Manufacturing a space launcher thrust chamber at EADS Airbus Space Transportation in Ottobrunn, Germany.
A comprehensive snapshot of the current state of rocket propulsion will be provided at the Space Propulsion Conference in Cologne, Germany, 19–22 May: Propulsion conference charts future course of rockets and satellites
When we gaze up at the night sky, we are only seeing part of the story. Unfortunately, some of the most powerful and energetic events in the Universe are invisible to our eyes – and to even the best optical telescopes.
Luckily, these events are not lost; they appear vividly in the high-energy sky, making them visible to space-based telescopes like ESA's XMM-Newton, which observes the Universe in the X-ray part of the spectrum.
This image shows a patch of sky from the COSMOS survey, as viewed by XMM-Newton. COSMOS is a project studying how galaxies form and evolve, gathering observations using a variety of ground- and space-based telescopes. This image alone features about two thousand supermassive black holes, and over a hundred clusters of galaxies.
Small point sources dotted across the frame show supermassive black holes that are hungrily devouring matter from their surroundings. All massive galaxies host a black hole at their core, but not all of these are actively accreting, dragging in surrounding matter and releasing high-energy radiation and powerful jets in the process. As they are so energetic, one of the best ways to hunt these extreme bodies is by using X-ray telescopes.
The larger blobs in this image, mainly red and yellow, reveal another class of cosmic behemoths: galaxy clusters. Containing up to several thousand galaxies, galaxy clusters are the largest cosmic structures to be held together by gravity. The galaxies within these clusters are enveloped by hot gas, which releases a diffuse X-ray glow that can be detected by telescopes like XMM-Newton.
The image combines data collected by the EPIC instrument on board XMM-Newton at energies from 0.5 to 2 keV (shown in red), 2 to 4.5 keV (shown in green) and 4.5 to 10 keV (shown in blue). The observations were taken between 2003 and 2005, and the image spans 1.4 degrees on each side, corresponding to almost three times the diameter of the full Moon.
This image was first published in the paper “The XMM-Newton Wide-Field Survey in the COSMOS Field. I. Survey Description” by G. Hasinger et al. in 2007.
The theme for Earth Day 2014 is ‘green cities’. As more and more people move to cities in search of jobs – and the reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear – the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever. Recognised this year as the European Green Capital, Copenhagen has set a prime example with investments in sustainable technology, forward-thinking public policy and an educated and active public. The Danish city is a good model in terms of urban planning and design, and is working towards becoming carbon-neutral by the year 2025.
This SPOT-5 image was acquired 21 April 2011, with a resolution of 2.5 m.
This image over the west coast of the Netherlands is one of the early radar scans by the Sentinel-1A satellite, which was launched on 3 April.
The satellite’s advanced radar can provide imagery under all weather conditions and regardless of whether it is day or night. It can scan Earth’s surface in a range of different modes, enabling it to monitor large areas in lower resolution or to zoom in on a smaller region for a sharper view.
One of the many application areas of the data will be the surveillance of the marine environment, including monitoring oil spills and detecting ships for maritime security, as well as measuring wave height.
In this image, we can clearly see radar reflections from the ships at sea, appearing like stars in a night sky. The two collections of ‘stars’ are reflections from large-scale offshore wind farms, used to generate electricity.
Other visible features include the city of Amsterdam on the centre-right side of the image, and the runways of the nearby Schiphol airport. In the lower part of the image we can see the city of Rotterdam, with Europe’s largest port extending to the left.
Sentinel-1’s radar will also be used for monitoring changes in agricultural land cover – important information for areas with intensive agriculture like the Netherlands.
This image, also featured on the Earth from Space video programme, was acquired on 15 April with the radar operating in ‘stripmap mode’, which provides coverage at a resolution of about 10 m.
Sentinel-1A is the first in a fleet of satellites being developed for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme. The satellite is not yet in its operational orbit, but early images like this have given us a taste of what’s to come.
Expressly shaped for transmitting and receiving radio waves across vast distances, antennas are vital tools for space, linking far-flung satellites with their homeworld – like this example at
ESA’s Redu centre in Belgium.
Antennas are also instruments in their own right, probing alien worlds or elements of the terrestrial environment.
The space industry’s work with antenna systems was highlighted during this month’s EuCAP, the European Conference on Antennas and Propagation in The Hague, the Netherlands on 6–11 April.
ESA was a major sponsor of the conference, which brings together antenna specialists from both academia and industry. More than 1300 specialists arrived from 64 countries.
Paying a visit to the ESA stand, they could come face to face with examples of space antennas, including an engineering model of the L-band antenna, used by Galileo satellites for broadcasting navigation messages down to Earth 23 222 km below.
This sparkling jumble is Messier 5 — a globular cluster consisting of hundreds of thousands of stars bound together by their collective gravity.
But Messier 5 is no normal globular cluster. At 13 billion years old it is incredibly old, dating back to close to the beginning of the Universe, which is some 13.8 billion years of age. It is also one of the biggest clusters known, and at only 24 500 light-years away, it is no wonder that Messier 5 is a popular site for astronomers to train their telescopes on.
Messier 5 also presents a puzzle. Stars in globular clusters grow old and wise together. So Messier 5 should, by now, consist of old, low-mass red giants and other ancient stars. But it is actually teeming with young blue stars known as blue stragglers. These incongruous stars spring to life when stars collide, or rip material from one another.
A pair of supermassive black holes in orbit around one another have been spotted by XMM-Newton. This is the first time such a pair have been seen in an ordinary galaxy. They were discovered because they ripped apart a star when the space observatory happened to be looking in their direction.
Read more on the Science & Technology website: http://sci.esa.int/xmm-newton/53980-unique-pair-of-hidden-black-holes-discovered-by-xmm-newton/
Ariane5's cryogenic main stage (EPC: Etage Principal Cryotechnique) is prepared at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The launch of ATV-5 on board an Ariane-5 is scheduled for July 2014.
Week in Images
21-25 April 2014