North Africa’s High Atlas mountain range was imaged by ESA’s Proba-V minisatellite last summer, with vegetation shown in false-colour red.
The mountains – an extension of Europe’s Alpine system – stretch some 2400 km through Morocco, seen here, into Algeria and Tunisia. The Atlas mountains are actually a set of five ranges dividing the northern Mediterranean climate from the arid Sahara to the south.
A second, darker, range, the Anti-Atlas mountains, are seen to the south, with the the Draa River valley cutting through them – seen as a reddish line. The Draa, Morocco’s longest river, flows south from the city of Ouarzazate city into the Sahara.
The Berber-speaking Ouarzazate is a popular location for filmmakers, with productions such as Lawrence of Arabia (1962), The Mummy (1999) and Game of Thrones (2011–present) having been shot here.
Launched on 7 May 2013, Proba-V is a miniaturised ESA satellite tasked with a full-scale mission: to map land cover and vegetation growth across the entire planet every two days.
Its main camera’s continent-spanning 2250 km swath width collects light in the blue, red, near-infrared and mid-infrared wavebands at 300 m resolution and down to 100 m resolution in its central field of view.
VITO Remote Sensing in Belgium processes and then distributes Proba-V data to users worldwide. An online image gallery highlights some of the mission’s most striking images so far, including views of storms, fires and deforestation.
This 100-m resolution image was acquired on 13 July 2017.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2B satellite takes us to the Republic of Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean on 28 September 2017. Part of Fiji’s largest island, Viti Levu, is pictured here, with coral reefs speckling the water.
Click on the box in the lower-right corner to view this image at its full 10 m resolution directly in your browser.
Shaped by volcanic activity and earthquakes, the centre of the island is dominated by forests and a mountain range. The highest peak, Mount Tomanivi, reaches over 1320 m and is located on the central-right side of the image. While the area east of the mountain range receives heavy rainfall, the west side pictured here is in the ‘rain shadow’, meaning that the mountains block the rain clouds, leaving this area drier than the east.
In addition to the human population of some 600 000, one of the largest insect species also resides on Viti Levu: the giant Fijian long-horned beetle. The island is the only known home to the beetle, which grows up to about 15 cm long – excluding antennae and legs.
With more than 300 islands, the Fijian archipelago's low-lying coastal areas are at risk of sea-level rise – a devastating consequence of climate change. Satellites carry special instruments to measure sea-level rise – but not only. Different instruments can measure different climate variables, from greenhouse gases to melting glaciers, and offer a global view of the state of our planet.
The Republic of Fiji holds the presidency for this year’s COP 23 (Conference of the Parties) on climate, held this week and next at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change headquarters in Bonn, Germany.
In February 2016, Cyclone Winston struck Fiji, damaging tens of thousands of homes and buildings, leaving more than 130 000 in need of shelter. With the COP 23 Presidency, Fiji calls for everyone to come together to build partnerships for climate action between governments, civil society and the private sector – and to work together to improve the climate resilience of vulnerable nations and communities.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Daphnis, one of Saturn’s small ring-embedded moons, is seen here kicking up waves as it orbits within a gap between rows of icy ring particles.
The image was taken by the international Cassini mission, which recently concluded its incredible 13-year odyssey in the Saturn system.
Images like the one featured here, which was first released in February 2017, provide scientists with a close-up view of the complicated interactions between a moon and the planet’s rings, as well as the interactions between the ring particles themselves.
Daphnis is just 8 km across, but its gravity is powerful enough to disrupt the tiny particles of the A-ring that mark the edge of a gap in the rings called the Keeler Gap. As the moon moves through the Keeler Gap, wave-like features are created in both the horizontal and vertical planes.
Three wave crests of diminishing size can be seen here in the wake of the moon’s passage. In each subsequent crest, the shape of the wave evolves as the ring particles within the crests collide with one another.
Zooming in towards the tiny moon reveals a faint, thin strand of ring material that almost appears to have been directly ripped out of the A-ring by Daphnis.
The images of this feature were taken in visible light, using Cassini’s narrow-angle camera at a distance of about 28 000 km from Daphnis. Image scale is 168 m/pixel.
The Cassini–Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and ASI, the Italian space agency.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image seems to sink into the screen, plunging the viewer into the dark depths of the early Universe. Massive galaxy clusters — such as the subject of this image, Abell 1300 — help us to better understand the cosmos. They are essentially giant natural telescopes, magnifying the light from any galaxies sitting behind them and helping us peer further back in time.
This bizarre kind of time travel is possible due to a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, whereby the gravitational influence of a massive object such as Abell 1300 acts like a lens, bending the very fabric of space around it and thus causing more distant light to move in a curved path. To the observer, the source of the light — a background object such as a primordial galaxy, for example — appears both distorted and magnified. The lensing power of massive clusters has helped us to discover some of the most distant known galaxies in the Universe. Hubble has observed this phenomenon many times; see a selection of images here.
This image was taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide-Field Camera 3 as part of an observing program called RELICS. The program imaged 41 massive galaxy clusters over the course of 390 Hubble orbits and 100 Spitzer Space Telescope observing hours, aiming to find the brightest distant galaxies. Studying these galaxies in more detail with both current telescopes and the future NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will hopefully tell us more about our cosmic origins.
A Full Moon is a sight to behold on or off planet. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli didn’t miss the chance to photograph this one.
Taken from the International Space Station – its solar panels take up much of the frame – the Moon still manages to draw the eye.
After more than 40 years, the Moon is once again in the spotlight of space agencies worldwide, as a destination for both robotic missions and human explorers.
Why now? Relying on the success of the International Space Station partnership, the space community sees the Moon as a springboard to continue human exploration of the Solar System, with Mars as the next goal.
Moving away from one-shot orbital missions, bold ambitions foresee humans exploring the polar regions hand-in-hand with robots, in international cooperation and commercial participation.
This return to the Moon envisages a series of human missions starting in the early 2020s that would see astronauts interact with robots on the surface from orbit. Robots will land first, paving the way for human explorers.
Lunar rovers, telerobotics and hybrid surface power are some of the innovative approaches that are being developed to support these early missions.
In the meantime, we have stunning images of the Moon to keep us inspired.
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and crewmates enjoyed the latest lettuce harvest for dinner on the International Space Station.
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli marked his 100th day in space for the Vita mission on Sunday 5 November along with fellow Expedition-51/52 crew mates Randy Bresnik of NASA and Sergey Ryazansky of Roscosmos. The trio were launched to the International Space Station on Soyuz MS-05 on 28 July 2017 from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
In 100 days Paolo has conducted numerous experiments and technology demonstrations, had calls with schools and most notably His Holiness Pope Francis, and captured stunning images from space, including the many hurricanes ravaging the Atlantic and the solar eclipse across the US.
Paolo, Randy and Sergey are set to return to Earth on 14 December.
On 7 November 2017, Vega flight VV11 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana to deliver the Earth observation satellite Mohammed VI-A into orbit for the Kingdom of Morocco.
ESA engineers test and debug ground control software and equipment, identifying and solving problems before a current or future mission can be affected.
They work close to real mission conditions to verify new software and hardware in a complete chain.
This runs from the flight controllers who sit at workstations through the complex and sophisticated mission control systems and ground tracking stations used to transmit commands right up to the satellite. And it’s all simulated in a safe, effective and rigorous way, helping to ensure the success of ESA missions.
Week in Images
6-10 November 2017