This image of the California wildfires was captured from the ISS by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst and shared on his social media channels on 3 August 2018.
Alexander said: "California burning. These fires are frightening to watch, even from space. Here's a shout-out from space to all firefighters on this planet, my former colleagues. Stay safe my friends!"
ESA’s Aeolus wind satellite with its Vega rocket fairing in the cleanroom at Europe’s spaceport near Kourou, French Guiana.
With liftoff less than three weeks away, ESA’s Aeolus satellite has been fuelled and is almost ready to be sealed within its Vega rocket fairing. Getting a satellite ready to be launched involves a long list of jobs, some of which are trickier than others. Since hydrazine is extremely toxic, only specialists dressed in bulky astronaut-like suits remained in the cleanroom for the duration of the activity.
ESA’s strategy for human and robotic exploration is using the International Space Station as a platform for out-of-this-world research and as a proving ground for space technology. Meanwhile we are heading towards the Moon with a lunar gateway and the Orion spacecraft in collaboration with partner space agencies. And looking even farther afield we are set to search for life on Mars with the ExoMars rover and even exploring concepts to bring back martian soil with partner agencies.
These three destinations are seen together in this image, taken near Mount Remarkable National Park about 250 km north of Adelaide, Australia.
Due to how Earth and Mars orbit the Sun, their distance and position in the sky changes over time. Mars will be at its closest to Earth tonight since 2003.
Last week, a total lunar eclipse occurred when Earth moved in between the Sun and the Moon, creating a reddish hue on the lunar surface as sunlight passed through the Earth’s atmosphere – the same phenomenon that causes sunsets on Earth to appear reddish in colour.
The International Space Station circles Earth every 90 minutes, so looking up at the right time and place allows for some beautiful pictures of the three orbiting objects – like this one captured by Andrew Wall.
Andrew recounts: “I had the idea of having Mount Remarkable in an image with the eclipsed moon but it was not until about a day or so before the eclipse that I found out that the Space Station would be passing by, just above the Moon and Mars at 06:40 local time – a great opportunity to get them all together.”
On 28 July 2018, which happens to be Andrew’s birthday, he got lucky despite some problems with the camera lens: “I had set up my telescope with an 8" f4 Newtonian on an Equatorial Mount, by the side of the road, and was busily taking photographs of the lunar eclipse. Just before the Space Station came into view I set up my second camera, a Canon 400D with a wide field lens to capture the pass. I moved the camera 100 m down the road and started taking exposures. Since it was cold, dew started forming on the lens, but I did not notice immediately as I was busy with the telescope.
“Seconds before clearing the lens with my jumper, the Space Station came into view, so it was a rush to focus and start taking images. I took a series of exposures only a few seconds long since the sky was already getting brighter. It was over as quickly as it began, as the Station continued on its journey.”
The images were post-processed by masking the stars, Moon and Mars and using the first frame of the Space Station pass as a reference. The Moon is taken at exactly the same time from the telescope camera and carefully aligned to the same size and location as the Moon in the other image. The scale and position is exactly the same but the images are stacked for better focus and effect.
ESA challenged photographers to take an image of the Moon, Mars and the International Space Station with bonus points given if it included Friday’s eclipsed Moon. The winners will be contacted soon.
The three modules of the BepiColombo mission are connected together electrically for testing.
On the left is ESA's Mercury Planetary Orbiter and on the right is the Mercury Transfer Module. JAXA's Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter is out of view in this image.
This unusual view of the Moon was captured during Friday’s total lunar eclipse from ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid in Spain, at 23:03 CEST.
The unprocessed image was taken with a Canon EOS 550D attached to a 20 cm aperture Celestron Newtonian CG8, with an exposure time of one second (ISO 1600).
During a lunar eclipse the Earth moves between the Sun and the Moon, blocking the light that would usually illuminate our orbiting neighbour’s surface. Instead, the reddish-orange-brown hue arises from refracted sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere.
It is the same mechanism responsible for sunrises and sunsets. In fact, the red hue during a total lunar eclipse arises from the refracted light from all the sunrises and sunsets taking place at the same time around the world along the day-night boundary at that moment on Earth, projected on to the Moon’s surface.
If you were lucky enough to see the event from a vantage point on the Moon’s surface, you’d see a red ring around Earth, glowing with the light of our planet’s sunrises and sunsets – quite a sight in store for future lunar explorers, although they would have to face the rapid change in temperature as Earth’s shadow races across the surface!
The conditions in Earth’s atmosphere at the time of the eclipse – dust particles and clouds for example – can have an effect on the shade of red. Although not a scientific term, the term ‘blood moon’ is commonly used to describe the totally eclipsed red-coloured Moon.
Friday’s event was the longest eclipse of the 21st century, with totality – the time in which the Earth’s shadow completely engulfs the Moon’s surface – lasting for 103 minutes.
Missed this event? Lunar eclipses can occur up to five times a year, so there will be plenty more opportunities in the future. Furthermore, a solar eclipse always occurs about two weeks before or after a lunar eclipse. To see if you can view the partial solar eclipse coming up on 11 August, check https://www.timeanddate.com, which provides useful information on astronomical phenomena like this.
For more images of the recent total lunar eclipse from ESA’s astronomers in Spain, visit the CESAR (Cooperation through Education in Science and Astronomy Research) website.
Seen on a microscopic support, this sharp-edged grain of rock is an extraterrestrial object – a tiny sample from the Itokawa asteroid, retrieved by Japan’s Hayabusa mission and now being tested by ESA researchers.
Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft was the world’s first mission to retrieve samples from the surface of an asteroid and return them to Earth. Beset by many problems, after a seven-year, six-billion-km odyssey Hayabusa returned around 1 500 precious asteroid grains to Earth.
Extremely precious, these Hayabusa grains have become the focus of scientific study around the world – and three of them are currently here, at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands.
Researcher Fabrice Cipriani is leading research into their static charging properties, to understand the consequences for the surface environments of asteroids.
This image of NASA astronaut Richard Arnold, Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, shows how the Space Station crew trains for emergencies and was shared on Alexander's social media channels on 2 August 2018.
Alexander said "What looks like the preparation for a bank robbery is actually training for emergencies like a fire or a toxic atmosphere. Living on a space station requires staying vigilant at all times."
Obtained for a research programme on star formation in old and distant galaxies, this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image obtained with its Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) demonstrates the immense effects of gravity; more specifically, it shows the effects of gravitational lensing caused by an object called SDSS J1152+3313.
Gravitational lenses — such as this galaxy cluster SDSS J1152+3313 — possess immense masses that wrap their surroundings and bend the light from faraway objects into rings, arcs, streaks, blurs, and other odd shapes. This lens, however, is not only wrapping the appearance of a distant galaxy — it is also amplifying its light, making it appear much brighter than it would be without the lens. Combined with the high image quality obtainable with Hubble, this gives valuable clues into how stars formed in the early Universe.
Star formation is a key process in astronomy. Everything that emits light is somehow connected to stars, so understanding how stars form is key to understanding countless objects lying across the cosmos. Astronomers can probe these early star-forming regions to learn about the sizes, luminosities, formation rates, and generations of different types of stars.
Week in images
30 July - 3 August 2018