ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet is spending six months on the International Space Station for the Proxima mission. In his free time, like many astronauts, he enjoys looking out of the Cupola windows at Earth and
taking photos that are shared on his social media channels.
This is a 30 second exposure shot of Earth captured by Thomas in honour of NASA astronaut Don Pettit, who perfected the technique in his many photos taken from on board the Station.
Connect with Thomas via: http://thomaspesquet.esa.int
Acquired on 15 March 2017, this subset from the first image from Sentinel-2B features the southern Italian port city of Brindisi – appropriately the same word for the ‘toast’ ritual in Italian.
This image of the lava flowing from Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, was captured today at 10:45 GMT (11:45 CET) by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite.
Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and has one of the world’s longest records for continuous eruption. Today, however, there was a sudden explosion resulting in several people being injured.
The red hot lava flowing from Mount Etna can be seen clearly in the image from Sentinel-2A. The surrounding snow has been processed in blue to distinguish from the clouds.
Launched in June 2015, Sentinel-2A carries an innovative wide swath high-resolution multispectral imager with 13 spectral bands to monitor changes in land cover and vegetation.
The mission is designed as a constellation of two satellites and its identical twin, Sentinel-2B, was launched just a few days ago, on 7 March.
From the Rocky Mountains on the left to the Prairies on the right, Sentinel-2A takes us over the southern part of the Canadian province of Alberta, with part of British Columbia in the lower left.
Click on the box in the lower-right corner to view this image at its full 10 m resolution directly in your browser.
In this image spanning some 265 km, we can see the northwest–southeast ranges of the Rockies. Moving west to east, the mountains peter out to the Canadian Prairies, with the city of Calgary in the transition zone between the two landscapes (upper-middle).
This area has naturally occurring ‘chernozem’ – black soil – and is part of one of two chernozem belts in the world – the other stretching across part of eastern Europe and Russia. This fertile soil produces a high agricultural yield, evident by the numerous fields on the right side of the image.
A section of the Trans-Canada Highway is also featured, entering Calgary in a direct line from the east, and then snaking into the Rockies towards the west. Spanning over 8000 km, this coast-to-coast road travels through all 10 of Canada’s provinces and is one of the longest routes of its type.
In the upper left we can see the long, curved glacial Lake Minnewanka. Fed mainly by the Cascade River, a dam built in the 1940s raised the lake by about 30 m and submerged a resort village, as well as the previous dam built in 1912. Today, it is a popular destination for scuba divers to explore the underwater dam.
Near the western end of the lake lies the town of Banff – the site of next week’s 4th Swarm Science Meeting and North-American CryoSat Science Meeting. The two conferences taking place concurrently bring together scientists to discuss the latest results coming from the three-satellite Swarm mission on Earth’s magnetic field, as well as new information on Earth’s changing ice masses from the CryoSat satellite.
This image, also featured on the Earth from Space video programme, was captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite on 31 August 2016.
ExoMars was launched on a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on 14 March 2016. Around seven months later, it arrived at Mars.
As part of preparations for its main science mission to analyse the atmosphere for gases that may be related to biological or geological activity, and image sites that might be related to these sources, the Trace Gas Orbiter has conducted two campaigns to test its science instruments – one last November and one last week.
Presented here is one of the first image pairs taken by the orbiter’s high-resolution camera on 22 November.
The images together form a stereo pair of part of the Noctis Labyrinthus region of Mars. The camera takes one image looking slightly forwards (bottom image in this orientation), and then, after having flown over the area, it rotates to look ‘back’ to take the second part of the image (top), in order to see the same region of the surface from two different angles.
By combining the image pair, a 3D image can be constructed and information about the relative heights of the surface features can be seen.
The images were taken to test the timing of the images as the spacecraft moves over the surface, in order to best reconstruct the stereo images. Additional tests were conducted last week to fine-tune the process.
Noctis Labyrinthus, or ‘Labyrinth of the night’, lies on the western edge of Valles Marineris, the grand canyon of the Solar System, and comprises a vast network of flat-topped plateaus and trenches. Landslides are seen in the flanks of the steep slopes.
Since arriving, the orbiter has also conducted a number of manoeuvres to change its orbital period and inclination, ready to begin the year-long aerobraking phase later this week. This process will use the planet’s atmosphere to gradually slow the spacecraft speed and so move it into a 400 km near-circular orbit, from which the craft will conduct its main science mission.
The images were taken by the CaSSIS camera; the scale here is 7.2 m/pixel and the images correspond to an area on Mars about 15 x 45 km.
Test images of Mars acquired by the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter’s high-resolution CaSSIS camera on 5 March 2017. The mosaic comprises 40 individual image frames captured using the near-infrared filter. The images were taken just as the orbiter was crossing the boundary between day and night, in the southern hemisphere of Mars. To the top left of the image is the centre of Mellish crater (26ºW, 73ºS). The image scale is 38 m/pixel.
ESA astronauts Pedro Duque (right) and Matthias Maurer (left) are in Edinburgh, UK, for the third session of the Pangaea geology course for astronauts.
The course provides astronauts with practical knowledge of Earth and planetary geology to prepare them to become effective partners of planetary scientists and engineers in designing the next exploration missions.
After classroom lessons on planetary geology in Bressanone, Italy, and field work in the Canary Islands’ Lanzarote, the third and final session sees the astronauts in Edinburgh to learn about microorganisms and where best to look for signs of life.
Together with Charles Cockell, head of the UK centre of Astrobiology, they are studying colonies of Chroococcidiopsis from the Negev desert in Israel. The bacteria were flown into space and attached to the exterior of the International Space Station in ESA’s Expose facility. After spending over a year orbiting Earth in the harsh vacuum of space, they were returned for analysis.
Knowing how life survives and adapts to harsh environments will help astronauts to communicate with geologists on the ground and better manage their time exploring planets on future missions.
Justyna Barys, a graduate trainee working in ESA’s technical centre, has been selected as one of the 30 Under 30 – Europe Industry List compiled by leading business publisher Forbes.
Justyna, 26, has been working in ESA’s Life and Physical Sciences Instrumentation section in its Netherlands-based technical heart since October 2015, focusing on the MELiSSA Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative project to develop closed-loop life support for future deep-space expeditions.
She joins a diverse range of millennial European entrepreneurs, engineers and designers – the final Forbes selection having been made by an all-star jury that included Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace.
Justyna specialised in biotechnology at the Lodz University of Technology before coming to ESA: “I’d always been interested in astronomy and space, so would regularly visit the NASA and ESA websites.
“I didn’t think the Young Graduate Trainee vacancy was something for me at first, but it turned out to be very interesting in terms of my interests and the combination of engineering and microbiology in my background.”
Justyna’s work focuses on nitrogen-converting bacteria, a crucial element in the various processes making up MELiSSA: “We are used to provision of oxygen, water and food by Earth’s ecosystem. It would be ideal to carry Earth’s ecosystem with us for exploring the Solar System. Unfortunately, mass and volume do not allow it.
“Instead, the MELiSSA approach is inspired by the principle of a closed ’aquatic’ lake ecosystem. The carbon dioxide and waste products are progressively processed to allow the culture of plants and algae. These plants and algae will then provide food, oxygen and water purification.
“To grow plants we need nitrogen. Human urine is a good source of nitrogen, but doesn’t contain it in the form that plants need – nitrates. But there are bacteria, originally taken from soil, that perform this conversion job, so I’ve been attempting to cultivate them and study how they grow.
“To begin with I was experimenting with small flasks, using polyvinyl acetate beads to promote the growth of biofilm which makes this kind of bacteria more active.
“As a next step I’ve been building a bioreactor for continuous culture. Once it is finished, nutrients and oxygen will be supplied, pH controlled and effluent removed to promote their continuous growth and monitor their conversion rate of ammonia into nitrates.”
The research is only one element of the 11-nation MELiSSA effort, including the full-scale pilot plant in Spain’s University Autònoma of Barcelona.
Justyna has also worked on another aspect of MELiSSA, preparing an experiment on highly nutritious oxygen-producing Spirulina bacteria for a teacher workshop.
Set to leave ESA in September, Justyna is looking for a PhD position in microbiology, biotechnology or environmental engineering.
The payload module of MetOp-C, Europe’s latest weather satellite, seen through the side door of Europe’s largest vacuum chamber, the 10 m-diameter Large Space Simulator, during testing in March 2017.
The LSS is part of ESA’s Test Centre in the Netherlands, the largest facility of its kind in Europe, providing a complete suite of equipment for all aspects of satellite testing under a single roof.
MetOp-C’s MetOp-C’s instruments must be tested in space-like vacuum conditions. High-performance pumps will remove all air within the chamber to create an orbital-quality vacuum. Meanwhile, liquid nitrogen will circulate through the black walls to mimic the cold of sunless space.
MetOp is a set of three polar-orbiting satellites whose temperature and humidity observations from a relatively close 800 km-altitude orbit have sharpened the accuracy of weather forecasting.
Procured by ESA for Eumetsat, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, MetOp-A was launched in 2006 and MetOp-B in 2012, with MetOp-C due to follow next year.
The 2.1 tonne module carries a suite of meteorology and climatology instruments, variously procured by ESA or sourced from Eumetsat, France’s CNES space agency and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Once testing is complete, MetOp-C’s payload module will travel to the Airbus Defence and Space facility in Toulouse, France, to be integrated with its service module – the segment of the satellite providing attitude and orbit control, electrical power and communications, and hosting the main computer.
The launch of MetOp-C by Soyuz from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana is scheduled for October 2018.
This image from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) shows NGC 1448, a spiral galaxy located about 50 million light-years from Earth in the little-known constellation of Horologium (The Pendulum Clock). We tend to think of spiral galaxies as massive and roughly circular celestial bodies, so this glittering oval does not immediately appear to fit the visual bill. What’s going on?
Imagine a spiral galaxy as a circular frisbee spinning gently in space. When we see it face on, our observations reveal a spectacular amount of detail and structure — a great example from Hubble is the telescope’s view of Messier 51, otherwise known as the Whirlpool Galaxy. However, the NGC 1448 frisbee is very nearly edge-on with respect to Earth, giving it an appearance that is more oval than circular. The spiral arms, which curve out from NGC 1448’s dense core, can just about be seen.
Although spiral galaxies might appear static with their picturesque shapes frozen in space, this is very far from the truth. The stars in these dramatic spiral configurations are constantly moving and spinning around the galaxy’s core, with those on the inside whirling around faster than those sitting further out. This makes the formation and continued existence of a spiral galaxy’s arms something of a cosmic puzzle, because the arms wrapped around the spinning core should become wound tighter and tighter as time goes on — but this is not what we see. This is known as the winding problem.
Week In Images
13-17 March 2017