One of the Copernicus Sentinel-3B’s first images featured Greenland. Captured on 7 May 2018 at 13:20 GMT (15:20 CEST), the image shows sea ice swirled into eddies caused by the wind and ocean currents. The image was taken by the satellite’s ocean and land colour Instrument, which features 21 distinct bands, a resolution of 300 m and a swath width of 1270 km. The instrument can be used to monitor aquatic biological productivity and marine pollution, and over land it can be used to monitor the health of vegetation. Sentinel-3B’s instrument package also includes a sea and land surface temperature radiometer, a synthetic aperture radar altimeter and a microwave radiometer. Sentinel-3B was launched from Russia on 25 April and joins its twin, Sentinel-3A, in orbit. The pairing of the two satellites optimises coverage and data delivery for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme.
In the darkness of the distant Universe, galaxies resemble glowing fireflies, flickering candles, charred embers floating up from a bonfire, light bulbs softly shining. This Picture of the Week, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows a massive group of galaxies bound together by gravity: a cluster named RXC J0032.1+1808.
This image was taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide-Field Camera 3 as part of an observing programme called RELICS (Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey). RELICS imaged 41 massive galaxy clusters with the aim of finding the brightest distant galaxies for the forthcoming NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope(JWST) to study.
Expected to launch in 2018, the JWST is designed to see in infrared wavelengths, which is exceedingly useful for observing distant objects. As a result of the expansion of the Universe, very distant objects are highly redshifted(their light is shifted towards the redder end of the spectrum) and so infrared telescopes are needed to study them. While Hubble currently has the ability to peer billions of years into the past to see “toddler” galaxies, the JWST will have the capability to study “baby” galaxies, the first galaxies that formed in the Universe.
At first glance, Saturn’s rings appear to be intersecting themselves in an impossible way. In actuality, this view from the international Cassini spacecraft shows the rings in front of the planet, upon which the shadow of the rings is cast. And because rings like the A ring and Cassini Division, which appear in the foreground, are not entirely opaque, the outline of Saturn and those ring shadows can be seen directly through the rings themselves.
Saturn’s rings have complex and detailed structures, many of which can be seen here. In some cases, the reasons for the gaps and ringlets are known: for example, 28 km wide moon Pan – seen here as a bright speck near the image centre – keeps open the Encke gap. But in other cases, the origins and natures of gaps and ringlets are less well understood.
This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 14º above the ring plane. The image was taken in visible light with Cassini’s narrow-angle camera on 11 February 2016, and highlighted in a release published 25 April 2016. The view was acquired at a distance of 1.9 million km from Pan and at a Sun–Pan–spacecraft angle of 85º. Image scale is 10 km/pixel.
The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and Italy’s ASI space agency. The mission concluded in September 2017.
On 5 May 2018, ESA's 35 m-diameter deep-space radio dish at New Norcia, Western Australia, monitored NASA’s InSight spacecraft, providing critical tracking support during launch and early operations on its journey to Mars.
ESA’s New Norcia station maintained contact with InSight and its two MarCOs CubeSats as backup to NASA’s own Deep Space Network ground station at Canberra, on the easterly side of the continent.
“NASA requested our support because, at this time of year, the southern hemisphere has very good visibility of the trajectory to Mars,” explained Daniel Firre, the Agency’s ESA-NASA cross-support service manager.
“This meant our Australia station was ideally located to provide back-up support to their DSN station at Canberra.”
New Norcia will also be involved in monitoring Insight’s Mars touchdown on 26 November.
ESA’s deep-space station at Malargüe, Argentina, also in the southern hemisphere, worked in coordination with New Norcia to provide additional tracking coverage on launch day.
Since inauguration in March 2003, New Norcia station has been used for communications with Mars Express, Rosetta, Venus Express and Gaia, among other ESA and partner agency missions.
The last time ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen saw a Soyuz, he and his fellow crewmembers were making their fiery reentry to Earth in the reliable spacecraft, landing in the Kazakh steppe in the early hours of the morning on 12 September 2015.
Today, nearly three years later Andreas reunites with the Soyuz TMA-18M capsule that launched him to space at the Danish Museum of Science and Technology in Copenhagen.
Andreas became Denmark’s first astronaut when he embarked on the intense 10-day ‘iriss’ mission to the International Space Station in 2015.
The Danish Museum of Science and Technology has acquired the Soyuz capsule and is unveiling it as part of the new exhibition ‘To Space and Back’ opening today.
Andreas spent 10 busy days in space testing new technologies and conducting scientific experiments for ESA. It was during ‘iriss’ that Andreas tested the time-saving hardware called mobiPV or Mobile Procedure Viewer.
One of the highlights during Andreas’ mission were the images of thunderstorms from space. He managed to record many kilometre-wide blue flashes around 18 km altitude, including a pulsating blue jet reaching 40 km. A video recorded by Andreas as he flew over the Bay of Bengal at 28 800 km/h on the Station shows the electrical phenomena clearly – a first of its kind.
The photographs and video were evidence of the scientific importance of studying hard-to-observe thunderstorms and other electrical activity in the upper atmosphere from space. It also confirmed the Space Station as a great vantage point 400 km above the clouds.
Now, the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor or ASIM is picking up where Andreas left off. Launched in April this year, ASIM is a collection of optical cameras, light meters and an X- and gamma-ray detector that will measure and document electrical activity in the upper atmosphere.
Science and technology aside, you never forget your ride in a Soyuz, and Andreas is happy to be reunited with it. “It is the first time after my return from the International Space Station that I am able to see the capsule again, something that I have been looking forward to,” said Andreas.
The capsule was unveiled in a ceremony including Danish Prince Joakim and other dignitaries and is on display for all visitors. “A museum like this is what inspires our children and younger generations to pursue a career in science and technology,” Andreas said.
That’s worth the fiery ride alone.
Andreas will be back in Denmark for the opening of the Moon exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in September.
Typically ESA’s shaker tables are used to replicate the take-off vibrations of a satellite-lifting rocket. The large object seen here is not a satellite at all but an 8-tonne cooling system being subjected to a simulated earthquake – while blasting a chilly wave of air towards the engineer observing the test.
Manufactured by Munters in Belgium, this mammoth 6 x 4 x 5 m cooling system is designed to remove heat from industrial-scale data centres while using just a fifth of the energy of traditional designs.
The system travelled three hours by road to ESA’s Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, for testing to prove it can carry on running even in the midst of an earthquake with a peak ground acceleration of 1G on 3 axes – equivalent to a violent Level IX earthquake, stronger than the Fukushima earthquake of 2011.
“To export to the Japanese market we have to satisfy very stringent seismic testing requirements,” says Craig MacFadyen of Munters. “We need to show the cooling system doesn’t fall to pieces and maintains its functionality during different grades of earthquakes.”
“Hydra’s hydraulic actuators move an 18-tonne shaker table in all three orthogonal axes simultaneously, in a similar fashion to an aircraft flight simulator,” explains Alexander Kuebler of ETS, the company operating the Test Centre for ESA.
“The motion of these actuators is overseen by a network of 36 parallel computers. The entire installation is braced by a seismic mass supported by springs and shock absorbers to prevent the resulting earthquake-strength vibrations spreading through the rest of the Test Centre. Up to 512 acceleration measurement channels can be used during testing, acquiring the maximum possible data for the customer.”
Hydra has served many of Europe’s largest space missions, including Envisat – at 8 tonnes the largest-ever civil Earth observation satellite – Herschel, and the Automated Transfer Vehicle, which weighed 22 tonnes at launch.
Hydra can also accommodate non-space customers when its schedule allows, such as the testing of generators for the underside of trains and an Airbus fuselage to simulate the stresses of approach and landing.
ESA’s Test Centre in the Netherlands is the largest facility of its kind in Europe, providing a complete suite of equipment for all aspects of satellite testing under a single roof.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2B satellite takes us over Alaska’s Columbia Glacier, one of the most rapidly changing glaciers in the world.
The glacier, which can be seen just below the middle of the image, flows down the snow-covered slopes of the Chugach Mountains into the Prince William Sound in southeast Alaska.
Over the last three decades, this tidewater glacier has retreated more than 20 km and lost about half of its total thickness and volume. The changing climate is thought to have nudged it into retreat in the 1980s, resulting in its end – or terminus – breaking off.
The terminus had previously been supported by a moraine, which is an accumulation of sediment and rock that served as an underwater barrier, helping to keep the glacier stable and insulate it from seawater. With this barrier gone, glacial dynamics took over and it began to flow to the ocean faster, calving large icebergs into the Sound. As this satellite image shows, many icebergs can be seen in the Sound.
This one glacier accounts for nearly half of the ice loss in the Chugach Mountains. However, researchers believe that the Columbia Glacier will stabilise again – probably in a few years – once its terminus retreats into shallower water and it regains traction, which should slow the rate of iceberg calving.
This image, which was captured on 5 August 2017, is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst is training together with NASA Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor at the the Johnson Space Center in Houston, USA. The training took place on 6 March 2018 in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility. The astronauts dealt with various emergency scenarios, including a fire in a laptop in the crew quarters, a fire in a lab module and a several communication issues. The goal is to prepare the crew for possible emergencies.
Alexander will be launched on 6 June with US astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev from the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan in the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft. Soyuz MS-09 will be the 138th flight of a Soyuz spacecraft.
The mission is called Horizons to evoke exploring our Universe, looking far beyond our planet and broadening our knowledge. His first mission was called Blue Dot. Alexander will take over command of the International Space Station for the second half of his mission. This is only the second time that a European astronaut will take up this leading position on the space outpost – the first was ESA astronaut Frank De Winne in 2009. Alexander Gerst is the 11th German citizen to fly into space.
The science programme is packed with European research: more than 50 experiments will deliver benefits to people back on Earth and prepare for future space exploration.
JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO) of the ESA–JAXA BepiColombo mission is unpacked at Europe's Spaceport in Kourou.
Students from 'The Earth Watchers' from the STEM Robotics Academy, Greece, captured this image that shows snow and ice in Lake Superior, Canada!
One of the two Galileo satellites being driven by truck to the Guiana Space Centre inside its container. Galileo satellites 23 and 24 left Luxembourg Airport on a Boeing 747 cargo jet on the morning of 4 May, arriving at Cayenne – Félix Eboué Airport in French Guiana that evening.
Launched on 25 April 2018, the Sentinel-3B satellite has already delivered impressive first images from its ocean and land colour instrument, and now the radiometer carried on this latest Copernicus satellite has revealed its talents. Captured on 9 May 2018, this image shows a low pressure system over the UK and Ireland, France, the Bay of Biscay, Spain and part of north Africa. Vegetation appears in red.
The Sentinel-3B satellite lifted off from Russia on 25 April and joins it identical twin, Sentinel-3A, in orbit. This pairing of satellites increases coverage and data delivery for the European Union’s Copernicus environment programme. Both Sentinel-3 satellites carry the same suite of instruments.
The sea and land surface temperature radiometer is particularly sophisticated, measuring energy radiating from Earth’s surface in nine spectral bands, including visible and infrared. It also includes dedicated channels for measuring fires. This early image came from its optical channels.
The image is also featured on the Eumetsat website.
Week In Images
7 - 11 May 2018