A nearly cloud-free view of Europe, part of a global mosaic of Proba-V images acquired on 9 March.
Our green continent is depicted at a resolution of 333 m, with snow capping the peaks of the Pyrenees and Alps bordering Italy.
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.
The camera’s continent-spanning 2250 km field of view collects light in the blue, red, near-infrared and mid-infrared wavebands, ideal for monitoring plant and forest growth as well as inland water bodies.
Proba-V images are processed and distributed to hundreds of scientific end users by VITO, Belgium's Flemish Institute for Technological Research, extending the dataset of previous generations of the Vegetation instrument flown on the Spot-4 and Spot-5 satellites.
On 20 January, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft emerged from a 31-month hibernation on the final leg of its 10-year journey to comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Just like the spacecraft, the mission’s target is also now emerging from hibernation.
For the last few months, the comet has been behind the Sun from our vantage point on Earth. But in late February, the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile resumed observations – its last look was on 5 October 2013.
The image presented here was taken on the night of the 27 February (09:30 GMT on 28 February). The image on the left was created by stacking individual exposures to show the background stars. These were then shifted to compensate for the motion of the comet, which appears as a small dot right on top of one of the stars (at the centre of the circle). The image on the right shows the comet when the star trails have been subtracted.
The observatory is collaborating with ESA to monitor the four kilometre-wide comet from the ground to help refine Rosetta’s navigation and to make assessments of the comet’s activity prior to the spacecraft’s arrival in August.
The comet is about 50% brighter than when it was last observed. Although it is also now nearer to Earth, it has brightened faster than expected for an inactive comet of this size, suggesting that its icy nucleus has started to evaporate as it moves gradually closer to the Sun.
The comet travels around the Sun between the orbits of Jupiter and Earth; its closest approach to the Sun, in August 2015, is at a distance of 185 million kilometres.
Rosetta will be the first mission to make continuous measurements at close-quarters of how a comet’s activity changes as it journeys around the Sun.
Astronauts on the International Space Station often spend free time gazing at Earth. The outpost orbits our planet at around 400 km altitude, offering unique views. The European-built Cupola module has a 360º bay window to monitor approaching spacecraft but it also provides breathtaking vistas.
This image was taken on 4 March 2014 and shows a cloud-free view of the Rhine river winding towards Cologne on the left. The astronaut who took this picture might have recognised ESA’s European Astronaut Centre situated at the DLR German Aerospace Center site below Cologne-Bonn Airport. All Station astronauts train there on European experiments and systems before they leave Earth on their mission.
This satellite image shows an area of the Himalaya mountain range in northeastern Nepal, about 8 km south of Mount Everest (not pictured).
The Himalayas are the world’s highest mountain range and home to the world’s highest peak, Mt Everest (about 8850 m), as well as dozens of other peaks over 7000 m high. These high peaks are covered permanently with snow.
The range is also home to thousands of glaciers, including the Imja glacier in the upper-central part of this image. Studies have shown an increase in the rate of glacial retreat for Imja and many other glaciers in the region – and in the world.
Glaciers are the largest reservoirs of freshwater on our planet, and their melting or growing is one of the best indicators of climate change. Satellite radar data can help monitor changes in glacier mass and, subsequently, their contribution to rising sea levels.
Glacial runoff from the Himalayas has a direct effect on the nearby rivers such as the Indus and Ganges, and is very important for lower-lying regions where there is a very large human population.
At the foot of the Imja glacier is the Imja lake, pictured in the upper-left. Melt-water makes this one of the fastest growing lakes in the Himalayas, and a threat to downstream communities.
This image, also featured in the Earth from Space video programme, was acquired by the Kompsat-2 satellite on 14 January 2013.
Expedition 38 Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, left, Commander Oleg Kotov of Roscosmos, center, and, Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins of NASA, sit in chairs outside the Soyuz TMA-10M capsule shortly after they landed in a remote area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. Hopkins, Kotov and Ryazanskiy returned to Earth after five and a half months on the International Space Station.
They say the flap of a butterfly's wings can set off a tornado on the other side of the world. But what happens when a butterfly flaps its wings in the depths of space?
This cosmic butterfly is a nebula known as AFGL 4104, or Roberts 22. Caused by a star that is nearing the end of its life and has shrugged off its outer layers, the nebula emerges as a cosmic chrysalis to produce this striking sight. Studies of the lobes of Roberts 22 have shown an amazingly complex structure, with countless intersecting loops and filaments.
A butterfly's life span is counted in weeks; although on a much longer timescale, this stage of life for Roberts 22 is also transient. It is currently a preplanetary nebula, a short-lived phase that begins once a dying star has pushed much of the material in its outer layers into space, and ends once this stellar remnant becomes hot enough to ionise the surrounding gas clouds and make them glow. About 400 years ago, the star at the centre of Roberts 22 shed its outer shells, which raced outwards to form this butterfly. The central star will soon be hot enough to ionise the surrounding gas, and it will evolve into a fully fledged planetary nebula.
Information about the nature, age, and structure of Roberts 22 was presented in a paper using Hubble data back in 1999, published in The Astronomical Journal.
The Sentinel-1A satellite is prepared for launch at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Sentinel-1, carries an advanced radar instrument to provide an all-weather, day-and-night supply of imagery of Earth’s surface. Sentinel-1A is scheduled for launch on 3 April 2014.
More about Sentinel-1: http://www.esa.int/Sentinel-1
Follow the Sentinel-1 launch campaign: http://blogs.esa.int/eolaunches/
Update: Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia was identified by ESA's followers as the city in this image.
Flying above our planet 400 km high at speeds of 28 800 km/h it is not always easy for astronauts on the International Space Station to know what city they are looking at – or even what country. Arbitrary national borders are not visible from space.
Do you recognise this city? Let us know in the comments for a small prize once the place is confirmed.
The image was taken on 11 February 2012 by an astronaut on Expedition 30. The Space Station image tag is ISS030-E-85887.
Week in Images
10-14 March 2014