Everyone is used to living with smarter devices. But imagine living in a smart city where everything from public transport to city lamps are efficient and sustainable. This seemingly simple image of northern Italy from Earth orbit is one of the ways space is paving the way for cities to get smarter.
Doorbells, refrigerators and toothbrushes are everyday devices that are now controllable, customisable and designed to make your life run more efficiently by collecting and relaying data using telecommunications satellites.
Other space technology is helping to collect valuable data that can result in larger scale changes for cities.
Take one of humankind’s greatest achievement in space so far, the International Space Station.
Astronauts routinely snap photos of Earth from the orbital outpost, and not just for the likes and retweets. Photographs like this one of northern Italy, taken by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano during his 2013 mission, provide vital data about city efficiency and sustainability.
Researchers have devised a method to assess the environmental impact of artificial light on humans, animals, and the surrounding environment using one of the few sources of publicly-accessible night images of Earth in colour: pictures taken by the astronauts from the International Space Station.
City lights are disruptive not only for the lives of nocturnal animals, who suffer from disorientation and behavioural and physiological changes, but also for people. An excess of artificial light before bedtime reduces melatonin production, a hormone linked to sleep. This suppression can lead to negative effects on our health, including breast and prostate cancer.
In addition, streetlights account for a large chunk of a country’s energy consumption. As the world grapples with climate change and cleaner sources of energy, how that energy is put to use is a bright topic.
Cities at Night is an online platform that invites citizens to flip through the half a million photographs of Earth at night taken so far by astronauts from the Space Station to identify cities. The end result of Cities at Night will be map of Earth that is accessible to anyone.
Researchers want to use the map to locate energy inefficiencies in urban cities to urge dimming of the lights. A case in point is the city of Milan. The city replaced their orange sodium lamps with white LEDs. Comparisons of Milan from night as seen from space before and after the change has shown that the white light is worse for the local environment.
The data retrieved from these images is vital to drawing risk maps for artificial lighting that can help guide city officials in these types of decisions. And that’s just smart.
More than half the world’s population live in cities. Space plays an important role in urban innovation, improving the quality of life of millions – and potentially billions – of people. This week, we take a look at what ESA is doing to benefit city dwellers. Join the conversation online by following the hashtag #SmartCities.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over the island of Bali, one of the 34 provinces of Indonesia.
Indonesia has more volcanoes than any other country in the world, owing to its position on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The islands of Java, Lombok, Sumbawa and Bali lie over a subduction zone where the Indo-Australian plate slides under the Eurasian plate, creating frequent seismic activity.
Dotted with clouds, Mount Seraya is visible on the peninsula that juts to the east. Its volcanic rock creates a rugged terrain, but is surrounded by lush vegetation. The area is well known for its many Hindu temples, including the famous Lempuyang Temple, known locally as Pura Luhur Lempuyang.
The central volcano, which is a predominant feature in this image, is called Mount Agung or Gunung Agung, meaning ‘Great Mountain’. The symmetrical and conical stratovolcano is the highest in Bali, standing at over 3000 m. When it erupted in 1964, it was one of the largest eruptions of the 20th century, claiming over 1000 lives and leaving more than 80 000 people homeless.
After being dormant over the following 50 years, Agung reawakened in November 2017. Fortunately, small earthquakes warned authorities in time for 100 000 people to be evacuated to safety. Agung still remains very active, with frequent small eruptions spewing ash and lava, causing flights to be cancelled.
In this image, a bright orange spot can be seen in the volcano’s crater. Recent research provides evidence that Agung and its neighbouring Batur volcano, visible northwest of Agung, may have a connected magma plumbing system.
Mount Batur, or Gunung Batur, has an unusual shape, with the volcanic cone visible in the centre of two concentric calderas.
Copernicus Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission. Each satellite carries a high-resolution camera that images Earth’s surface in 13 spectral bands. The mission is mostly used to track changes in the way land is being used and to monitor the health of our vegetation.
This image, which was captured on 2 July 2018, is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
On Friday 7 June, ESA began a three-day starring role at the World Club Dome electronic dance music festival. Billed as the Space Edition, this event is the latest stage of an eighteen-month partnership with BigCityBeats, the company behind the show. This year’s festival featured Armin van Buuren, Jason Derulo, Steve Aoki and David Guetta amongst its star performers – as well as a 28-metre high model of Ariane 5, which dominated the main stage. World Club Dome Space Edition was inaugurated with a spectacular light and music show for the crowd of 55 000 music fans.
The iconic appearance of a spiral galaxy is exemplified here in the form of the stunning NGC 2903, imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. It shows off whirling, pinwheeling arms with scatterings of sparkling stars, glowing bursts of gas, and dark, weaving lanes of cosmic dust.
NGC 2903 is located about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion), and was studied as part of a Hubble survey of the central regions of roughly 145 nearby disc galaxies. This study aimed to help astronomers better understand the relationship between the black holes that lurk at the cores of galaxies like these, and the rugby-ball-shaped bulge of stars, gas, and dust at the galaxy’s centre — such as that seen in this image.
This image was first published on 29 April 2019.
Chilean capital Santiago – among the largest conurbations in South America – viewed in false colour from ESA’s Proba-V minisatellite, with vegetation in red.
This December, Santiago will help set humankind’s future hosting the latest United Nations Climate Change Conference, the 25th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 25).
Sitting in a valley between the Chilean Coastal Range and the Andes Mountains, Santiago experienced explosive growth over the course of the last century. Today it is the fifth-largest city in South America, with a population of more than five million, and seven million people living within its overall metropolitan area.
In such a densely populated area, open space becomes all the more valuable. Note the hilly Santiago Metropolitan Park, seen as a dark mark running northeast of the centre. The double red patch just below and left of the city centre is the rectangular O'Higgins Park, right, with the Club Hípico de Santiago racecourse to its left.
Santiago Airport, the largest in Chile, is visible to the northwest of the city centre.
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 a 300 m pixel size, down to 100 m 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 spatial resolution image was acquired on 5 April 2017.
More than half the world’s population live in cities. Space plays an important role in urban innovation, improving the quality of life of millions – and potentially billions – of people. This week, we take a look at what ESA is doing to benefit city dwellers. Join the conversation online by following the hashtag #SmartCities
ESA Director General Jan Wörner and Hiroshi Yamakawa, president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), signed an agreement on 14 June 2019 to cooperate on Xrism – the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission. Xrism will study the hot gas plasma wind that blows through galaxies in the universe. These observations will enable scientists to determine flows of mass and energy, revealing the composition and evolution of celestial objects.
What do you get if you cross a space agency with a city? A space-inspired, intelligent, digital city!
On 13 June, ESA’s ESOC Operations Centre and its host city, Darmstadt, the 'City of Science', signed a letter of intent, putting on paper their plans to enhance and develop the digital competence of the city.
With a population of about 157 000, Darmstadt is home to many major scientific and technical institutions as well as important architectural landmarks – the photo here shows its Russian orthodox chapel built between 1897-1899.
In 2017, Darmstadt was dubbed a “Digital City” after winning the Bitkom Digital City Competition, due to the implementation of technologies such as smart traffic management, intelligent street lights and waste bins, digital assistance in emergencies and operations on cancer patients assisted by augmented reality.
Now, ESA is bringing its decades of expertise in mission operations to the streets of Darmstadt, including satellite control, satellite data, data analysis and applications of virtual and augmented reality.
The city and the space agency have agreed to cooperate to enhance information exchange, and to identify and implement projects that advance the digitisation of Darmstadt.
After initial discussions, the two have identified the following as concrete areas that are relevant for further elaboration:
— Artificial Intelligence developed in the area of satellite control by ESA’s mission control, and provision of the corresponding spin-off infrastructure, which could be used in the areas of smart traffic, smart waste, security and support for people in need.
— An environmental sensor network taking ground-based measurements, along with data analysis, to be correlated with satellite data.
— Applications of virtual and augmented reality technologies, for example a digital museum and interactive model of the city to support tourism.
There is also the potential for cooperation in the area of 5G, as Darmstadt is currently just one of three cities in Germany, along with Berlin and Hamburg, testing the first 5G technology. As the next-generation mobile network, 5G has the potential to enormously change the way people relate to the technology around them, and satellites play a key role in this.
Over the next six months, a series of workshops with experts from ESOC and Darmstadt will culminate in a report proposing projects for further collaboration – an exciting step towards showing how space technology can improve and enhance or day-to-day lives.
More than half the world’s population lives in cities. Space plays an important role in urban innovation, improving the quality of life of millions – and potentially billions – of people. This week, we take a look at what ESA is doing to benefit city dwellers. Join the conversation online by following the hashtag #SmartCities.
Nestled within this field of bright foreground stars lies ESO 495-21, a tiny galaxy with a big heart. ESO 495-21 may be just 3000 light-years across, but that is not stopping the galaxy from furiously forming huge numbers of stars. It may also host a supermassive black hole; this is unusual for a galaxy of its size, and may provide intriguing hints as to how galaxies form and evolve.
When massive stars die at the end of their short lives, they light up the cosmos with bright, explosive bursts of light and material known as supernovae. A supernova event is incredibly energetic and intensely luminous — so much so that it forms what looks like an especially bright new star that slowly fades away over time.
These exploding stars glow so incredibly brightly when they first form that they can be spotted from afar using telescopes such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The subject of this image, a spiral galaxy named NGC 4051 — about 45 million light-years from Earth — has hosted multiple supernovae in past years. The first was spotted in 1983 (SN 1983I), the second in 2003 (SN 2003ie), and the most recent in 2010 (SN 2010br). These explosive events were seen scattered throughout the centre and spiral arms of NGC 4051.
The SN 1983I and SN 2010br were both categorised as supernovae of type Ic. This type of supernova is produced by the core collapse of a massive star that has lost its outer layer of hydrogen and helium, either via winds or by mass transfer to a companion. Because of this, type Ic — and also type Ib — supernovae are sometimes referred to as stripped core-collapse supernovae.
This galaxy’s beautiful spiral structure can be seen well in this image, along with other intriguing objects (including an emission-line galaxy known as SDSS J120312.35+443045.1, visible as the bright smudge to the lower middle of the image, beneath the sweeping arm of NGC 4051).NGC 4501 sits in the southern part of a cluster of galaxies known as the Ursa Major I Cluster; this cluster is especially rich in spirals such as NGC 4051, and is a subset of the larger Virgo Supercluster, which also houses the Milky Way.
Week in images
10 - 14 June 2019