This image from ESA’s Mars Express shows Chalcoporos Rupes, a region on Mars that shows signs of dust and wind activity. It comprises data gathered on 3 January 2019 during Mars Express Orbit 18983. The ground resolution is approximately 13 metres per pixel and the images are centred at about 23° East and 53° South. This image was created using data from the nadir and colour channels of the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). The nadir channel is aligned perpendicular to the surface of Mars, as if looking straight down at the surface. North is to the right.
Full story: Dark dust devil tracks on Mars
Captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, this image shows the narrow strait that connects eastern Europe to western Asia: the Bosphorus in northwest Turkey. The image contains satellite data stitched together from three radar scans acquired on 2 June, 8 July and 13 August 2018.
Separating the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, the strait is one of the busiest maritime passages in the world, with around 48 000 ships passing through every year. Daily traffic includes international commercial shipping vessels and oil tankers, as well as local fishing and ferries. Ships in the strait can be seen in the image as multi-coloured dots. Three bridges are also visible spanning the strait and connecting the two continents.
The two identical Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites carry radar instruments, which can see through clouds and rain, and in the dark, to image Earth’s surface below. The multi-temporal remote sensing technique combines two or more radar images over the same area to detect changes occurring between acquisitions.
In the far-left of this image, the aqua-green patches of land show the changes in the fields between the three satellite acquisitions.
Turkey’s most populous city, Istanbul, can be seen on both sides of the Bosphorus. The city appears in shades of white owing to the stronger reflection of the radar signal from buildings, which contrasts with the dark black colour of the inland lakes and surrounding waters.
This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
The asteroid 6478 Gault is seen with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, showing two narrow, comet-like tails of debris that tell us that the asteroid is slowly undergoing self-destruction. The bright streaks surrounding the asteroid are background stars. The Gault asteroid is located 214 million miles from the Sun, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Learn more about this asteroid here.
The platform destined to land on the Red Planet as part of the next ExoMars mission being shipped to Europe for final assembly and testing.
An announcement was made by the Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos of its new name: ‘Kazachok’.
Kazachok left Russia in March 2019 after being carefully packed to meet planetary protection requirements, making sure to not bring terrestrial biological contamination to Mars. It was shipped to Turin, Italy, on an Antonov plane along with ground support equipment and other structural elements.
It is thought that well over a million people have been affected by what is probably the worst storm on record to hit the southern hemisphere. Making landfall on 15 March 2019, Cyclone Idai ripped through Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, razing buildings to the ground, destroying roads and inundating entire towns, villages and swathes of farmland. The human death toll is still unknown. While humanitarian efforts continue, people are now also facing the mammoth task of picking up the pieces and cleaning up after this devastating storm.
This Copernicus Sentinel-1 image indicates where the flood waters are finally beginning to recede west of the port city of Beira in Mozambique. The image merges three separate satellite radar images from before the storm on 13 March, from one of the days when the floods were at their worst on 19 March, and as the waters are beginning to drain away on 25 March. The blue-purple colour indicates where floodwater is receding, while areas shown in red are still underwater.
Images from Copernicus Sentinel-1 contributed to activations triggered in the Copernicus Emergency Management Service and the International Charter Space and Major Disasters. Both services take advantage of observations from several satellites and provide on-demand mapping to help civil protection authorities and the international humanitarian community in the face of major emergencies.
Copernicus Sentinel-1 is a two-satellite mission, each carrying a radar instrument that can ‘see’ through clouds and rain, which makes it particularly useful for monitoring floods. As a constellation of two satellites orbiting 180° apart, the mission can repeat observations every six days, which is also useful for monitoring evolving situations.
Last Wednesday, all locations on our planet enjoyed roughly the same number of hours of day and night. This event, called an equinox, takes place twice a year – around 20 March and then again around 23 September.
On these two occasions along Earth’s yearly orbit around the Sun, sunlight shines directly overhead at the equator. The March equinox marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and of autumn in the southern one, and vice versa for the September equinox.
The ESA/NASA SOHO solar observatory enjoys an alternative view of our parent star, staring at the Sun since 1995 from a vantage position – orbiting the first Lagrange point (L1) some 1.5 million kilometres from Earth towards the Sun. Over the years, SOHO has been monitoring the surface and stormy atmosphere of our star, as well as keeping an eye on the solar wind, the flow of charged particles streaming out through the Solar System, enabling a wealth of scientific discoveries.
This montage of images shows SOHO’s view of the Sun at different ultraviolet wavelengths in the early morning of 20 March; the equinox occurred at 21:58 GMT. From left to right, the images shown in this view were taken at increasing wavelengths (171 Å, 195 Å, 284 Å and 304 Å, respectively) with SOHO’s Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope, which currently takes snapshots of the Sun twice a day.
Each wavelength channel is sensitive to solar material at a different range of temperatures, peering at different heights into the Sun’s atmosphere. From left to right, the brightest material in each image corresponds to temperatures of 1 million, 1.5 million, 2 million and 60 000–80 000ºC, respectively.
Similar SOHO views of the Sun were also featured in a previous Space Science Image of the Week in 2017. Look at them side by side to spot any differences between the Sun then and now. For more information about SOHO, including realtime images of the Sun, visit: https://soho.nascom.nasa.gov
Meanwhile, at the IABG facilities in Ottobrunn, Germany, the Solar Orbiter spacecraft is undergoing final testing ahead of launch early next year. This new joint ESA/NASA mission will perform unprecedented close-up observations of the Sun from a unique orbit that will allow scientists to study our star and its corona in much more detail than previously possible, as well as providing high-resolution images of the uncharted polar regions of the Sun.
Remember: never look directly at the Sun!
A Proba-V view of the internationally protected, volcanic archipelago of the Galápagos and its surrounding marine reserve. This island chain is renowned for its many endemic species that were studied by Charles Darwin, directly contributing to his famous theory of evolution by means of natural selection.
In 1535, the Spaniard Tomás de Berlanga, fourth bishop of Panama, first visited these islands by chance when he was sailing to Peru. On the maps of Mercator and Ortelius, famous geographers, the islands were named Insulae de los Galopegos or Islands of the Tortoises after the giant tortoises found there.
This false colour composition highlights vegetation in red on the flanks of several volcanoes, in particular Wolf, Darwin, Alcedo, Santo Tomás and Cerro Azul volcanoes on Isla Isabella, the largest island.
Launched on 7 May 2013, Proba-V is a miniaturised ESA satellite tasked with a full-scale mission: to map land cover and vegetation growth across the entire planet every two days.
Its main camera’s continent-spanning 2250 km swath width collects light in the blue, red, near-infrared and mid-infrared wavebands at a 300 m pixel size, down to 100 m in its central field of view.
VITO Remote Sensing in Belgium processes and then distributes Proba-V data to users worldwide. An online image gallery highlights some of the mission’s most striking images so far, including views of storms, fires and deforestation.
This 100 m spatial resolution image was acquired on 27 February 2017.
The Solar Orbiter spacecraft during preparations for the vibration test campaign at the IABG facility in Ottobrunn, Germany.
The mechanical vibration tests are designed to confirm and verify that the spacecraft can survive the liftoff and journey to reach its operational orbit.
Solar Orbiter will be launched in 2020 to study how the Sun creates and controls the heliosphere, the vast bubble of charged particles blown by the solar wind into the interstellar medium.
Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate (left), and David Parker, ESA’s Director of Human and Robotic Exploration, signing a Statement of Intent to coordinate joint science research about the Moon and identify cooperative lunar mission opportunities during the National Academies’ Space Science Week in Washington, DC, USA, on 27 March 2019.
The statement highlights a common interest in accessing the Moon driven by scientific discovery and support for private-sector capabilities and mission services on the surface and in the vicinity of the Moon.
In going forward to the Moon, ESA and NASA are committed to sustainable lunar exploration made possible by cooperation – not only with space agencies but also with the private sector. New commercial capabilities offer new opportunities to explore – and to expand economic activity into deep space.
Both ESA and NASA will continue to explore scientific collaboration on payloads and future missions to the Moon.
A new study into the potential of artificial gravity to help astronauts stay healthy in space is now in full swing, or should that be spin?
Phase one of the 60-day bedrest study, commissioned by ESA and NASA and carried out by German Aerospace Center DLR, began at DLR’s ‘:envihab’ medical research and rehabilitation facility in Cologne, Germany, on Monday 25 March.
The study is the first of its kind to be conducted in partnership between ESA and NASA. It is also the first to employ DLR’s short-arm centrifuge (shown in this image) as a way of recreating gravity for participants.
Each of the 12 male and 12 female participants will lie in beds with their heads tilted 6° below horizontal for 60 consecutive days. Medical researchers will oversee them and ensure one of their shoulders is touching the mattress at all times.
As blood flows to their heads and muscle is lost from underuse, researchers will investigate changes and test techniques from diet to physical exercise.
Artificial gravity is one of the techniques under the spotlight this time around. Once a day, a selection of the study’s participants will be moved to the centrifuge to encourage blood to flow back towards their feet and allow researchers to understand the potential of artificial gravity in combating the effects of weightlessness.
A number of different experiments, carried out over the course of the study, will look at cardiovascular function, balance and muscle strength, metabolism and cognitive performance among other factors.
Seven of these experiments will be conducted by European-led research groups, with a view to validating the findings on the International Space Station during future missions.
Find out more about bedrest studies in this brochure.
This star-studded image shows us a portion of Messier 11, an open star cluster in the southern constellation of Scutum (The Shield). Messier 11 is also known as the Wild Duck Cluster, as its brightest stars form a “V” shape that somewhat resembles a flock of ducks in flight.
Messier 11 is one of the richest and most compact open clusters currently known. By investigating the brightest, hottest main sequence stars in the cluster astronomers estimate that it formed roughly 220 million years ago. Open clusters tend to contain fewer and younger stars than their more compact globular cousins, and Messier 11 is no exception: at its centre lie many blue stars, the hottest and youngest of the cluster’s few thousand stellar residents.
The lifespans of open clusters are also relatively short compared to those of globular ones; stars in open clusters are spread further apart and are thus not as strongly bound to each other by gravity, causing them to be more easily and quickly drawn away by stronger gravitational forces. As a result Messier 11 is likely to disperse in a few million years as its members are ejected one by one, pulled away by other celestial objects in the vicinity.
Week in images
25 - 29 March 2019