ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst captured this orbital sunrise from the International Space Station on shared it on his social media channels saying: "I don't know any words, in any language, to match the beauty of an orbital sunrise."
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst works with NASA crew mate and commander of the International Space Station on an experiment from DLR that uses an innovative 3D fluorescence microscope to observe cell changes in real time. This experiment provides a whole new insight into human tissue, cell cultures, microorganisms and plants in space.
Alexander will take over as commander of the International Space Station for the second half of his Horizons mission when Drew returns to Earth, 3 October 2018.
This 6 m-wingspan unmanned aircraft will be on show at Sunday’s ESA Open Day, suspended inside ESA’s Hertz radio-frequency test chamber.
This is the focus of ESA’s ESTARR project – Electronically Steered Antenna Array in the Wing of a Remotely Piloted Aircraft – which is investigating the feasibility of steerable low-cost array antenna in the drone’s wings.
Designed for oil, gas and mineral prospecting, pipeline surveying and border patrols, the drone will spend most of its time operating far from its controller, often in areas with no communications infrastructure. To ensure the legally mandated link between the remote pilot and the drone, a satellite data relay service must be used.
The array must electronically sweep its beam rapidly to counteract any movement of the drone, and maintain the all-important control link with space, without any aerodynamic or electronic interference with the functioning of the drone itself.
Testing was performed in ESA’s metal-walled Hybrid European Radio Frequency and Antenna Test Zone at the Agency’s technical centre in the Netherlands, shut off from all external influences for radio testing. Its internal walls are studded with radio-absorbing ‘anechoic’ foam pyramids, preventing any distorting radio signal reflections, while also absorbing noise.
For more information on Sunday’s ESA Open Day, go here.
The Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite takes us over eastern US. Spanning a huge area, including the states of Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware, a number of major cities can be seen in this true-colour image. The megacity of New York is visible in the top right. A megacity is defined by the United Nations as a city with a population of over ten million. According to the latest estimates there will be 43 megacities across the globe by 2030.
Further down the coast, the US capital of Washington, D.C. can be seen in the upper-central part of the image. Washington, D.C. is a territory, not a state. The first part of the capital’s name is in honour of the first president of the US, George Washington, and D.C. stands for District of Columbia, derived from Christopher Columbus.
This true-colour image from Sentinel-3’s Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI) shows sediment being carried into the North Atlantic Ocean along the coast. Sediment and potentially algae can also be seen in Lake Erie in the top left. This lake is the fourth-largest of the five Great Lakes of North America. It has a surface area of over 25 000 sq km. Around five million tonnes of a type of rock salt called halite is mined from beneath the lake every year. The state of Ohio is also known for its fertile soil, coal, and natural gas reserves.
The brown that dominates the central part of the image represents mountainous areas and forests, running through West Virginia and beyond. Known as the Mountain State, this is the only state completely within the Appalachian Mountain region. At around 460 m, its average elevation is higher than any other state east of the Mississippi River.
To the north of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, which takes its name from a combination of Latin words, meaning ‘Penn’s woods’, stretches up towards New York. Half of this state is covered by forests, including Allegheny National Forest, which can be seen in the top-centre of the image.
Sentinel-3 is a two-satellite mission to supply the coverage and data delivery needed for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme. The mission gathers data on our oceans, land, and ice to monitor and understand large-scale global dynamics. It provides critical information for a range of applications from marine observation to large-scale vegetation monitoring.
This image, which was captured on 1 May 2018, is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Asteroid Ryugu, an ancient space rock roughly 300 million km from Earth, is now home to three Earth-born inhabitants bouncing across its bouldery surface. In the early morning of 3 October 2018, the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) gently fell to the asteroid’s surface, joining its Japanese siblings, the MINERVA-II rovers 1-A and 1-B.
This remarkable image was taken during MASCOT’s descent, 3.5 minutes after separation from its parentship and 20 metres from its final resting place. At the top right, MASCOT’s fuzzy shadow can be seen, standing out next to the sharp detail of Ryugu’s puckered surface.
Developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in cooperation with the French space agency CNES, MASCOT was originally thought to have enough power to explore the mile-long rock for just 12 hours. However, the adventurous box delighted its team when it inspected Ryugu’s surface for more than 17 hours, making an extra bounce and sending all the data collected back to the mothership, Hayabusa2.
The Hayabusa2 spacecraft left Earth in December 2014, carrying four small rovers designed to investigate Ryugu’s surface. Each fell freely to the surface under the asteroid’s weak gravity, bouncing on arrival and immediately collecting data on their strange new world.
The spacecraft is expected to return 3 samples to Earth in December 2020 from varying parts of the ancient asteroid. With these specimens, scientists on Earth hope to learn about the composition of carbonaceous asteroids like Ryugu — a type of space rock expected to preserve some of the most pristine materials in the Solar System.
This class of asteroid also has members who at times come too close to Earth for comfort, near-Earth objects (NEOs). It is hoped that Hayabusa’s incredible mission will shed light on these marauding masses which could come in handy if we one day need to defend ourselves from them.
Undoubtedly, Hayabusa’s insights into this giant pile of space rubble will prove useful to the teams involved in ESA’s ambitious proposed mission to test asteroid deflection, Hera — in particular, understanding the low gravity environment of these unique solar system bodies.
Space may be the final frontier for human exploration but it is certainly not the only frontier. Remote areas on Earth, like Antarctica, continue to draw researchers and explorers for their otherworldly potential.
Pristine environments, limited resources, and near-complete isolation are just some of the attractions of Antarctica, often termed the White Desert. Numerous research stations dot the outer regions of the continent where scientists gather data on glaciology, seismology, climate change and the stars.
The French-Italian Concordia research station is one of three year-round stations and is located on Dome C, a plateau some 3200 m above sea level. Secluded from the world in inhospitable conditions, the crew stationed there tackle temperatures that can drop to –80°C in the winter, with a yearly average temperature of –50°C.
The air is extremely dry, so the crew suffer from continuously chapped lips and irritated eyes. The great open landscape alternates between months of night and months of daylight, and colours, smells and sounds are almost non-existent, adding to the sense of loneliness.
In other words, Concordia is perfect.
Here, researchers study the atmosphere, free from pollution, to gain insights into how the world’s population is changing Earth’s climate. Scientists conduct glaciology research by analysing the Antarctic plateau to reveal clues to our past as chemicals are trapped and frozen in the ice.
The thin atmosphere, clear skies and zero light-pollution around Concordia make it an enviable place for observing the Universe. The very southern location of Antarctica also makes it ideal for studying Earth’s magnetic field.
Delving deeper, Concordia is looking at the inside movements of Earth. A seismograph at Concordia measures movement and the research base is part of the international network of seismograph stations.
And then there is the human factor. Despite all the hardships of life in Antarctica, up to 16 people spend around a year at a time living in Concordia in the name of science. In addition to helping conduct other experiments and station maintenance, they are an experiment themselves. And ESA sends a medical doctor to Concordia to study the crew, like this year’s resident Dr Carmen Possnig, imaged above.
The elevation, isolation and sensory deprivation can wreak havoc on crewmembers’ biological clock, making it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Researchers track the effects of this on the human body and mind which adds to data being collected on astronauts on the International Space Station.
Insights are used to help people on Earth like shift workers, bedridden patients and those suffering from sleep disorders, and of course, astronauts serving in low Earth orbit.
Antarctic research at Concordia is helping humans adapt, mentally and physically, to a changing climate, a longer voyage in space, and eventually, life on another planet.
Read more about life at Concordia on the Chronicles from Concordia blog.
ESA Grand Challenge.
On 30 September 2016, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft came closer than ever to the target it had studied from afar for more than two years, concluding its mission with a controlled impact onto the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G).
This second comet landing followed the pioneering endeavour of Rosetta’s lander, Philae, which became the first probe to successfully touch down on a comet on 12 November 2014.
With a suite of 11 scientific instruments on board, Rosetta collected an impressive amount of images and other data at this now iconic comet, scanning its surface, probing its interior, scrutinising the gas and dust in its surroundings, and exploring its plasma environment. Scientists have been using these measurements to advance our understanding of comets as well as of the history of our Solar System.
This image shows a portion of 67P/C-G as viewed by Rosetta on 22 September 2014, only one and a half months after the spacecraft had made its rendezvous with the comet. At the time, the spacecraft was 28.2 km from the comet centre (around 26.2 km from the surface). Amateur astronomer Jacint Roger Perez, from Spain, selected and processed this view by combining three images taken in different wavelengths by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on Rosetta.
Seen in the centre and left of the frame is Seth, one of the geological regions on the larger of the two comet lobes, which declines towards the smoother Hapi region on the comet’s ‘neck’ that connects the two lobes. The landscape in the background reveals hints of the Babi and Aker regions, both located on the large lobe of 67P/C-G. For a wider image of this region in the overall context of the comet see here.
The sharp profile in the lower part of the image shows the Aswan cliff, a 134 m-high scarp separating the Seth and Hapi regions. Observations performed by Rosetta not long before the comet’s perihelion, which took place on 13 August 2015, revealed that a chunk of this cliff had collapsed – a consequence of increased activity as the comet drew closer to the Sun along its orbit.
Jan Wörner, ESA Director General during Heads of Space Agencies Plenary session.
Following the arrival of the MetOp-C satellite at Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, the team has been busy testing and preparing the satellite for launch. With the alignment of the two main bodies of the satellite done and solar array attached, MetOp-C is complete and the team focuses on checking all the electrical connections.
MetOp-C is the third polar-orbiting satellite in the Meteorological Operational satellite programme and its launch is set for 7 November 2018.
This glittering ball of stars is the globular cluster NGC 1898, which lies towards the centre of the Large Magellanic Cloud — one of our closest cosmic neighbours. The Large Magellanic Cloud is a dwarf galaxy that hosts an extremely rich population of star clusters, making it an ideal laboratory for investigating star formation.
Discovered in November 1834 by British astronomer John Herschel, NGC 1898 has been scrutinised numerous times by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Today we know that globular clusters belong to the oldest known objects in the Universe and that they are relics of the first epochs of galaxy formation. While we already have a pretty good picture on the globular clusters of the Milky Way — still with many unanswered questions — our studies on globular clusters in nearby dwarf galaxies just started. The observations of NGC 1898 will help to determine if their properties are similar to the ones found in the Milky Way, or if they have different features, due to being in a different cosmic environment.
This image was taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). The WFC3 observes light ranging from near-infrared to near-ultraviolet wavelengths, while the ACS explores the near-infrared to the ultraviolet.
Week in images
1 - 5 October 2018