dense neutron stars or black holes, the remains of what once shone brightly as a star.
Since supernova-carved bubbles shine for only a few tens of thousands of years before dissolving, it is rare to come across neutron stars or black holes that are still enclosed within their expanding shell. This image captures such an unusual scene, featuring both a strongly magnetised, rotating neutron star – known as a pulsar – and its cosmic cloak, the remains of the explosion that generated it.
This pulsar, named SXP 1062, lies in the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud, one of the satellite galaxies of our Milky Way galaxy. It is an object known as an X-ray pulsar: it hungrily gobbles up material from a nearby companion star and burps off X-rays as it does so. In the future, this scene may become even more dramatic, as SXP 1062 has a massive companion star that has not yet exploded as a supernova.
Most pulsars whirl around incredibly quickly, spinning many times per second. However, by exploring the expanding bubble around this pulsar and estimating its age, astronomers have noticed something intriguing: SXP 1062 seems to be rotating far too slowly for its age. It is actually one of the slowest pulsars known.
While the cause of this weird sluggishness is still a mystery, one explanation may be that the pulsar has an unusually strong magnetic field, which would slow the rotation.
The diffuse blue glow at the centre of the bubble in this image represents X-ray emission from both the pulsar and the hot gas that fills the expanding bubble. The other fuzzy blue objects visible in the background are extragalactic X-ray sources.
This image combines X-ray data from ESA’s XMM-Newton (shown in blue) with optical observations from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The optical data were obtained using two special filters that reveal the glow of oxygen (shown in green) and hydrogen (shown in red). The size of the image is equivalent to a distance of 457 light-years on a side.
This image was first published on ESA’s Science and Technology website in 2011. It is based on data from the paper “Discovery of a Be/X-ray pulsar binary and associated supernova remnant in the Wing of the Small Magellanic Cloud” by V. Hénault-Brunet, et al. 2012.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have captured the most comprehensive picture ever assembled of the evolving Universe – and one of the most colourful. The study is called the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UVUDF) project.
Full story: Hubble unveils a colourful view of the Universe
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted this image from the International Space Station four days after his arrival at the outpost on a Soyuz spacecraft together with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and Roscosmos commander Maxim Suraev. His message was simply “Home for six months”.
The image is taken from the Russian part of the Station looking out of a viewport at the Station’s solar wings and the European Cupola observatory module as the Sun sets behind Earth.
Astronauts on the Space Station witness 16 sunsets and sunrises each day as they circle our planet at 28 800 km/h.
Alexander has 100 experiments planned for his Blue Dot mission. Follow his progress and more great images via alexandergerst.esa.int
Students participating in the REXUS 15 and 16 launch campaign in May 2014.
The increasing prominence of small satellites was highlighted at the 2014 Small Satellite and Services Symposium, co-organised by ESA and France’s CNES space agency in Majorca, Spain last week.
Miniaturisation and other developments have boosted the capabilities of small satellites to the point when they are being used increasingly in scientific and operational roles.
At the same time, smaller satellites are much cheaper to build and launch, putting them in reach of smaller businesses and individual university departments.
This is a full-size model of Canada’s BRIght-star Target Explorer (BRITE) nanosatellite – around the size of a toaster – displayed at the symposium.
Carrying a miniaturised telescope able to distinguish a star’s fluctuating brightness much more accurately than from the ground, multiple BRITE nanosatellites operate together as a constellation dedicated to stellar astronomy.
Week In Images
02-06 June 2014