Typhoon Hagibis is headed towards Japan’s main island of Honshu, where it is expected to make landfall over the weekend. Japan is bracing for potential damage from strong winds and torrential rain.
This enormous typhoon, which is being compared to a Category 5 hurricane, can be seen in this image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission on 10 October at 01:00 GMT (10:00 Japan Standard Time). The eye of the storm has a diameter of approximately 60 km.
From on board the International Space Station, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano joins the European Space Talk held on 8 October 2019 at the HEC Paris Business School. At the event, longside ESA astronauts Thomas Pesquet and Claudie Haigneré, and ESA DG Jan Wörner, students from the ‘next space generation’gave their opinion on future space activities that will be discussed at Space19+, ESA’s next meeting at Ministerial level being held in Seville, Spain, 27-28 November. Luca is currently serving as Commander during his second spaceflight, named the Beyond mission.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over two saline lakes in East Africa: the larger Lake Natron in northern Tanzania and the smaller Lake Magadi, just over the border in Kenya.
Lake Natron is around 60 km long and is fed mainly by the Ewaso Ng'iro River. Despite its dark colour in this image, Lake Natron is often bright red owing to the presence of microorganisms that feed on the salts of the water.
The saline waters make the lake inhospitable for many plants and animals, yet the surrounding salt water marshes are a surprising habitat for flamingos. In fact, the lake is home to the highest concentrations of lesser and greater flamingos in East Africa, where they feed on spirulina – a green algae with red pigments.
The extinct Gelai Volcano, standing at 2942 m tall, is visible southeast of the lake.
The pink-coloured waters of Lake Magadi can also be seen at the top of the image. The lake is over 30 km long and has a notably high salt content, and in some places the salt is up to 40 metres thick. The mineral trona can also be found in the lake’s waters. This mineral is collected and used for glass manufacturing, fabric dyeing and paper production.
Copernicus Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission to supply the coverage and data delivery needed for Europe’s Copernicus programme. The mission’s frequent revisits over the same area and high spatial resolution allow changes in inland water bodies to be closely monitored.
This image, which was captured on 3 February 2019, is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
On Sunday 6 October, thousands flocked to the ESA Open Day at ESTEC, ESA's technical heart in the Netherlands.
Visitors met astronauts and space experts, and got to look behind the scenes of Europe’s space adventure at our largest establishment.
More images from the event on Flickr.
Nobel laureate Michel Mayor during his visit to ESA's European Astronomy Space Centre (ESAC) near Madrid, Spain, where he gave a seminar on the subject 'Exoplanets: past, present and future' on 10 October.
In this photo, Michel Mayor (University of Geneva) is pictured with early career scientists, including ESA trainees, Young Graduate Trainees and Research Fellows, and students from CAB – Centro de Astrobiología (Madrid, Spain).
An emeritus professor at the University of Geneva, Mayor was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics together with Didier Queloz for the first discovery of an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star. The two Swiss astrophysicists shared the prize with James Peebles, honoured for the theoretical framework of cosmology used to investigate the Universe on its largest scales.
Watch a replay of Michel Mayor's seminar here
About the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics
ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano captured this image of the US East Coast from the International Space Station and shared it on his social media channels saying: "A textbook squall line over the Carolinas."
Luca was launched to the International Space Station for his second mission, Beyond, on 20 July 2019. He will spend six months living and working on the orbital outpost where he will support more than 50 European experiments and more than 200 international experiments in space.
A group of students from the Saxion University of Applied Sciences and the University of Twente are taking this concept to the limit by racing a solar-powered car in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. The route will take Solar Team Twente, and more than 50 teams from 30 countries on a challenging journey across Australia. To be successful, their car RED-E, must travel the 3000 km from Darwin to Adelaide using only the energy of the Sun and a bare minimum of maintenance.
This is very similar to the journeys taken by ESA’s space missions, and on this particular occasion Solar Team Twente have benefited from a gift of spare solar panels from ESA’s JUICE mission. Like RED-E, JUICE will take the capabilities of solar power to the limit by traveling to Jupiter, five times farther away from the Sun than Earth.
NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan (left) and Christina Koch (right) are suited up in U.S. spacesuits before beginning a seven hour and one minute spacewalk to upgrade the station's large nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries. In the center, NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Meir and Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA assist the spacewalking duo.
What do planets around other stars look like? Are they rocky, like our own planet Earth, or gassy, like Jupiter and Saturn? Do they have moons? Are they suitable to host life? These are some of the most fascinating questions in modern astrophysics.
Since the first discoveries of planets orbiting stars other than our Sun in the 1990s, scientists have discovered over 4000 exoplanets, revealing a variety of alien worlds much unlike any of the planets in our Solar System. While the study of exoplanets is one of the fastest growing areas in astronomy, there is still much we don’t know about planetary systems beyond our own.
On 6 October, at ESA’s Open Day in the Netherlands, children visiting the agency’s largest establishment with their families had a chance to unleash their fantasy and creativity, sharing with ESA scientists how they imagine some of these planets might look like. The result of this public engagement activity, led by ESA research fellow Alice Zocchi, is the ‘Exoplanet Zoo’ – a collection of more than 200 drawings, a fraction of them shown in this picture.
The artwork portrays a wide variety of stars and planets, some inspired by the looks of Earth, Mars and other Solar System worlds, along with many curious, original views. One day, observations from future facilities on ground and in space could perhaps report that some of these visionary drawings do have an actual counterpart somewhere in the Universe.
To investigate exoplanets, ESA is preparing to launch its first mission dedicated to this subject: Cheops, the CHaracterising ExOplanet Satellite. Due to lift off in mid-December, Cheops will perform detailed observations of bright stars known to host planets, particularly in the Earth-to-Neptune size range, enabling a first step towards characterising the nature of these distant, exotic worlds.
Cheops will also help provide targets for other missions, including the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, which will be used to search for the signatures of water and methane, important elements in our quest for signs of habitability. On a longer timeframe, ESA is planning two more missions dedicated to the study of exoplanets – Plato, the PLAnetary Transits and Oscillations of stars mission, and Ariel, the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey mission – keeping European science at the forefront of exoplanet research.
This 32-metre antenna is undergoing an important transformation. Soon, it will be ready to communicate with spacecraft across deep space.
If you’re planning on flying a robotic or even human mission in the near future to the Moon, an asteroid or even Mars, one indispensable requirement you’ll face is the need for at least one deep-space tracking dish to communicate with your craft.
The Goonhilly 6 antenna is part of the Goonhilly ground station in Cornwall, England, home to over 60 dishes able to track satellites close to home, in highly elliptical orbits as well as planetary and celestial objects further afield.
Built in 1985, the antenna will be upgraded to provide fast data links for missions far beyond Earth, typically exceeding 2 million km.
ESA currently has three deep-space dishes in Australia, Spain and Argentina, providing full sky coverage for tracking and communicating with missions at Mars such as ExoMars and Mars Express as well as BepiColombo - currently on its way to Mercury. Future ESA missions such as Solar Orbiter, Euclid and Cheops will soon be added to this list.
However, by the middle of the next decade, ESA’s deep-space communication needs for its current and upcoming missions is expected to exceed present capacity by around half.
This is why ESA teams are excited by the upgrade of Goonhilly 6, which will enable the UK station to provide Europe’s first commercial deep-space tracking services, compliment ESA’s own ESTRACK stations and provide deep-space tracking for both space agencies and private business.
On the left side of this before and after image is a pile of simulated lunar soil, or regolith; on the right is the same pile after essentially all the oxygen has been extracted from it, leaving a mixture of metal alloys. Both the oxygen and metal could be used in future by settlers on the Moon.
Samples returned from the lunar surface confirm that lunar regolith is made up of 40-45% percent oxygen by weight, its single most abundant element.
“This oxygen is an extremely valuable resource, but it is chemically bound in the material as oxides in the form of minerals or glass, and is therefore unavailable for immediate use,” explains researcher Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow, whose PhD work is being supported through ESA’s Networking and Partnering Initiative, harnessing advanced academic research for space applications.
“This research provides a proof-of-concept that we can extract and utilise all the oxygen from lunar regolith, leaving a potentially useful metallic by-product.
“The processing was performed using a method called molten salt electrolysis. This is the first example of direct powder-to-powder processing of solid lunar regolith simulant that can extract virtually all the oxygen. Alternative methods of lunar oxygen extraction achieve significantly lower yields, or require the regolith to be melted with extreme temperatures of more than 1600°C.”
The process involves placing the powdered regolith in a mesh-lined basket with molten calcium chloride salt serving as an electrolyte, heated to 950°C. At this temperature the regolith remains solid.
Passing a current through it causes the oxygen to be extracted from the regolith and migrate across the salt to be collected at an anode. It took 50 hours in all to extract 96% of the total oxygen, but 75% can be extracted in just the first 15 hours.
Beth adds: “This work is based on the FCC process – from the initials of its Cambridge-based inventors – which has been scaled up by a UK company called Metalysis for commercial metal and alloy production.”
“We are working with Metalysis and ESA to translate this industrial process to the lunar context, and the results so far are very promising,” notes Mark Symes, Beth’s PhD supervisor at the University of Glasgow.
James Carpenter, ESA’s lunar strategy officer comments: “This process would give lunar settlers access to oxygen for fuel and life support, as well as a wide range of metal alloys for in-situ manufacturing – the exact feedstock available would depend on where on the Moon they land.”
“It could also be used to extract useful materials on Mars as well, where pre-processing the feedstock would give pure metals and alloy products,” adds ESA materials engineer Advenit Makaya.
This published research can be found here.
This week is Space Resources week, including a two-day workshop on space resource utilisation, hosted jointly by ESA and the Luxembourg Space Agency, with researchers from across Europe discussing the future use of lunar, martian and asteroid resources.
This image from ESA’s Mars Express shows a dried-up river valley on Mars named Nirgal Vallis. This oblique perspective view was generated using a digital terrain model and Mars Express data gathered on 16 November 2018 during Mars Express orbit 18818. The ground resolution is approximately 14 m/pixel and the images are centred at about 315°E/27°S. This image was created using data from the nadir and colour channels of the High Resolution Stereo Camera. The nadir channel is aligned perpendicular to the surface of Mars, as if looking straight down at the surface.
Visitors to ESA’s Open Day in the Netherlands could relieve themselves and quench their thirst in one go, thanks to technology developed for space.
The Semilla Sanitation Hubs’ unit provided toilet and washing facilities that recover and treat wastewater for continuous use. To demonstrate the reliability of the closed-loop system, the visitors could enjoy some tea and associated explanation about the Closed Water Loop.
The unit is based on regenerative life support technologies for astronauts in space developed by ESA’s Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative or Melissa project.
An additional food production unit feeds recovered nutrients for crop cultivation.
Used water, termed ‘grey’ (washing up and showers), ‘yellow’ (urine) or ‘black’ (excrement) depending on its origin, is processed into hygienic water through a cascade of technologies (e.g. filtration). For example, the grey water is forced through a ceramic honeycomb peppered with holes 700 times finer than a strand of human hair, followed by filtering through a pair of membranes.
Diluted water molecules are further filtered out through the process of reverse osmosis, in which fluid is drawn through a membrane that only allows particles of a certain size to pass.
Once the water has passed through the various types of filtration, the procedure ends with UV irradiation to kill the last bacteria and impurities. The water should now be ready for reuse.
Closed-loop systems such as this are vital to long duration space missions. Without recycling a permanent habitation on the Moon or a mission to Mars would be impossible, but it is also much needed on Earth for sustainable growth.
Semilla’s hubs are an example of a space spinoff that is helping to achieve the United Nation’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal of clean drinking water and hygienic sanitation for all.
The commercially available units can be easily installed, making them adaptable for use in first aid and development sites as well as permanent homes.
Reusing water while reducing usage and cost and recovering nutrients is sure to leave a good aftertaste.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope sees galaxies of all shapes, sizes, brightnesses, and orientations in the cosmos. Sometimes, the telescope gazes at a galaxy oriented sideways — as shown here. The spiral galaxy featured in this Picture of the Week is called NGC 3717, and it is located about 60 million light-years away in the constellation of Hydra (The Sea Serpent).
Seeing a spiral almost in profile, as Hubble has here, can provide a vivid sense of its three-dimensional shape. Through most of their expanse, spiral galaxies are shaped like a thin pancake. At their cores, though, they have bright, spherical, star-filled bulges that extend above and below this disc, giving these galaxies a shape somewhat like that of a flying saucer when they are seen edgeon.
NGC 3717 is not captured perfectly edge-on in this image; the nearer part of the galaxy is tilted ever so slightly down, and the far side tilted up. This angle affords a view across the disc and the central bulge (of which only one side is visible).
Week in images
07 - 11 October 2019