Large and small, hundreds of thousands of craters scar the surface of Mars, hollowed out by a multitude of asteroids and comets that impacted the Red Planet throughout its history.
This image shows a region of the planet’s northern hemisphere known as Hephaestus Fossae – after the Greek god of fire – that was imaged by the high-resolution stereo camera on ESA’s Mars Express orbiter on 28 December 2007. The image has been coloured to indicate the elevation of the terrain: green and yellow shades represent shallow ground, while blue and purple stand for deep depressions, down to about 4 km.
Scattered across the scene are a few dozen impact craters that cover a wide range of sizes, with the largest boasting a diameter of around 20 km.
The long and intricate canyon-like features that resemble riverbeds are the phenomenal aftermath of the same fierce impacts that created the largest craters.
When a small body such as a comet or an asteroid crashes at high speed into another object in the Solar System, the collision dramatically heats up the surface at the impact site.
In the case of the large crater seen in this image, the heat produced by such a powerful smash melted the soil – a mixture of rock, dust and also, hidden deep down, water ice – resulting in a massive overflow that flooded the surrounding environment. Before drying up, this muddy fluid carved a complex pattern of channels while making its way across the planet’s surface.
The melted rock–ice mixture also gave rise to the fluidised appearance of the debris blankets surrounding the largest crater.
Based on the lack of similar structures near the small craters in this image, scientists believe that only the most powerful impacts – those responsible for forging the largest craters – were able to dig deep enough to release part of the frozen reservoir of water lying beneath the surface.
Spaceflight is all about teamwork. From the five space agencies that build and maintain the International Space Station to the mission control centres on Earth and the European, Japanese, American and Russian astronauts who fly to the space laboratory, international cooperation and knowhow is critical for a successful mission.
Here, ESA astronauts Alexander Gerst and Samantha Cristoforetti pose with their suited Russian colleagues Anton Shkaplerov and Maksim Surayev.
All four will leave Earth for the International Space Station this year. Alexander and Maxim are first up, on 28 May, while Samantha and Anton have their departure planned for 24 November. They will stay on the orbital outpost for around six months.
The ESA astronauts will support their Russian colleagues as ‘third operators’ if the cosmonauts venture outside the Space Station in their Orlan spacesuits. Here they are preparing to train with the airlocks that separate astronauts in the Space Station from the harsh vacuum of outer space. Third operators help the spacewalkers put on and remove their spacesuits.
Alexander and Samantha are obvious choices to help the cosmonauts because they have both trained with the Orlan suit themselves. All Station astronauts must speak Russian and English.
Alexander’s Expedition 41 mission patch is visible below the European Astronaut Corps patch on his flight suit.
Read about the training on Samantha’s own blog on Google+.
ESA’s network of Business Incubation Centres provide European start-up companies with the technical support and business guidance needed to make them soar – sometimes literally.
Taken at ESA’s Noordwijk incubator in the Netherlands, this photo shows Noé Galea of Avionics Control Systems BV in the process of calibrating a quadcopter autopilot.
This young company applies experience gathered in space domains to develop robust autonomous flying systems able to handle the most adverse conditions.
The company’s first products will be autopilots capable of flying a wide range of unmanned aircraft, from sub-2 kg quadcopters up to medium- or high-altitude long-endurance fixed-wing craft.
More about Avionics Control Systems BV here.
More about ESA's Business Incubation Centres here.
This satellite image shows the heart-shaped Miscanti lake and smaller Miñiques lake in northern Chile.
The lakewater is brackish – meaning that it’s saltier than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. This is due to the salinity in the soil. Chile’s largest salt flat – the Salar de Atacama – lies to the west (not pictured).
Two partially snow-covered volcanoes can be seen above and below the lakes on the right, while plains stretch out to the west in a nearly vegetation-free environment.
The area pictured is part of the Atacama Desert, which runs along part of South America’s central west coast. It is considered one of the driest places on Earth, as moisture from the Amazon Basin is blocked by the Andes to the east, as well as from the Pacific Ocean by the Chilean Coastal Range to the west. Pacific Ocean currents and wind circulation also play a major role in the desert climate.
Because of the Atacama plateau’s high altitude, low cloud cover and lack of light pollution, it is one of the best places in the world to conduct astronomical observations and home to two major observatories.
Some areas of the desert have been compared to the planet Mars, and have been used as a location for filming scenes set on the red planet. Just last year, ESA tested a self-steering rover in the Atacama, which was selected for its similarities to martian conditions.
The Japanese Advanced Land Observation Satellite, or ALOS, captured this image on 30 May 2010.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
This night-time image of the Nile River running into the delta that ends in the Mediterranean Sea clearly shows Egypt’s capital city, Cairo, and its satellite cities. The image taken by an astronaut on the International Space Station shows how humans have colonised our planet over the ages.
To the left is 6th of October City that was established in 1979. The modern city reveals itself by the squarer lines compared to the more organic Cairo that evolved over thousands of years of human settlement. The regular block of light above and to the right of 6th of October City is Sheikh Zayed City, established in 1995.
To the right of Cairo are even newer settlements, the aptly named New Cairo City houses many universities and lies in the desert further away from the resource-rich Nile river. These satellite cities attract people away from the densely populated Cairo.
To the North (top-right in this picture) lie the agricultural fields that rely on water from the Nile River. Interspersed at crossroads are smaller cities and villages that give off the distinctive yellow glow of human settlements at night.
Monnaie de Paris, France’s national mint, is issuing a set of collectors’ coins in gold and silver to celebrate Europe’s exploits in space. The collection, dubbed '50 Years of European Space Cooperation', forms part of the Europa series, which has featured every year since 2002 on the reverse side of these coins individuals or events having contributed to European cooperation and construction. The themes for these collections struck by Monnaie de Paris are all approved by the French Ministry of Finance.
Sulphur dioxide concentration over the Indonesian island of Java in the early morning of 14 February 2014 following the eruption of the Kelut volcano. This image is based on data from the IASI instrument on the MetOp mission.
Week in Images
10-14 February 2014