The Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite takes us over northern Brazil on 22 August 2017, where the Amazon River meets the Atlantic Ocean.
Click on the box in the lower-right corner to view this image at its full 10 m resolution directly in your browser.
The sediment-laden water appears brown as it flows from the lower left to the open ocean in the upper right. ‘Popcorn’ clouds are visible in parts of the image – a common occurrence during the Amazon’s dry season, formed by condensed water vapour released by plants and trees during the sunny day.
The land varies in colour from the deep green of dense vegetation to light brown. Taking a closer look to the upper-left section of the image, we can see large brown areas where the vegetation has already been cleared away. Geometric shapes indicate agricultural fields, and linear roads cut through the remaining dense vegetation.
Rainforests worldwide are being destroyed at an alarming rate. This is of great concern because they play an important role in global climate, and are home to a wide variety of plants, animals and insects. More than a third of all species in the world live in the Amazon Rainforest.
Unlike other forests, rainforests have difficulty regrowing after they are destroyed and, owing to their composition, their soils are not suitable for long-term agricultural use.
With their unique view from space, Earth observation satellites have been instrumental in highlighting the vulnerability of the rainforests by documenting the scale of deforestation.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
One of the first images from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission shows nitrogen dioxide over Europe on 22 November 2017. It shows high emissions over the Po Valley in northern Italy and over western Germany. Nitrogen dioxide pollutes the air mainly as a result of industrial fossil fuel combustion and road traffic. There are some gaps in the coverage here because Sentinel-5P cannot image through clouds.
Capturing a large part of Europe, this image also demonstrates Tropomi’s swath width of 2600 km.
Read full article: Sentinel-5P brings air pollution into focus
A dark cloud when observed with optical telescopes, the Chamaeleon I region reveals itself as an active hub of star formation in this far-infrared image from ESA’s Herschel space observatory. Only around 550 light-years away in the southern constellation of Chamaeleon, it is one of the closest areas where stars are bursting into life.
Launched in 2009, Herschel observed the sky at far-infrared and submillimetre wavelengths until 2013. Sensitive to the heat from the small fraction of cold dust mixed in with the clouds of gas where stars form, it provided unprecedented views of the interstellar material that pervades our Milky Way galaxy.
Herschel’s extraordinary scans uncovered a vast and intricate network of filamentary structures everywhere in the Galaxy, confirming that filaments are crucial elements in the process of star formation.
After a filamentary web arises from turbulent motions of gas in the interstellar material, gravity takes over, but only in the densest filaments, which become unstable and fragment into compact objects – the seeds of future stars.
Chamaeleon I is no exception, with several elongated structures weaving their way through the cloud. Most of the star-forming activity is taking place at the convergence of filaments – in the bright area towards the top right and in the vaster region just left of the image centre, sprinkled with newborn stars that are heating up the material in their surroundings.
Analysing images like this, astronomers have identified more than 200 young stars in this two million year-old cloud. Most of these stars are still surrounded by a disc of leftover material from the formation process, which may evolve and later give rise to planets.
Owing to its relative vicinity, Chamaeleon I is an ideal laboratory to explore protoplanetary discs and their properties using Herschel data.
This image was first published in a paper by Á. Ribas et al. (2013), which presents a study of protoplanetary discs in this region. It was also shared as a #HerschelMoment during a public campaign on Twitter to celebrate the legacy of ESA's observatory in September 2017.
This three-colour image combines Herschel observations at 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red), and spans about 2.5º on the long side; north is to the right and east is up.
As the International Space Station circles Earth at an altitude of only 400 km, basic radio technology can be used to communicate with it – as long as it flies within sight of the receiver on the ground.
The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station group organises regular contacts with astronauts in space and schoolchildren. Here, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli was talking to a school in Villasanta, Italy. Each overhead path allows enough time to answer around 18 questions from schoolchildren.
Paolo is on his third mission in space, called Vita, and has set records for amateur radio. During Vita he reclaimed his title of astronaut with the most school contacts, and also set a record for video over amateur radio – a new addition to the Station in 2014.
Paolo’s mission is coming to an end, with the landing date set for 14 December at 08:36 GMT (09:36 CET) together with Russian commander Sergei Ryazansky and NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik in their Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft.
If you have the equipment at home, you can try to contact an astronaut on the Station as it passes within range. Paolo’s call sign is IZ0JPA but all astronauts are trained on the equipment and have their own call sign. Hail them and you might get lucky as they pass by – if they have a minute to spare between working on experiments and maintaining the Space Station.
For more information and to apply for a school session to talk to an astronaut, go to the ARISS website here: http://www.ariss-eu.org/
A prototype atom interferometer chip in a vacuum chamber, harnessing the quantum behaviour of atoms to perform ultra-precise measurements of gravity.
“Quantum physics and space travel are two of the greatest scientific achievements of the last century,” comments ESA’s Bruno Leone, among the organisers of the latest Agency workshop on quantum technologies.
“We now see great promise in bringing them together: many quantum experiments can be performed much more precisely in space, away from terrestrial perturbations. In addition, the new generation of quantum devices offer huge improvements to space-related technology.
“Potential is there for the use of quantum technologies in areas such as Earth observation, planetary exploration, secure communications, fundamental physics, microgravity research and navigation.”
Microwave and light interferometers provide extremely precise measurements by combining different waves. Just like sets of ripples meeting in water, the combination of slightly different signals creates interference patterns.
This interferometer takes advantage of the fact that – as stated by quantum theory – atoms also behave like waves as well as particles, and can be combined to deliver extraordinary atomic-scale precision. It could be used in principle to map variations in Earth’s gravity with orders of magnitude greater than our current best.
ESA’s deep-space ground station at New Norcia, Western Australia, is now being powered in part by sunlight, thanks to a new solar power ‘farm’ completed in August 2017.
The farm has 840 photovoltaic panels arranged in five double rows with a rated capacity of 250 kW. This is expected to generate 470 MWh of electricity annually, about 40% of the station’s annual needs and equal to the electricity needed to power 134 typical households.
The next four Galileo satellites are placed in the payload container ahead of their 12 December launch. The next four satellites will launch on an Ariane 5 rocket to join the 18 satellites currently in orbit. This launch will bring the total Galileo constellation to 22, boosting the global availability of navigation signals. Galileo began Initial Services just under a year ago, the first step before full operations, on 15 December.
ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli took this image of Italy from the window of the Copula. He posted it to social media with a simple but iconic caption: 'Volare oh oh... Nel blu dipinto di blu!' The reference is to the widely popular song by Domenico Modugno (Volare means 'to fly') that has been translated into many languages.
Today marks Paolo's 300th cumulative day is space. He will complete his Vita mission and return to Earth on 14 December. Until then, he'll take many more images of Earth while flying overhead.
This picturesque view from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope peers into the distant Universe to reveal a galaxy cluster called Abell 2537.
Galaxy clusters such as this one contain thousands of galaxies of all ages, shapes and sizes, together totalling a mass thousands of times greater than that of the Milky Way. These groupings of galaxies are colossal — they are the largest structures in the Universe to be held together by their own gravity.
Clusters are useful in probing mysterious cosmic phenomena like dark matter and dark energy, the latter of which is thought to define the geometry of the entire Universe. There is so much matter stuffed into a cluster like Abell 2537 that its gravity has visible effects on its surroundings. Abell 2537’s gravity warps the very structure of its environment (spacetime), causing light to travel along distorted paths through space. This phenomenon can produce a magnifying effect, allowing us to see objects that lie behind the cluster and are thus otherwise unobservable from Earth. Abell 2537 is a particularly efficient lens, as demonstrated by the stretched stripes and streaking arcs visible in the frame. These smeared shapes are in fact galaxies, their light heavily distorted by the gravitational field of Abell 2537.
This spectacular scene was captured by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide-Field Camera 3 as part of an observing programme called RELICS.
Week in Images
27 November - 1 December 2017