Discovered in 1900 by astronomer DeLisle Stewart and here imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, IC 4710 is an undeniably spectacular sight. The galaxy is a busy cloud of bright stars, with bright pockets — marking bursts of new star formation — scattered around its edges.
IC 4710 is a dwarf irregular galaxy. As the name suggests, such galaxies are irregular and chaotic in appearance, lacking central bulges and spiral arms — they are distinctly different from spirals or ellipticals. It is thought that irregular galaxies may once have been spirals or ellipticals, but became distorted over time through external gravitational forces during interactions or mergers with other galaxies. Dwarf irregulars in particular are important to our overall understanding of galactic evolution, as they are thought to be similar to the first galaxies that formed in the Universe.
IC 4710 lies roughly 25 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Pavo (The Peacock). This constellation is located in the southern skies and also contains the third-brightest globular cluster in the sky, NGC 6752, the spiral galaxy NGC 6744, and six known planetary systems (including HD 181433 which is host to a super-Earth).
The data used to create this image were gathered by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).
Italy is usually associated with relatively warm weather, but this week it, too, has fallen victim to the cold snap nicknamed the Beast from the East.
Freezing temperatures carried on winds from Siberia have brought snow to much of Europe, causing widespread disruption. As this image captured on 27 February by the Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite shows, Italy in southern Europe was not spared. Temperatures in Rome (bottom right of the image) are normally between 6°C and 14°C, but this week it has been down to –5°C during the night, and it is the first time the city has seen snowfall in six years. Naples also had its heaviest snowfall in decades.
Although this image might look more like the surface of Mars, it was actually captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission and shows southeast Namibia and the western edge of the Kalahari Desert.
Namibia is famous not only for its stunning desert landforms but also because these deserts offer clues to the history of tectonic plate movement in this part of Africa. The Namib Desert, which runs along Africa’s southwestern coast, is said to be the oldest desert in the world. While this image was taken further east – over part of southeast Namibia – the striking orange–russet tones are also down to the semi-arid climate in this remote region.
The Kalahari, which covers much of Botswana, parts of South Africa and part of southeast Namibia is not a true desert as it receives too much rain, but it is an area of ancient fossilised sand dunes. Some of these dunes, also known as sand sheets, can be seen running across the top-right corner of the image and appear surprisingly parallel and uniform. It is thought that these dunes formed between 2 500 000 and 12 000 years ago, and have been fixed ever since.
To the east, the landscape also looks like an alien orange world and is dominated by ridges, escarpments and dry lake beds known as salt pans. Roads cutting sharply across the landscape are a reminder that this region is not entirely unpopulated.
The image, which is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme, was captured by Sentinel-2 on 28 July 2017.
Heads of the Russian, European and UK space agencies at Airbus, Stevenage, UK, on 22 February.
“Today was a unique occasion, and a great pleasure for us to welcome the heads of the Russian, European and UK space agencies to Airbus in Stevenage,” said Colin Paynter UK Managing Director Airbus Defence and Space. “Our visitors were able to see good progress on the mechanical prototype of ESA’s ExoMars Rover, which is in integration, and also preparations for building the flight rover itself.”
ESA Director General Jan Wörner added, “It was inspiring to see the progress being made for our ExoMars rover mission, and even more so in the same week that we are celebrating our ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter completing aerobraking at Mars, something we have never done before with such a huge spacecraft. We’re looking forward to preparing for the orbiter’s science mission as well as relaying data from rovers already on the surface back to Earth – and in a few years time, from our own ExoMars rover.”
Pictured (from left): ‘Bryan’, the test rover; David Parker, ESA Director of Human and Robotic and Exploration; Jan Wörner, ESA Director General; Igor Komarov, Director General of State Space Corporation Roscosmos; Nicolas Chamussy, Head of Airbus Space Systems; Graham Turnock, Chief Executive UK Space Agency; Colin Paynter, Managing Director Airbus Space UK.
ESA astronaut Tim Peake visits 'chameleon' telecom satellite, Eutelsat Quantum, on 26 February 2018 at Airbus Portsmouth, UK. Eutelsat Quantum is the first commercial satellite to be fully reconfigurable in orbit. For the first time, users will be able to adapt the satellite’s coverage, bandwidth, power and frequency while it is in space, to match the changing requirements on Earth. The satellite is the result of a public–private partnership (PPP) between satellite operator Eutelsat, ESA and Airbus (GB).
Europe shivers as a cold front sweeps in from Siberia, Russia, bringing freezing temperatures to the continent. This chilly snap is being dubbed as the Beast from the East.
The frigid grip is casting its icy spell on the Alps, one of Europe’s main ski destinations. Skiing lovers are coming to grips with temperatures of between –15°C and –25°C.
This image shows the Alpine region with its snow-capped tops. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst took it from the International Space Station during his first mission in 2014 with the comment: “Clouds getting sucked into a valley on the Northern side of the European Alps.”
Photography is a favourite pastime for astronauts when they are not running scientific research or maintaining the Station. From the European-built Cupola observatory, Alexander had a privileged vantage point 400 km above our planet.
During that first stay in orbit he took thousands of images of Earth to observe our planet from a unique angle and share them with the public.
Alexander is eager to return to the Station in June 2018, for his science-packed ‘Horizons’ second mission.
Many of the experiments will take place in the Columbus laboratory. The first and only European module dedicated to long-term research in weightlessness recently achieved 10 years in orbit.
Follow the countdown to his Horizons mission via alexandergerst.esa.int
Team work at the ESA Academy's latest Concurrent Engineering Workshop, held from 20 to 23 February 2018 at the Academy’s Training and Learning Centre, ESA-ESEC, Belgium.
Attended by 22 university students from 12 different ESA Member and Associate States, the Workshop gave participants an intensive introduction to the Concurrent Engineering design method.
Working in teams, the students contributed to the the LUNar CrasH mission – or LUNCH for short – which had an ambitious goal: observe the crater, scan for water particles and ejecta plume generated by crashing an impactor into the surface of the Moon.
The activity cycle of the Sun – where the number of sunspots increase and decrease – has been monitored regularly for around 250 years, but the use of space-based telescopes has given us a whole new perspective of our nearest star.
On 22 December 2017 the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) reached 22 years in space. That duration is significant because it is the average length of the complete solar magnetic cycle. Sunspot cycles are known to occur over about 11 years, but the full cycle is double this length owing to the behaviour of the magnetic fields. The Sun’s polarity gradually changes through its cycle, so that after 11 years the orientation of the field will have flipped between the northern and southern hemispheres. At the end of a 22-year cycle, the orientation of the magnetic field is the same as it was at the start.
Each image shown here is a snapshot of the Sun taken every spring with the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope on SOHO. Observing in the ultraviolet reveals the Sun’s corona – the extremely hot atmosphere, up to some 2 million degrees, that extends millions of kilometres into space.
When the Sun is at its most active, strong magnetic fields show up as bright spots in the ultraviolet images of the corona. Activity also becomes obvious on the photosphere, which is the surface we see in visible light.
When the Sun is active, sunspots appear on the surface. Concentrations of magnetic fields can reduce the surface temperature in some areas and this reduced temperature makes these areas appear black in visible light images. The last 11-year cycle began in 1996, and the current one started in 2008, with solar maximum occurring in 2014.
By monitoring the Sun for almost a complete 22-year cycle, SOHO has provided a wealth of data on solar variability. This has been vital for monitoring the interaction of the Sun’s activity with Earth, and improving capabilities in space weather forecasting.
SOHO has made many important discoveries with its suite of instruments, such as revealing the existence of sunquakes, detecting waves travelling through the corona and identifying the source of the ‘fast’ solar wind.
Week In Images
26 February - 2 March 2018