Taken during the Arctic campaign in support of the Earth Observation SMOS mission. Although designed to provide info on soil moisture & ocean salinity, SMOS can also be used to monitor thin sea-ice (complementing info from CryoSat). This is campaign using sensors on aircraft, hung from helicopter and instruments on a ship is to validate this potential.
Read more in the Campaign Earth blog: http://blogs.esa.int/campaignearth
Massive stars are born in tumultuous clouds of gas and dust. They lead a brief but intense life, blowing powerful winds of particles and radiation that strike their surroundings, before their explosive demise as supernovas.
The interplay between massive stars and their environment is revealed in this image of the star-forming region ON2. It combines X-ray coverage from ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory with an infrared view from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
This stellar cradle is associated with the open cluster of stars named Berkeley 87, some 4000 light-years from Earth. The cluster is home to over 2000 stars, most of which are low-mass stars like our Sun or smaller, but some – a few dozen – are stellar monsters weighing 10–80 times more.
Two glowing clouds of gas and dust – the raw material from which stars form – dominate the centre of the image and are shown in red. Scattered across the image are a multitude of protostars – seeds of future stellar generations; these are shown in green. The bright yellow star in the upper part of the image is BC Cygni, a massive star that has puffed up enormously and will eventually explode as a supernova.
Shown in blue is XMM-Newton’s X-ray view of ON2: it reveals individual sources – young, massive stars as well as protostars – and more diffuse regions of X-rays. Two ‘bubbles’ of X-rays can be seen in the upper and lower clouds, respectively, pink against the red background. These two bubbles conceal the cumulative emissions from many protostars, but also light radiated by very energetic particles – a signature of shockwaves triggered by massive stars and their winds.
The image combines observations performed in the X-ray energy range of 0.25–12 keV (blue) and at infrared wavelengths of 3.6 microns (green) and 8 microns (red). It spans about 15 arcminutes on each side; north is up and east is to the left.
This image was first published in the paper “Hard X-Ray Emission in the Star-Forming Region ON 2: Discovery with XMM-Newton” by Oskinova et al. in April 2010.
In the final weeks leading to the Sentinel-1A launch, set for 3 April 2014, the mission control teams at ESA’s operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany have been training intensively.
The simulation sessions – often running through a full 12-hour shift – are conducted ‘on console’ in the Main Control Room, and pace the teams through every step of the satellite’s launch and entry into orbit.
Trainers inject a carefully staged series of faults, errors and failures into the satellite or into the software and systems used to fly it. Meanwhile, the mission controllers sitting on console must recognise and assess the problem and apply the correct contingency procedure.
In this image, Juan Vizcaya, one of two Sentinel-1A Ground Operation Managers, watches intently for any problems with the ground tracking stations or network systems used to communicate with Sentinel.
A mobile app created by a start-up company at ESA’s business incubator in the UK will soon help coffee farmers in Rwanda to protect and improve their crops by providing highly local weather forecasts.
Rwanda’s high-quality coffee is one of the country’s most important crops. More than half of Rwanda’s export earnings rely on coffee and tea, with coffee exports alone worth more than $60 million.
However, changes in rainfall can devastate crops by promoting ‘coffee rust’. In Guatemala, 70% of the plants were affected in 2013 and the damage could be even more serious this year.
The life cycle of the disease is up to ten years – but experts can bring the plants back to a healthy condition in two to three years. “That's exactly the targeted support provided by WeatherSafe,” says Francesco Liucci, one of the company’s founders.
“We were asked last year as part of a ‘hackathon’ to improve the Rwanda Meteorology Agency website that provides weather forecasts. But we essentially decided to change the challenge,” says Francesco.
“Instead, we came up with an app that provides recommendations to coffee farmers based on local weather conditions.”
Using a ‘big data architecture’ researched by ESA to handle datasets so large that they are difficult to process using traditional applications, WeatherSafe developed that initial concept into a set of products for different players in the coffee chain: farmers, processors, exporters and government agricultural departments.
These hyper-local forecasts can alert farmers to rain changes and any diseases that might occur.
With the support of ESA’s Business Incubation Centre in Harwell, UK, part the Agency's Technology Transfer Programme, the company has developed three products generated by software that compiles multiple data sources.
For example, satellite data are complemented by specific expertise from universities and research organisations, and data directly retrieved locally from the targeted farms.
The WeatherSafe Coffee Farmer Edition app on Apple iOS, Android and BlackBerry device takes advantage of the strong mobile phone networks in many developing countries. It delivers up-to-date, highly targeted and critical information and advice straight into the hands of the farmers.
Thanks to the outstanding quality of its coffee and the size of the country, Rwanda is perfect for applying this technology. The hyper-local forecast can be tailored to each farmer to help them make the best decisions at the right time for their specific location and environmental conditions.
Increasing the crop yields will help coffee farming in Rwanda to become more sustainable, enabling them to move from subsistence farming, where crops are grown for survival, to more profitable and sustainable business farming.
The company is building a local Rwandan team to roll out operations nationally and then to export this approach from the heart of Africa to other coffee-producing countries.
WeatherSafe last year won the UK Technology Strategy Board’s Launchpad Space Harwell award, providing £89 000 in funding and business support, which they matched with funds from private investors.
The picture shows Francesco Liucci of WeatherSafe. With the baseline app ready, his plan is to have the local forecasting app for Rwandan farmers in place within the next couple of months.
More about WeatherSafe here.
More about ESA's Business Incubation Centres here.
This colourful radar composite image shows changes in large-scale agricultural plots in southwest Iran.
The individual images were acquired by the radar on Japan’s ALOS satellite on 16 November, 16 May and 1 October 2010. Combined, the different colours show changes in the fields – such as harvesting at different points on time.
The most prominent fields in this image each measure about 1 km across. To the lower right, the smaller structures are ponds for aquaculture. Important fish for inland fisheries include carp, roach and mullet.
Running through the centre of the image is the Karun River. It is the country’s only navigable river, originating in the Zagros mountains and running its 720 km course southwest and into the Shatt al-Arab river, which then flows into the Persian Gulf.
Clusters of bright white radar reflections indicate the presence of buildings and other human-made structures, such as those seen in the middle of the blocks of fields and along the river.
On the centre-right side of the image, we can also see dots of white, evenly dispersed in a single row east-to-west. These are reflections from towers holding power lines. While these structures are difficult to spot in optical imagery – like the satellite images on Google Earth – their reflectivity makes them more visible to radar.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Comet 67P/Churymov-Gerasimenko in the constellation Ophiuchus. This image was taken on 21 March by the OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera. The comet is indicated by the small circle next to the bright globular star cluster M107. The image was taken from a distance of about 5 million kilometres to the comet. A wide-angle image was taken on 20 March.
The Sentinel-1A satellite is now fuelled. This rather hazardous operation cannot be rushed and took a week to complete. The next step is to fix the satellite to the Fregat upper stage of the Soyuz launcher and encapsulate in the rocket fairing. Launch from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana is set for 3 April at 21:02 GMT (23:02 CEST).
The Mars yard in Stevenage, UK.
The yard simulates the martian surface, complete with rocky obstacles, providing a realistic training ground for developing rover navigation systems.
On 22 March 2014, Ariane 5 flight VA216 lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on its mission to place two telecom satellites, Astra-5B and Amazonas-4A, into their planned transfer orbits.
Week in Images
24-28 March 2014