The Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite takes us over the Ötztal Alps in the western Austrian state of Tyrol in this image from 16 October 2016.
The shadows across the image may play tricks on the eye, making the valleys – the green areas – look like they stand higher than the light blue mountains. Sometimes rotating the image so the shadows fall in a different direction can ‘fix’ this optical illusion.
Snow appears in shades of blue in this unusual false-colour image using light in the near- and shortwave infrared part of the spectrum. This colouring makes it easier to distinguish between snow and vegetation. It also allows us to differentiate between clouds and snow, which is difficult in other parts of the spectrum as they are usually both white. But there are no clouds visible in this image to demonstrate the effect.
In the upper left we can see part of the Inn River, flowing east from the Swiss Alps and through Austria and Germany before entering the Danube (not pictured). The land in the Inn river valley and other river valleys appear green with patches of agriculture.
The highest peak in the Ötztal range is Wildspitze, standing over 3770 m. The mountain is visible in the lower-left corner, east of the elongated lake, Gepatschspeicher.
The well-preserved natural mummy of a man from about 5300 years ago was found just 12 km south of Wildspitze (not pictured). The body was discovered by two tourists in 1991, and named ‘Ötzi’ after the Ötztal Alps.
While the discovery of the mummy allowed for new insights into the Chalcolithic period, it also revealed new information on changes in climate over the past millennia. Together with other evidence, the burial of the corpse by snow and ice indicates a rapid climactic cooling soon after his death, preserving the body for over 5000 years before glacial melt from rising temperatures exposed the mummy.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Valentine’s Day 2015 and ESA’s Rosetta swooped in towards Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko for a daring close encounter. At just 6 km from the surface, it was the closest the spacecraft had ever been to the comet at that point in the mission.
The 14 February flyby was not only special because of its proximity, Rosetta also passed through a unique observational geometry: for a short time the Sun, craft and comet were exactly aligned. In this position, surface structures cast almost no shadows, allowing the reflection properties of the surface material to be determined.
As a side effect, Rosetta’s shadow could also be seen, cast on the surface of the comet as a fuzzy rectangular dark smudge somewhat larger than Rosetta itself, in this case measuring some 20 x 50 m. The full image measures about 228 m across.
This particular image is the last in a sequence of 12 that captured the spacecraft’s shadow as it tracked over the surface in the Imhotep region on the larger of the comet’s two lobes.
The image was taken by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera and the image resolution is just 11 cm/pixel.
Rosetta subsequently made closer flybys, notably in the final phase of its incredible mission as it drew ever closer to the comet before finally coming to rest on the surface in September 2016.
The image is one of thousands freely available in ESA’s Archive Image Browser.
This image of the International Space Station passing in front of the Moon on 4 February 2017 was taken from Rouen, France, the birth town of ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
Though Thomas considers Dieppe, France to be his home town, he was born in Rouen and completed his secondary education there. Thomas is spending six months on the Station conducting science experiments as part of the Proxima mission.
Astrophotographer Thierry Legault was unaware of Thomas’ connection to Rouen at the time. He first followed the Station’s transit from Lyon but was unable to capture the sequence owing to cloudy skies. Two days later, the transit line passed close to Rouen where, despite frequent cloudiness, Thierry was successful. He shot this 0.4 second transit during daylight.
On 14 February 2017, Ariane 5 flight VA235 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana and delivered two telecom satellites, Sky Brasil-1 and Telkom-3S, into their planned orbits.
Sentinel-2B satellite being encapsulated within the half-shells of the Vega rocket fairing, at Europe's spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
Liftoff is set for on 7 March at 01:49 GMT (02:49 CET; 22:49 local time on 6 March).
Offering ‘colour vision’ for Europe’s environmental monitoring Copernicus programme, Sentinel-2 combines high-resolution and novel multispectral capabilities to monitor Earth’s changing lands in unprecedented detail and accuracy.
Sentinel-2 is designed as a two-satellite constellation: Sentinel-2A and -2B. Sentinel-2A was launched on 23 June 2015 and has been providing routine imagery for the EU Copernicus Land Monitoring Service, among others. Once Sentinel-2B is launched and operational, the constellation will offer a global revisit every five days.
Information from this mission is helping to improve agricultural practices, monitor the world’s forest, detect pollution in lakes and coastal waters, and contribute to disaster mapping, to name a few.
The satellite was built by an industrial consortium led by prime contractor Airbus Defence and Space in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet is currently on the International Space Station for his 6-month long Proxima mission. In addition to conducting science experiments, he has been taking stunning and valuable images of Earth as seen from space. For the occasion of Valentine's Day, 14 Februay, he posted this image, saying:
"I really wasn’t planning to take such a picture today, believe it or not, but by an uncanny coincidence, looking out the Cupola just one minute in-between sets of my workout, we happened to fly over a heart-shaped lake in Mongolia… Valentine’s day has struck again!"
Follow Thomas and his six-month Proxima mission via thomaspesquet.esa.int
This image was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), a highly efficient wide-field camera covering the optical and near-infrared parts of the spectrum. While this lovely image contains hundreds of distant stars and galaxies, one vital thing is missing — the object Hubble was actually studying at the time!
This is not because the target has disappeared. The ACS actually uses two detectors: the first captures the object being studied — in this case an open star cluster known as NGC 299 — while the other detector images the patch of space just ‘beneath’ it. This is what can be seen here.
Technically, this picture is merely a sidekick of the actual object of interest — but space is bursting with activity, and this field of bright celestial bodies offers plenty of interest on its own. It may initially seem to show just stars, but a closer look reveals many of these tiny objects to be galaxies. The spiral galaxies have arms curving out from a bright centre. The fuzzier, less clearly shaped galaxies might be ellipticals. Some of these galaxies contain millions and millions of stars, but are so distant that all of their starry residents are contained within just a small pinprick of light that appears to be the same size as a single star!
The bright blue dots are very hot stars, sometimes distorted into crosses by the struts supporting Hubble’s secondary mirror. The redder dots are cooler stars, possibly in the red giant phase when a dying star cools and expands.
ESA Director of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration David Parker and Oliver Juckenhöfel, Head of the Airbus space site in Bremen and responsible for On-Orbit Services and Exploration, sign the industrial contract for Orion spacecraft's first astronaut mission, at Airbus Defence and Space, Bremen, on 16 February 2017.
ESA signed the contract with Airbus Defence and Space to build the second European Service Module at the integration hall in Bremen, Germany, where the first module is already being built.
A European Service Module will power NASA’s Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon and back in 2018. ESA and Airbus Defence and Space have agreed with NASA to build a second module for a second mission with astronauts for launch as early as 2021.
Humans are going to leave low orbit for the first time since 1972 and European hardware will provide propulsion, electrical power, water, thermal control and atmosphere for the crew of up to four.
The agreement is a further extension of ESA and NASA’s collaboration in human spaceflight continuing from the International Space Station and a strong recognition of Airbus and ESA expertise.
Paolo Nespoli and Michelangelo Pistoletto at the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leornardo da Vinci, Milan, 14 February 2017
Week In Images
13-17 February 2017