In the Integration Facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet (right) and his Expedition 50-51 crewmates NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson (left) and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy (centre), pose for pictures with their Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft during a fit check dress rehearsal on 2 November 2016. They are scheduled for launch on 17 November 2016, for a six-month mission to the International Space Station.
ESA’s Matthias Maurer with ESA astronauts Luca Parmitano and Pedro Duque on a field trip for the Pangaea planetary geology course.
On field trips in the Mars-like landscape of Lanzarote, one of the Spanish Canary Islands, the students were tasked with interpreting geological features to understand the history of how the island formed. The goal is to help astronauts choose the best places to explore and collect rock samples.
This session put into practice a week’s training in Bressanone, Italy, last September where they learned about Earth and planetary geological processes as well as how to recognise rocks and meteorites.
The trio went on progressively difficult day trips, ending with a free exploration of the countryside searching for interesting samples while keeping in contact via radio with scientists at ‘mission control’.
Lanzarote was chosen for this course because of its geological similarity with Mars, such as a volcanic origin, mild sedimentary processes owing to a dry climate, hardly any vegetation and a well-preserved landscape.
The course took place in collaboration with the Geopark of Lanzarote, a protected area with pristine wilderness.
ESA astronaut Tim Peake pictured with schoolchildren during the UK Space Agency Schools Conference hosted by the University of Portsmouth on 2 November 2016.
The conference celebrated the work of over a million UK school students inspired by Tim's Principia mission, which saw him spend more than six months on board the International Space Station between December 2015 and June 2016.
This whirling, twisting skyscape is an arresting and somewhat intimidating sight – a perfect Halloween Space Science Image of the Week. Jagged lanes in shades of dark and pale green tangle with bright patches of white, creating a knotted spiral somewhat reminiscent of a celestial serpent writhing across the sky, looming ominously over the sleepy town below.
It may look appropriately spooky and otherworldly, but this image shows something that is quite commonplace at Earth’s northern- and southernmost latitudes. The flashes of green in the sky are an aurora, seen when large bursts of energetic atomic particles stream out from the Sun and hit a planet’s atmosphere. These particles filter down through the protective layers surrounding Earth – such as the magnetosphere, the region of space dominated by the magnetic field – and interact with the air particles found below in the atmosphere. Patches of atmosphere subsequently glow brightly and eerily, filling our skies with startling ripples and flashes of colour.
Auroras are often referred to as ‘the northern lights’ (aurora borealis), but they also occur regularly at southern latitudes (aurora australis). They are best seen from regions including Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and parts of South America (southern), and Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia and Iceland (northern).
The effect is seen only at polar and near-polar latitudes because the charged particles travel in towards Earth along magnetic field lines that meet our planet at its poles.
Auroras are the most visible manifestation of the Sun’s effect on Earth. Since 2000, ESA’s quartet of Cluster satellites has been investigating the complex Sun–Earth connection and has been unravelling the puzzle of how and why auroras form.
This image shows a town in southern Iceland named Selfoss, on the Ölfusá River (visible in the foreground). It was taken by photographer Davide Necchi on 27 August 2015. This particular aurora was linked to a solar storm, which caused an especially large and sudden outpouring of particles into our atmosphere. As a result, the lights were intense and unusually bright, appearing abruptly in the evening sky before it was fully dark. In fact, the aurora was so bright that Davide opted for a relatively short 3 second exposure time, conscious that any longer may cause the brightest parts of the photograph to ‘burn’ or become ‘blown-out’, thus losing detail.
Necchi used a Canon 5D Mark II camera with a 14 mm f2.8 lens. This image had an ISO of 1600, and no filter has been applied. The bright full Moon is also visible in the frame, hanging beneath a layer of cloud.
Part of Chile’s Bernardo O’Higgins National Park in southern Chile is pictured in this Landsat-8 image from 8 January 2016.
The park includes much of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field – the world’s second largest contiguous ice field beyond the poles.
Classified as an expanse of ice covering less than 50 000 sq km, ice fields are formed by a large accumulation of snow which turns into ice with years of compression and freezing. Shaped by the underlying topography, glaciers often form at the edges of an ice field, draining the ice off.
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the larger of two remnant parts of the Patagonian Ice Sheet, which covered all of southern Chile during the last glacial period some 12 000 years ago.
One of the main attractions in this area is the Brüggen Glacier, also known as Pío XI Glacier, visible in the lower left corner of the image. This is the longest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside Antarctica, and has been advancing, first reaching the western shore in the 1960s, and then advancing north and south.
Just above this glacier, we can see how the waters of Lake Greve appear lighter in this false-colour image compared to other water bodies. This is due to the presence of suspended fine sediment in the water produced by the abrasion of glaciers rubbing against rock, called ‘glacier milk.’
Another notable geological feature in this area is the active, ice-covered Lautaro Volcano in the lower-central part of the image.
This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Composite of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module elements seen by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on 1 November 2016. Both the main impact site (top) and the region with the parachute and rear heatshield (bottom left) are now captured in the central portion of the HiRISE imaging swath that is imaged through three different filters, enabling a colour image to be constructed. The front heatshield (bottom right) lies outside the central colour imaging swath.
The colours have been graded according to the specific region to best reveal the contrast of features against the martian background.
These images are in raw image geometry rather than map-projected, and north is about 7º west of straight up.
For detailed description see: Schiaparelli crash site in colour
This part of Acheron Fossae was imaged by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on ESA’s Mars Express on 4 May 2016 during orbit 15641. The image is centred on 36ºN/142ºW and the ground resolution is about 18 m per pixel.
In the early hours of 30 October 2016, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck central Italy. Scientists from Italy’s Institute for Electromagnetic Sensing of the Environment combined several pairs of Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar images acquired between 25 October and 1 November 2016 to analyse ground displacements caused by the quake. The results show an eastwards shift of about 40 cm in the vicinity of Montegallo, while a westwards shift of about 30 cm is centred in the area of Norcia.
The work was carried out under the coordination of the Italian Department of Civil Protection, and in collaboration with Italy’s National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology.
It’s welding, but not as we know it.
Only a bare sliver of glowing metal is visible during this ‘friction stir welding’. The result is a more robust titanium propellant tank produced more rapidly and cheaply than with traditional welding.
A rotating tool heats and softens the metal before mixing the two pieces together through mechanical pressure, like joining clay or dough. Requiring no external heat source, friction stir welding results in stronger joins.
“This type of welding is today widely used to join together aluminium components,” comments ESA metallurgist Andy Norman, “but the reliable welding of titanium demonstrated through this project is a new application for the technique.”
ESA’s Materials Technology section worked with welding specialist TWI in the UK, the original developer of the technique, as well as Airbus Defence and Space to produce a demonstration tank.
Titanium is a strong and highly resistant metal, but its very strength makes it hard to work with, requiring different pieces to be forged separately and then machined to the required thickness before being fusion-welded together. The result is resilient, but takes a long time to produce – in this case up to 12 months.
For this project, the pieces of the tank were instead cast – or set from molten metal – to near the required dimensions, requiring much less follow-up machining. It is possible to reach comparable levels of performance because friction stir welding imparts less stress to joints than standard fusion-welding.
Two of the four Galileo satellites are shown after their installation on the multi-passenger dispenser system, with a third being positioned for its integration, ahead of their 17 November 2016 launch by Ariane 5 from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.
Week In Images
31 October - 4 November 2016