The solar panels for ATV Georges Lemaître undergoing testing at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch of ATV-5 on board an Ariane-5 is scheduled for 25 July 2014.
Follow the launch campaign in the ATV blog: http://blogs.esa.int/atv/
Each year the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope releases a brand new image to celebrate its birthday. This year, the subject of its 24th celebratory snap is part of the Monkey Head Nebula, last viewed by Hubble in 2001, creating a stunning image released in 2011.
Otherwise known as NGC 2174, this cloud of gas and dust lies about 6400 light-years away in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter). Nebulas like this one are popular targets for Hubble – their colourful plumes of gas and fiery bright stars create ethereally beautiful pictures, such as the telescope’s 22nd and 23rd anniversary images of the Tarantula and Horsehead nebulas.
This region is filled with young stars embedded within bright wisps of cosmic gas and dust. Dark dust clouds billow outwards, framed against a background of bright blue gas. These striking hues were formed by combining several Hubble images taken through different coloured filters, revealing a broad range of colours not normally visible to our eyes.
These vivid clouds are actually a violent stellar nursery packed with the ingredients needed for building stars. The recipe for cooking up new stars is quite inefficient, and most of the ingredients are wasted as the cloud of gas and dust disperses. This process is accelerated by the presence of fiercely hot young stars, which triggers high-speed winds that help to blow the gas outwards.
This image marks 24 years of Hubble since April 1990, a milestone that will be celebrated at a conference held in Rome, Italy, this week. The “Science with the Hubble Space Telescope IV” conference will highlight and celebrate the scientific breakthroughs of Hubble over the last two decades, and look to the future at the topics and key questions that will shape the field of astrophysics in the next decade.
Human spaceflight and operations image of the week: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet testing Skinsuit in weightlessness
Astronauts have been known to grow by up to 7 cm as their spines lengthen in weightlessness. As a result, many suffer from backache during their missions. ESA is supporting the development of a suit designed to combat the lack of gravity effects by squeezing the body from the shoulders to the feet with a similar force to that felt on Earth.
Each Skinsuit is tailor-made for its wearer with a bidirectional weave. The suits need to fit tightly but comfortable, while creating the right amount of force in the right places.
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet tested his Skinsuit on a parabolic flight in March. Tilted at 45°, an Airbus offers up to 20 seconds of weightlessness at each apex of its rollercoaster ride.
ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen will be the first astronaut to evaluate the Skinsuit in space when he leaves for the International Space Station next year. Thomas will follow Andreas to the orbiting laboratory in 2016.
ESA’s Space Medicine Office is working with the universities of Kings College and University College in London, England, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, to test the suit prototypes.
Three of North America’s five Great Lakes are pictured in this Envisat image: Lake Huron (left), Lake Ontario (right) and lake Erie (bottom).
About 100 000 years ago, a major ice sheet formed over most of Canada and part of the US. As the ice sheet formed, giant glaciers flowed into the land carving out valleys and levelling mountains.
Some 14 000 years ago, higher temperatures began to melt the ice sheet, and meltwater filled the small and large holes left by the glaciers. Many of these holes today still contain water and form the thousands of lakes of the central USA and Canada. The biggest remnants of this process are the Great Lakes.
Covering an area of over 244 000 sq km and containing about 22 600 cubic km of water, together the Great Lakes form the largest connected area of fresh, surface water on Earth. The only place where more fresh water is contained is in the polar ice caps.
They have played an important role in North America’s economic development by providing a transportation system between the agricultural and mining regions on the western shores with the market centres on the East Coast. The ability to ship materials such as coal, iron and ore also gave rise to the steel and automobile industries in the area. Detroit – nicknamed ‘Motor City’ – is located on the Detroit River (lower left).
This image was acquired on 6 March 2010. Snow cover is evident across the land, and we can see ice build-up along some of the lakes’ edges.
A green algal bloom is also visible in Lake Erie. These toxic blooms have been a problem for the lake in recent years. Caused by heightened levels of phosphorus – found in fertilisers and common household products – finding its way into the water, these blooms have increased the size of the lake’s low-oxygen 'dead zone'.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
This is the engineer’s entrance to ESA’s Large Space Simulator, Europe’s largest vacuum chamber.
Entire satellites requiring testing in simulated space conditions are lowered down into the 15 m-high and 10 m-diameter chamber through a hatch on top.
Once the top and side hatches are sealed, the high-performance pumps can create a vacuum a billion times lower than standard sea level atmosphere, held for weeks at a time during test runs.
And it is more than just space vacuum that is simulated. The chamber’s black-hued interior walls are lined with tubes pumped full of –190°C liquid nitrogen to mimic the extreme cold of deep space.
Meanwhile, the hexagonal mirror array seen at the centre of the picture reflects simulated sunlight onto the satellite from a set of 25 kW bulbs more typically employed to project IMAX movies.
The alignment of the 121 mirror segments can be adjusted to tighten the focus of their reflected light beam, from the single ‘solar constant’ found in Earth orbit to upwards of 11 solar constants experienced in the vicinity of Mercury’s orbit. Later this year a prototype heatshield for ESA’s 2017 Solar Orbiter mission will be put through its paces in this manner.
Test satellites are attached to the turntable seen at the end of the walkway, to reproduce their orbital motion. The airlessness of space means a satellite can be both very hot and extremely cold at the same time, depending which part is in sunlight or shadow.
Embedded sensors and measurement devices check whether a mission’s thermal engineers have done their job well, and if the test satellite maintains an acceptable internal temperature range without buckling or other unwanted temperature-driven effects.
The Simulator 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.
Collage of galaxies included in the Herschel Reference Survey, the largest census of cosmic dust in the local Universe. The galaxies are presented in false-colour to highlight different dust temperatures, with blue and red representing colder and warmer regions respectively. The collage is presented with dust-rich, spiral and irregular galaxies in the top left, and giant, dust-poor elliptical galaxies in the bottom-right. The images were composed from PACS and SPIRE observations at 100, 160 and 250 microns.
This picture shows Honolulu on the island of Hawaii. The Eastern tip of the island is on the right, with the volcanic Diamond Head showing as a small black circle to the left. Sand Island shows up brightly under the yellow lines heading upwards – roads connecting the North of the island and the town of Kaneohe.
An Expedition 26 astronaut on the International Space Station took this picture 25 December 2010 at 13:15 GMT. He or she was circling Earth 350 km above.
Space Station image tag: ISS026E012641
Satellite image of snow cover (cyan colour) in Scandinavia - plus sea ice visible on the northern Baltic Sea and the White and Barents seas. Image captured at 09:37 UTC on 19 March 2014 by the AVHRR instrument onboard Metop-B, EUMETSAT's polar orbiting satellite.
The finishing touches are added to an Ariane-5 fairing in the Final Assembly Building at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The fairing is for flight VA216 which will carry two telecommunications satellites into orbit. After a 24-hour postponement due to high winds at the launch site, VA216 is now scheduled for launch at 22:04 GMT on 22 March 2014.
Week in Images
17-21 March 2014