The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite takes us over the Antarctic Peninsula and the adjacent Larsen Ice Shelf, from which a massive iceberg broke off in July.
The image has been manipulated, so clouds appear pink while snow and ice are blue to help us differentiate between them. The only land clearly visible is the tip of the Peninsula in the upper left, while sea ice covers the Weddell Sea to the right.
Captured on 25 September, the image shows the iceberg near the centre. The A68 berg had been jostling back and forth against the ice shelf, but more recent satellite imagery revealed that the gap between the berg and the shelf is widening – possibly drifting out to sea.
An iceberg’s progress is difficult to predict. It may remain in the area for decades, but if it breaks up, parts may drift north into warmer waters. Since the ice shelf is already floating, this giant iceberg does not influence sea level.
A68 is about twice the size of Luxembourg and with its calving has changed the outline of the Antarctic Peninsula forever – about 10% of the area of the Larsen C Ice Shelf has been removed.
The loss of such a large piece is of interest because ice shelves along the peninsula play an important role in ‘buttressing’ glaciers that feed ice seawards, effectively slowing their flow.
Previous events further north on the Larsen A and B shelves, captured by ESA’s ERS and Envisat satellites, indicate the flow of glaciers behind can accelerate when a large portion of an ice shelf is lost, contributing to sea-level rise.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Now being fitted with its state-of-the-art instruments, ESA’s Solar Orbiter is set to provide new views of our star, in particular providing close-up observations of the Sun’s poles.
Following its launch in February 2019 and three-year journey using gravity swingbys at Earth and Venus, Solar Orbiter will operate from an elliptical orbit around the Sun. At its closest it will approach our star within 42 million kilometres, closer than planet Mercury.
An artist’s impression of Solar Orbiter in front of the stormy Sun is depicted here. The image of the Sun is based on one taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. It captures the beginning of a solar eruption that took place on 7 June 2011. At lower right, dark filaments of plasma arc away from the Sun. During this particular event, it watched the plasma lift off, then rain back down to create ‘hot spots’ that glowed in ultraviolet light.
Solar Orbiter’s over-arching mission goals are to examine how the Sun creates and controls the heliosphere, the extended atmosphere of the Sun in which we reside, and the effects of solar activity on it. The spacecraft will combine in situ and remote sensing observations close to the Sun to gain new information about solar activity and how eruptions produce energetic particles, what drives the solar wind and the coronal magnetic field, and how the Sun’s internal dynamo works.
Its 10 scientific instruments are in the final stages of being added to the spacecraft before extensive tests to prepare it for the 2019 launch from Cape Canaveral, USA.
Solar Orbiter is an ESA-led mission with NASA participation.
A view inside ESA’s cavernous Hertz chamber for radio-frequency testing of satellites, which will be on show to the public during this Sunday’s ESA Open Day in the Netherlands.
Isolated from the outside world with radio- and sound-absorbing internal walls, the chamber simulates the boundless conditions of space.
Its hybrid nature makes it unique: Hertz can assess radio signals from antennas either on a local ‘near-field’ basis or as if the signal has crossed thousands of kilometres of space, allowing it to serve all kinds of satellites and antenna systems.
This photo was taken during a visit to ESA’s technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands by artist and photographer Monica Alcazar-Duarte: “Once the door of the chamber was opened I was presented with a landscape that could have come from a science fiction film. I know this is not the case of course but the room was incredibly inspiring.”
ESA’s Open Day in the Netherlands takes place on Sunday 8 October.
At 20 m resolution, this land cover classification map of Africa was created using 180 000 Copernicus Sentinel-2A images captured between December 2015 and December 2016.
Land-cover mapping breaks down the different types of material on Earth’s surface. This information is important for understanding changes in land use, modelling climate change extent and impacts, conserving biodiversity and managing natural resources.
The Sentinel-5P satellite during the encapsulation within the launcher fairing on 3 October 2017.
Taking an image of the International Space Station as it passes in front of the Sun, Moon or planets is a popular pastime for astrophotographers. It requires planning, patience and a measure of luck. The camera must be set up at the right time in the right place to capture the Space Station as it flies past at 28 800 km/h. At such speeds the photographer has only seconds to capture the transit and if any clouds block the view it has to wait for another opportunity weeks later.
This photograph was taken by the astronomy club at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid in 2013. Although there were clear skies, a bird flew overhead in the 1.2 seconds it took the Station to pass in front of the Sun.
The Station flies around Earth at around 400 km, allowing the astronomy club to calculate that the bird was flying 86 m from the camera lens. The difference in size and distance makes both the bird and the Space Station appear the same size.
Aerial view looking down onto a wind-blown dune field inside an unnamed, 48 km-wide impact crater in the southern highlands of Mars. A smaller crater to the right also hosts dunes.
The images were acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express on 16 May 2017 during Mars Express orbit 16934. The ground resolution is about 13 m/pixel and the images are centred on 248°E / 59°S. North is to the right.
The colour image was created using data from the nadir channel, the field of view which is aligned perpendicular to the surface of Mars, and the camera’s colour channels.
An image of Northern Italy, Corsica, and Sardinia, taken by ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli from on board the International Space Station
Paolo’s third and last mission to the Space Station is named Vita, which means “life” in Italian, and reflects the experiments Paolo will run and the philosophical notion of living in outer space – one of the most inhospitable places for humans.
At a distance of just 160 000 light-years, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is one of the Milky Way’s closest companions. It is also home to one of the largest and most intense regions of active star formation known to exist anywhere in our galactic neighbourhood — the Tarantula Nebula. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows both the spindly, spidery filaments of gas that inspired the region’s name, and the intriguing structure of stacked “bubbles” that forms the so-called Honeycomb Nebula (to the lower left).
The Honeycomb Nebula was found serendipitously by astronomers using ESO’s New Technology Telescope to image the nearby SN1987A, the closest observed supernova to Earth for over 400 years. The nebula’s strange bubble-like shape has baffled astronomers since its discovery in the early 1990s. Various theories have been proposed to explain its unique structure, some more exotic than others.
In 2010, a group of astronomers studied the nebula and, using advanced data analysis and computer modelling, came to the conclusion that its unique appearance is likely due to the combined effect of two supernovae — a more recent explosion has pierced the expanding shell of material created by an older explosion. The nebula’s especially striking appearance is suspected to be due to a fortuitous viewing angle; the honeycomb effect of the circular shells may not be visible from another viewpoint.
Week in Images
2-6 October 2017