ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst floats through the International Space Station. As part of his Blue Dot mission he will perform many scientific experiments in weightlessness that could not be done on Earth.
The International Space Station is a partnership between 15 countries, including Russia, USA, Canada, Japan and ESA member states.
Even to the naked eye, our Moon looks heavily cratered. The snippet of carved and pitted lunar surface shown in this image lies within a 66 km-wide crater known as Zucchius. From our perspective, Zucchius is located on the edge of the southwest limb of the Moon.
The crater’s uneven and messy appearance is a result of how it formed. Lunar craters like Zucchius were created when rocky bodies, such as, meteors and asteroids, collided with the Moon at speeds of tens of kilometres per second, smashing holes into its surface. More forceful impacts caused material to spring back upwards, a bit like a water droplet hitting a body of water. This process formed a peak in the centre of the impact crater, as shown here by the cluster of bobbly mounds.
Zucchius’s central peak and other features are quite well preserved. They are thought to have formed in the last 1.2 billion years, a time dubbed the ‘Copernican period’. This is very recent compared to the Moon’s age of 4.4 billion years.
Earth was also cratered in this way — were it not for our planet’s different conditions it would look a lot like the Moon. Plate tectonics, the atmosphere and the presence of liquid water have all contributed to changing the shape and appearance of Earth’s surface over time, eroding, covering and smoothing away surface blemishes.
This image was taken with the Advanced Moon Imaging Experiment on board ESA’s SMART-1 on 14 January 2006, as the spacecraft skimmed just 753 km above the Moon’s surface. Zucchius was named after the 17th-century Italian astronomer Niccolò Zucchi, who was involved in some of the first designs for the reflecting telescope, and who made early observations of Jupiter's belts and spots on Mars.
The miniature AAUSat satellite undergoes repeated temperature variations in a vacuum chamber, cooling the CubeSat to –10°C and heating it to +45°C for more than two weeks. This harsh baptism will make sure that it can cope with the conditions in space.
Aausat is a 10x10x10 cm satellite designed and built by students of the Aalborg University in Denmark. As part of ESA education’s Fly Your Satellite! programme, the satellite will be sent into space and the students have the chance to test it at the Mechanical Systems Laboratory at ESA’s technical heart, ESTEC, in the Netherlands.
The wires trailing from the satellite are to measure temperature and for power – it will fly without the wires and plastic casing.
The satellite seen here, AAUSat-4, will track ships around Greenland using radio identification signals. Its predecessor, AAUSat-3, is reaching the end of its life after 18 months in space, having received 100 000 signals from ships in the first week alone.
AAUSat-4 features a significant upgrade in software and better-protected solar panels that will deliver more power. ESA’s education programme is supporting AAUSat-4 testing, and if the satellite confirms its flightworthiness, the Agency will sponsor a launch opportunity.
“AAUSat-4 is run and made by students,” explain Mathias Mølgaard and Kasper Hemme, students from Aalborg University. “The systems are designed inhouse and it has been a great help for completing our thesis.”
“ESA Education is offering interesting hands-on programmes to university students,” says Piero Galeone, programme manager for Fly Your Satellite! “Students can participate in space programmes under ESA supervision, and can use state-of-the-art facilities, acquainting themselves with concepts and work practice used by space professionals.”
AAUSat-5 will be a copy of this model, but it will be released into space in 2015 by none other than Danish ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen during his nine-day mission on the International Space Station.
Northern Somalia’s Cal Madow mountain range is pictured in this image from Japan’s ALOS satellite.
In contrast to the sparsely-vegetated majority of the country – typical of its semi-arid to arid climate – the mountain range is densely forested. In this image, the vegetated areas appear much darker.
The ecologically diverse region is home to a number of endemic plants species, as well as many rare animals. Unfortunately, the area lacks proper conservation and is threatened by deforestation and intensive livestock grazing.
The uplifted plateau to the south has the distinct pattern of water erosion from rivers and streams making their way towards the edges of the cliffs, before cascading down. There are numerous perennial and persistent waterfalls in this region.
In some areas, we can see where water continues to flow north across the coastal plain towards the Gulf of Aden (not pictured).
The Japanese Advanced Land Observation Satellite captured this image on 2 January 2011. ALOS was supported as a Third Party Mission, which means that ESA used its multi-mission ground systems to acquire, process, distribute and archive data from the satellite to its user community.
In April 2011 the satellite abruptly lost power while mapping Japan’s tsunami-hit coastline.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko imaged on 20 July 2014 by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow angle camera from a distance of about 5500 km. The three images were taken two hours apart and have a resolution of about 100 m per pixel.
Read more on the blog: Hints of features
Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have probed the extreme outskirts of the stunning elliptical galaxy Centaurus A. The galaxy’s halo of stars has been found to extend much further from the galaxy’s centre than expected and the stars within this halo seem to be surprisingly rich in heavy elements. This is the most remote portion of an elliptical galaxy ever to have been explored.
There is more to a galaxy than first meets the eye. Extending far beyond the bright glow of a galaxy's centre, the swirling spiral arms, or the elliptical fuzz, is an extra component: a dim halo of stars sprawling into space.
These expansive haloes are important components of a galaxy. The halo of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, preserves signatures of both its formation and evolution. Yet, we know very little about the haloes of galaxies beyond our own as their faint and spread-out nature makes exploring them more difficult. Astronomers have so far managed to detect very few starry haloes around other galaxies.
Now, by utilising the unique space-based location of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and its sensitive Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3, a team of astronomers has probed the halo surrounding the prominent giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A, also known as NGC 5128, to unprecedented distances. They have found that its halo spreads far further into space than expected and does so in an unexpected form.
"Tracing this much of a galaxy's halo gives us surprising insights into a galaxy's formation, evolution, and composition," says Marina Rejkuba of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany, lead author of the new Hubble study. "We found more stars scattered in one direction than the other, giving the halo a lopsided shape — which we hadn't expected!"
Along the galaxy's length the astronomers probed out 25 times further than the galaxy's radius — mapping a region some 450 000 light-years across. For the width they explored along 295 000 light-years, 16 times further than its "effective radius". These are large distances if you consider that the main visible component of the Milky Way is around 120 000 light-years in diameter. In fact, the diameter of the halo probed by this team extends across 4 degrees in the sky — equivalent to eight times the apparent width of the Moon.
Alongside their unexpected uneven distribution, the stars within the halo also showed surprising properties relating to the proportion of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium found in the gas that makes up the stars. While the stars within the haloes of the Milky Way and other nearby spirals are generally low in heavy elements, the stars within Centaurus A's halo appear to be rich in heavy elements, even at the outermost locations explored.
"Even at these extreme distances, we still haven't reached the edge of Centaurus A's halo, nor have we detected the very oldest generation of stars," adds co-author Laura Greggio of INAF, Italy. "This aged generation is very important. The larger stars from it are responsible for manufacturing the heavy elements now found in the bulk of the galaxy's stars. And even though the large stars are long dead, the smaller stars of the generation still live on and could tell us a great deal."
The small quantity of heavy elements in the stellar haloes of large spiral galaxies like the Milky Way, is thought to originate from the way that the galaxies formed and evolved, slowly pulling in numerous small satellite galaxies and taking on their stars. For Centaurus A, the presence of stars rich in heavy elements in such remote locations suggests a single past merger with a large spiral galaxy. This event would have ejected stars from the spiral galaxy's disc and these are now seen as part of Centaurus A's outer halo.
"Measuring the amount of heavy elements in individual stars in a giant elliptical galaxy such as Centaurus A is uniquely the province of Hubble — we couldn't do it with any other telescope, and certainly not yet from the ground," adds Rejkuba. "These kinds of observations are fundamentallyimportant to understanding the galaxies in the Universe around us."
These results are being published online in Astrophysical Journal on the 22 July and will appear in the 10 August 2014 issue.
More information about this image and Hubble in general can be found here.
The ESA logo is added to the fairing for Ariane 5 flight VA219, which is set to carry ATV Georges Lemaître into orbit. Launch of the fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle, ATV-5, from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, is scheduled for 23:44 UTC on 29 July (01:44 CEST; 30 July).
ATV-5 is set to carry almost 6.6 tonnes of supplies to the Station, including a record amount of dry cargo – around 2682 kg.
Follow the launch campaign on the ATV Blog: http://blogs.esa.int/atv/
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy cluster MCS J0416.1-2403. This is one of six being studied by the Hubble Frontier Fields programme. This programme seeks to analyse the mass distribution in these huge clusters and to use the gravitational lensing effect of these clusters, to peer even deeper into the distant Universe.
A team of researchers used almost 200 images of distant galaxies, whose light has been bent and magnified by this huge cluster, combined with the depth of Hubble data to measure the total mass of this cluster more precisely than ever before.
Four ‘aquanauts’ pose for an photo during their underwater training mission. NEEMO – NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations – trains astronauts for life in space. Living and working in an underwater base is similar to being on a space station.
The 18th underwater mission will see ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet take part in a nine-day mission, starting his underwater session on 21 July under the command of Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, along with NASA astronauts Jeanette Epps and Mark Vande Hei. ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli is also onsite for crew communications, functioning as capsule communicator for 'ground control'. Training started on 14 July.
Week In Images
21-25 July 2014