This image from the International Space Station shows the Iberian Peninsula including Spain and Portugal at night.
The lights from human settlements reveal where the major towns and activity are. The large mass of light in the middle is Madrid, Spain’s capital city. The Iberian coastline is heavily populated with Cartagena, Murcia, Alacant and Valencia along the Mediterranean Sea prominent at the bottom right of this photo.
Portugal to the west shows similar lighting with the coast from Lisboa to Porto a haze of light.
This astronaut-image taken from 400 km above Earth shows how close the Iberian Peninsula is to Morocco. A thin line of blackness – the Strait of Gibraltar – separates the two.
Another thin line stands out in this picture – Earth’s atmosphere, the green shroud that surrounds and protects our world and the people and animals that live on it.
The billowing clouds portrayed in this image from ESA’s Herschel observatory are part of NGC 7538, a stellar nursery for massive stars. Located around 9000 light-years away, this is one of the few regions of massive-star formation that are relatively close to us, allowing astronomers to investigate this process in great detail.
Star factories like NGC 7538 consist mainly of hydrogen gas, but they also contain small amounts of cosmic dust. It was through this minor – but crucial – component that Herschel could image these star-forming regions, because dust shines brightly at the far-infrared wavelengths that were probed by the observatory.
With a total mass of almost 400 000 Suns, NGC 7538 is an active factory where stars come to life – especially huge ones that are over eight times more massive than the Sun. Hundreds of seeds of future stellar generations nestle in the mixture of surrounding gas and dust scattered across the image. Once they reach a critical mass, they will ignite as stars. Thirteen of these proto-stars have masses greater than 40 Suns, and are also extremely cold, less than –250ºC.
One group of stellar seeds seem to trace a ring-like structure, visible in the left part of the image. The ring may be the edge of a bubble carved by previous stellar explosions – as stars reach the end of their lives and explode as dramatic supernovas – but astronomers are still investigating the origin of this peculiar arrangement.
The image is a composite of the wavelengths of 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red) and spans about 50 x 50 arc minutes. North is up and east is to the left. It was first published in the paper Herschel Reveals Massive Cold Clumps in NGC 7538 by Fallscheer et al. 2013.
SARAS – a Spanish acronym for ‘Fast Acquisition of Satellites and Launchers’ – enables ground stations to acquire signals from new satellites faster and more accurately than ever before. A circular array of eight small radio-frequency sensors are mounted around the rim of an existing dish antenna. It was fitted to the 15 m-diameter dish at ESA’s ESAC Establishment, seen here during upgrade work, in 2013.
Since then, it has been extensively tested, receiving signals from missions including CryoSat, XMM, and Swarm. It also helps the station to acquire signals from multisatellite missions, such as the three-craft Swarm.
Engineers Frédéric Hannoteau (left) and Eric Martin (right), part of the team manning ESA’s smallest control room, used to command the Agency’s smallest satellite family.
While the majority of ESA missions are overseen from its major facility in Darmstadt, Germany, the three Proba satellites to date are all controlled from the same Mission Operation Centre at ESA’s Redu site amid Belgium’s Ardennes Forest.
Each Proba minisatellite is smaller than a cubic metre, but they are tasked with full-scale missions. Proba-1, launched back in 2001, is still going strong, acquiring hyperspectral multispectral Earth images. Proba-2, launched in 2009, keeps watch on the Sun and space weather. And the Vegetation instrument aboard Proba-V, launched last year, tracks all of Earth’s vegetation every two days.
Proba stands for ‘Project for Onboard Autonomy’. As the name suggests, the satellite platforms have been designed to operate on a largely autonomous basis, overseen by a small team working standard office hours.
The minisatellites rely on startrackers to work out their attitude, and GPS receivers to pinpoint their orbital position, with fine-pointing performed by reaction wheels and magnetotorquers – magnets that interact with Earth’s magnetic field – to home in on targets set by their controllers.
On 31 March the Royal Observatory of Belgium will host a workshop for all the Proba satellite teams, including scientific investigators. ESA’s future Proba-3 precision formation-flying mission and Belgium’s proposed Proba-based Altius limb-sounder will also be discussed. For more information click here.
Situated in the southern Caribbean Sea about 20 km off of mainland Venezuela’s coast, the island comprises two peninsulas linked by a long, narrow strip of land – called an isthmus.
The eastern part of the island is home to most of the island’s residents, while the Macanao peninsula to the west is dominated by a central mountain range.
Between the peninsulas and cut off from the open sea by the isthmus lies the La Restinga lagoon, a national park that appears as a dark green and blue area in this image.
Recognised as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention, the area features picturesque mangroves and is an important feeding ground for birds such as herons and flamingos. The shallow waters are home to red snappers, sardines and swordfish – among other types of fish – and oysters grow on the mangrove roots.
Japan's ALOS satellite captured this image on 26 June 2010 with its AVNIR-2 Advanced Visible and Near Infrared Radiometer.
ALOS was supported as a Third Party Mission, which means that ESA used its multi-mission ground systems to acquire, process, distribute and archive data from the satellite to its user community.
In April 2011 the satellite abruptly lost power while mapping Japan’s tsunami-hit coastline.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Two distinct volcanic eruptions have flooded this area of Daedalia Planum on Mars, flowing around an island of ancient terrain. The smooth, fractured terrain to the south (left) predates the rough-textured lava flow that dominates the northern (right) side of the image. The lava flows arose from the giant Arsia Mons volcano, part of the Tharsis complex around 1000 km to the northwest. The blue–grey colour at the bottom left of the image likely reflects a difference in the composition of exposed material: for example, wind-blown ash or dust deposits can easily accumulate in faults or channels. The image was created using data acquired on 28 November 2013 during Mars Express orbit 12 593 using the High Resolution Stereo Camera. The image resolution is about 14 m per pixel. The image centre is at about 25ºS/249ºE. North is right and east down.
This image combines NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observations with data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory. As well as the electric blue ram pressure stripping streaks seen emanating from ESO 137-001, a giant gas stream can be seen extending towards the bottom of the frame, only visible in the X-ray part of the spectrum.
This series of images shows the asteroid P/2013 R3 breaking apart, as viewed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope in 2013. This is the first time that such a body has been seen to undergo this kind of break-up.
The Hubble observations showed that there are ten distinct objects, each with comet-like dust tails, embedded within the asteroid's dusty envelope. The four largest rocky fragments are up to 200 metres in radius, about twice the length of a football pitch.
The date increases from left to right, with frames from 29 October 2013, 15 November 2013, 13 December 2013, and 14 January 2014 respectively, showing how the clumps of debris material move around. The 14 January 2014 frame was not included in the science paper and is additional data.
Week in Images
03-07 March 2014