The remains of comet ISON at 07:18 UT on 29 November, as seen in SOHO's LASCO C3 field of view after its close encounter with the Sun the previous evening.
Comet ISON at 12:42 UT on 27 November as seen in SOHO's LASCO C3 field of view.
This animation shows the timeline of over 37 000 scientific observations made by ESA’s Herschel space observatory throughout its entire mission, condensed into less than a minute.
The animation was prepared by Pedro Gómez-Alvarez in the Herschel Science Centre and presented by Herschel’s Project Scientist Göran Pilbratt during the opening session of The Universe Explored by Herschel symposium held at ESA’s ESTEC facility, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, last month.
The animation runs from launch, on 14 May 2009, until the infrared observatory made its last observation on 29 April 2013.
Running through the centre of the graphic is the ‘ecliptic plane’ tracing the paths of the planets with respect to Herschel’s viewpoint from its orbit around L2, which is located 1.5 million kilometres behind the Earth as viewed from the Sun.
A horseshoe shape marks the Galactic Plane, the direction in which much of the Milky Way’s mass lies, and where many of Herschel’s observations were focused.
In total, Herschel observed almost a tenth of the entire sky for over 23 500 hours, providing new views into the previously hidden Universe, pointing to unseen star birth and galaxy formation, and tracing water through the Universe from molecular clouds to newborn stars and to their planet-forming discs and belts of comets.
Its two camera/imaging spectrometers, PACS (Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer) and SPIRE (Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver), which together covered wavelengths of 55–670 microns, provided about two thirds of Herschel’s sky coverage in parallel imaging mode. These data points are shown in yellow.
PACS and SPIRE photometry observations are indicated in blue and green, which together with spectroscopy performed with PACS, SPIRE and the third science instrument, HIFI (Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared, covering wavelength bands of 157–212 microns and 240–625 microns) make up the remainder.
Since 29 October 2013, when the last observed data went public, all of the Herschel data are available to the worldwide astronomical community. The vast data archive will become the scientific legacy of the mission, destined to yield far more discoveries than have been made over the mission lifetime so far.
This image from Japan’s ALOS satellite shows the Aorounga Crater in northern Chad.
The crater is just south of the Tibesti Mountains, a range of inactive – with some potentially active – volcanoes in the central Sahara desert.
Measuring about 12 km across, the crater was created by a meteorite impact about 340 million years ago.
Clearly visible is the dark, central peak, caused by material splashing up after the impact, similar to how water bounces back up when a stone is thrown in. This peak is surrounded by a low, sand-filled ring, which is surrounded by another ring of rock from when the material was thrown outwards. A distinctive low, sand-filled trough circles the others – the outer edges of the initial impact.
The linear rock ridges that run diagonally across this image are ‘yardangs’ and are formed by wind erosion. Here, we can clearly see how the wind blows from northeast to southwest. Sand dunes form in the wind-cut valleys between the rock ridges of the yardangs.
Japan’s Advanced Land Observation Satellite captured this image on 3 November 2010. ALOS was supported as a Third Party Mission, which means that ESA used its multimission ground systems to acquire, process, distribute and archive data from the satellite to its user community.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
An urban sprawl engulfs San Francisco Bay in a sea of lights. The three bridges – Oakland Bay Bridge, San Mateo Bridge and Dumbarton Bridge – glow as straight lines connecting the coasts. From top right going clockwise, freeways pass through Oakland, Hayward, Fremont, San Jose, Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Mateo and San Francisco.
The bright lights of the cities are themselves surrounded by natural parks. Past the coastal Eastern Bay Regional Parks to the right, the cities of Pleasanton and Walnut Creek keep the dark wilderness at bay with their street lighting. To the left, apart from the Half Moon Bay Airport on the coast, the blackness of the Pacific Ocean prevails.
This image was taken on 23 December 2012 from the International Space Station. Circling Earth at an altitude of around 400 km, astronauts witness the beauty of our planet from a unique vantage point. At night, human settlements can be seen as street lighting illuminates the sky. ESA developed an automatic camera tripod that compensates for the speed of the Space Station flying at 28 800 km/h to take sharper pictures at night.
This sprinkling of cosmic glitter makes up the galaxy known as ESO 149-3, located some 20 million light-years away from us. It is an example of an irregular galaxy, characterised by its amorphous, undefined shape — a property that sets it apart from its perhaps more photogenic spiral and elliptical relatives. Around one quarter of all galaxies are thought to be irregular-type galaxies.
In this image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope ESO 149-3 can be seen as a smattering of golden and blue stars, with no apparent central nucleus or arm structure. The surrounding sky is rich in other more distant galaxies, visible as small, colourful streaks and dashes.
A version of this image was submitted to the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Luca Limatola.
The Rosetta engineering model (EQM) is located in a clean room at ESA/ESOC, Darmstadt. It is a faithful, full-size replica – minus the huge solar arrays – of the actual Rosetta spacecraft, and is used for testing software and procedures before uploading to space.
A test subject sitting on Sled, an ESA experiment launched on Spacelab-1 on 28 November 1983. Sled investigated space sickness by monitoring eye movement as the seat moved horizontally and tilted while cold or hot air was blown into the astronaut’s ears.
The vestibular system in the inner ear helps to keep balance and navigate the space around us. In weightlessness an astronaut’s vestibular system works differently and the sense of equilibrium changes, causing space sickness. The Sled experiment allowed researchers to understand how the vestibular system adapts to living in space.
Spacelab was a European-built reusable space laboratory that flew on the Space Shuttle from 1983 to 1998. Elements of Spacelab design feature in later ESA space hardware such as the Columbus laboratory and the Automated Transfer Vehicles.
Spacelab surveyed the possibilities of weightless research in many scientific areas, paving the way for research on the International Space Station. Spacelab experiments led to space-age metals used in mass-produced smartphones and revealed areas of space research that show promise in treating chronic muscle diseases.
The scientific airlock of ESA's Spacelab being prepared for vibration testing on the 14-tonne shaker at the ESTEC Test Centre in May 1981. Spacelab was a reusable orbital laboratory that turned NASA's Space Shuttle from a space truck into a space-based research platform. Spacelab flew in the cargo bay of NASA's Space Shuttle a total of 22 times, launched for the first time on STS-9 aboard the Columbia Shuttle on 28 November 1983.
Its airlock was mounted on top of the Spacelab module, allowing experiments to be placed simply and safely in the vacuum of space and then retrieved again. It was manufactured by Fokker in the Netherlands (now Dutch Space). Spacelab's prime contractor was ERNO in Germany (now Astrium).
Spacelab was ESA's largest cooperative programme with NASA at the time, and historically significant as the ancestor of Europe's subsequent human spaceflight modules: Columbus on the International Space Station, the Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules and the ATV spacecraft.
Week in Images
25-29 November 2013