This is one of the first images from Sentinel-3A’s Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR). Acquired with the instrument’s visible channels on 3 March 2016 at 11:23 GMT, this false-colour image features the Spanish Canary Islands, the Portuguese island of Madeira and the northwest coast of Africa. The vegetated islands appear red in contrast to Western Sahara, which has little vegetation. The snow-capped peak of Mount Teide on the island of Tenerife is clearly visible. Both SLSTR and Sentinel-3’s Ocean and Land Colour Instrument, OLCI, will be used to monitor plant health. As the SLSTR scans Earth’s surface, it senses visible light and infrared light (heat) in a number of different spectral channels. The thermal infrared channels will soon be working when the instrument has finished outgassing water vapour. This is necessary because the infrared channels must be cooled to operate properly. The SLSTR will measure global sea- and land-surface temperatures every day to an accuracy of better than 0.3ºC.
The third largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus is about 240 km long and 100 km wide. It is located on the Anatolian plate and therefore belongs geologically to Asia, but politically it is a member of the EU.
The Troodos mountains dominate the centre of the island and include Mount Olympus, the country’s highest mountain at 1952 m.
Along the northern coast, the smaller Kyrenia Range rises suddenly from the plains.
The capital and largest city, Nicosia, sits between the two mountain ranges. Since 1974 the island has been split between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot populations, with the line of separation running through the city.
East of Nicosia lies the Mesaoria plain, which is the agricultural heartland of the island – but depends greatly on winter rainfall and irrigation, limiting its production. High summer temperatures further exacerbate the situation. Thousands of years ago the area was covered by thick forest, but most of this was cut down to provide wood for the Ptolemaic dynasty’s navy in the 1st century BC. Today, much of the plain is covered by hard-packed calcium carbonate.
At the southernmost area of Cyprus we can see the Limassol Salt Lake, the largest inland body of water on the island. Covering over 10 sq km, the lake is an important stopover for birds migrating between Africa and Europe, with greater flamingos spending the winter months there.
Further up the coast to the east is the seasonal Larnaca Salt Lake, which also sees flamingos.
This image – also featured on the Earth from Space video programme – comprises two scans from the Sentinel-2A satellite on the same day: 22 December 2015.
A false-colour image of the Atlantic island of Tenerife, as seen by ESA’s Proba-V minisatellite.
The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife next week hosts the annual Conference on Big Data from Space.
Taking place on 15–17 March, the conference will focus on the massive amounts of data made available to researchers from Earth observation systems – Proba-V itself, for example, images the whole of Earth’s land surface every two days – along with data management and information extraction breakthroughs.
Acquired on 2 May last year, this 100 m-resolution image shows how Tenerife is dominated by its El Teide volcano, the highest mountain on Spanish territory.
Built-up areas are visible around the coastline. For instance, the capital city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife to the southeast, the harbour city of Puerto de la Cruz to the north and Tenerife South airport at the southern tip. Along the southeast coastline can be seen the dark spot of the Badlands of Guimar, consisting of a volcanic cone and several lava flows.
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.
Some of the team at Baikonur who are preparing the ExoMars 2016 spacecraft for launch, pictured in front of the Proton rocket.
The Trace Gas Orbiter and the entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, called Schiaparelli, are inside the fairing (with the ExoMars logo).
The image was taken 5 March at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan.
The Proton rocket, that will launch the ExoMars 2016 spacecraft to Mars, is transfered to the pad of the launch complex at the Baikonour spaceport, Kazakhstan, on 11 March 2016.
Launch is scheduled for 09:31 GMT on 14 March 2016.
This is a final act of celestial beauty before the long fade into cosmic history. Invisibly buried in the centre of this colourful swirl of gas is a dying star, roughly the same mass as the Sun.
As a star ages, the nuclear reactions that keep it shining begin to falter. This uncertain energy generation causes the stars to pulsate in an irregular way, casting off its outer layers into space.
As the star sheds these outer gases, the super-hot core is revealed. It gives off huge quantities of ultraviolet light, and this radiation causes the gas shells to glow, creating the fragile beauty of the nebula.
This example is known as Kohoutek 4-55. Named after its discoverer, the Czech astronomer Luboš Kohoutec, it is located 4600 light years from Earth, in the direction of the constellation Cygnus.
This image was the final ‘pretty picture’ taken by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2). The camera was installed in 1993 and worked until 2009, offering a 16-year stretch of unparalleled observations.
WFPC2 took many of Hubble’s iconic images. They helped to make the space telescope a household name across the world.
This particular shot is a composite of three images, each taken at a specific wavelength to isolate the light coming from particular atoms of gas. The different wavelengths have been colour-coded to aid recognition.
Red signifies nitrogen gas, green shows hydrogen and blue represents oxygen. The whole sequence was captured in 2 hours on 4 May 2009.
The intricate swirls of gas offer us a glimpse of our Sun’s distant future. In 5 billion years’ time, our star will be dying. It is expected to behave in the same way as see here, shedding its outer layers to reveal the burning core, which then becomes a slowly cooling ember known as a white dwarf.
By that time, Earth will be long gone, burnt to a crisp as the Sun dies. But the beauty of our star’s passing will shine across the Universe.
This image was first published on the Hubble Space Telescope website on 10 May 2009.
ESA astronaut Tim Peake took this image circling Earth 400 km up in the International Space Station. He commented: “Sometimes looking down on Earth at night can be kinda spooky.”
The image shows lightning strikes illuminating clouds over Western Australia during a thunderstorm. The Space Station travels at 28 800 km/h so it takes only 90 minutes to complete an orbit of Earth. Astronauts often spot thunderstorms and are impressed by how much lightning they observe.
Although this picture was taken in Tim’s free time, the Station is used for research into elusive phenomena in the upper atmosphere during thunderstorms – red sprites, blue jets and elves. Some of the most violent electric discharges are very difficult to capture from the ground because of the atmosphere’s blocking effect. From space, astronauts can judge for themselves where to aim the camera, where to zoom in and follow interesting regions for researchers.
On 8-9 March 2016, a solar eclipse took place over the Pacific Ocean. This eclipse was total – meaning that the entire solar disk was covered by the Moon – over Indonesia and the central Pacific, starting at sunrise over Sumatra and ending at sunset north of the Hawaiian Islands. Additionally, large parts of South-East Asia, Alaska and Australia witnessed a partial solar eclipse. The path of totality had a maximum width of 155 km and the maximum duration was 4 minutes and 9 seconds at the point of greatest eclipse, over the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Nothing could be seen over Europe, but ESA's Sun-watching Proba-2 was on hand to observe the partial eclipse.
OSIRIS narrow-angle camera image taken on 5 March 2016, when Rosetta was 20.4 km from Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The scale is 0.36 m/pixel.
More details via the OSIRIS Image of the Day website.
Ariane 5 flight VA229 lifted off yesterday morning at 05:20 GMT (02:20 local time, 06:20 CET) from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, to deliver a telecom satellite into geostationary orbit.
Just 40 minutes later, in its first operational usage, ESA’s new 4.5 m-diameter antenna located in Western Australia swung into action, acquiring signals from the launcher arcing high overhead, delivering Eutelsat-65 West A into its planned transfer orbit.
The antenna, installed in 2015 and inaugurated last month, maintained a link until the rocket flew out of visibility at a range of about 22 000 km some 80 minutes later.
The small antenna was used to ‘slave’ point ESA’s much larger 35 m-diameter antenna, both at the New Norcia ground station, which could also then acquire telemetry from Ariane.
Yesterday’s tracking support was the first operational usage of the antenna and demonstrated its full capabilities in a crucial, realtime assignment.
“The antenna had previously ‘shadow’ tracked LISA Pathfinder in December 2015, but that was only to test its new systems, while another ground station was simultaneously available to take over if any problems had arisen,” says ground station engineer Peter Droll.
“This time, there was no back-up, so everything had to work perfectly, and it did.”
The new antenna will be used for tracking rockets and communicating with newly launched satellites, taking advantage of the ideal location under the flight paths of launchers departing from Kourou.
Its advanced technology allows it to quickly and precisely lock onto and track satellites during their critical first orbits, up to roughly 100 000 km out, as well as Europe’s Ariane 5, Vega and Soyuz rockets.
Video via Flickr
Sentinel-1B arrived in French Guiana on 8 March 2016. Over the next weeks the satellite will be prepared for liftoff on a Soyuz rocket. Sentinel-1B will join its identical twin, Sentinel-1A, in orbit around Earth to offer ‘radar vision’ for Europe’s environmental Copernicus initiative. As a constellation of two satellites orbiting 180° apart, revisit times and global coverage are optimised. The mission is used to monitor many aspects of our environment, from detecting and tracking oil spills and mapping sea ice to monitoring movement in land surfaces and mapping changes in the way land is used. It will also play a crucial role in providing timely information to help respond to natural disasters and assist humanitarian relief efforts.
Week In Images
7-11 March 2016