Expedition 60 crewmembers NASA's Andrew Morgan of NASA, Roscosmos'Alexander Skvortsov and ESA's Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency pose on 5 July in front of a mural bearing the insignia of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain standing at 3776 metres tall. In this spring image, the mountain can be seen coated in pure white snow.
This snow-capped mountain is often shrouded in cloud and fog, but this image was captured on a clear day, by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite - flying 800 km above.
Mount Fuji is near the Pacific coast of central Honshu, straddling the prefectures of Yamanashi and Shizuoka. On a clear day, the mountain can be seen from Yokohama and Tokyo - both over 120 km drive away.
The majestic stratovolcano is a composite of three successive volcanoes. Generations of volcanic activity have turned it into the Mount Fuji as we know it today. This volcanic activity is a result of the geological process of plate tectonics. Mount Fuji is a product of the subduction zone that straddles Japan, with the Pacific Plate and the Philippine Plate being subducted under the Eurasian plate.
The last explosive activity occurred in 1707, creating the Hoei crater – a vent visible on the mountain’s southeast flank, as well as the volcanic ash field which can be seen on the east side.
Mount Fuji is a symbol of Japan, and a popular tourist destination. Around 300 000 people climb the mountain every year – and in the image several hiking trails can be seen leading to the base of the mountain. The city of Fujinomiya, visible in the bottom left of the image, is the traditional starting point for hikers.
Many golf courses, a popular sport in Japan, can be seen dotted around the image.
Worshipped as a sacred mountain, Mount Fuji is of great cultural importance for the Shinto religion. Pilgrims have climbed the mountain for centuries and many shrines and temples dot the landscape surrounding the volcano.
This image, captured on 8 May 2019, is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
3D printed human bone sample. Bioprinting human tissue could help keep astronauts healthy all the way to Mars. An ESA project has produced its first bioprinted skin and bone samples. This bone sample was printed with human stem cells using human blood plasma as a nutrient-rich ‘bio-ink’ with the addition of a calcium phosphate bone cement as a structure-supporting material, plus plant- and algae-sourced methylcellullose and alginate added to increase the viscosity of this bio-ink, making it suitable for use in low gravity conditions.
Exhibit 0102.226 may look like just a rock, but this dark and patchy mass is actually a piece of Mars, ejected when an asteroid or comet struck the Red Planet and sent chunks flying towards Earth.
Having survived its journey through Earth’s atmosphere, this alien rock was discovered in the Sayh al Uhaymir region of Oman, in 2001.
In this photo, the martian fragment is captured alongside the Close-Up Imager, CLUPI. A camera system designed to acquire high-resolution, colour, close-up images, CLUPI will be one of many instruments onboard the ExoMars rover, due for launch in 2020.
Taking images at the tens of micrometres to centimetre scale, the camera will help scientists understand the environment in which martian rocks and materials formed.
Of the 60 000 or so meteorites that have been discovered on Earth, 124 have been identified as having a martian origin.
Just like Earth, Mars is vulnerable to space rocks that hurtle through the Solar System. Unlike Earth, its thin atmosphere means they often strike the surface intact. The Red Planet is also lacking in another vital area, with no inhabitants creating space agencies and methods of planetary defence!
Asteroids with the potential to strike Earth are being monitored by ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre, which coordinates observations of small bodies in the solar system – such as asteroids, comets and even minor planets – to evaluate and monitor the threat posed by any that could come near Earth.
ESA’s Planetary Defence Office conducts regular observation campaigns to look for risky space rocks, predicting their orbits, producing impact warnings when necessary and working towards mitigating the damage of, and even preventing altogether, an asteroid strike.
**CLUPI was built by an industrial team led by TASiCH in Zürich/Switzerland. The Principal Investigator is Jean-Luc Josset, from the Space Exploration Institute, Neuchatel/Switzerland.**
The European Service Module-2 (ESM-2) is somewhat like the portal it appears to be in this image. By providing power and propulsion for the Orion spacecraft, it will transport humans back to the Moon, roughly fifty years after humankind first landed on its surface.
In assembly at Airbus in Bremen, ESM-2 is the engine of the Orion spacecraft that will fly its second mission and first with a crew. The mission is called Artemis 2 and is set for launch in 2022.
Every wire seen in this structure must be correctly connected and configured to ensure the systems providing power, propulsion, oxygen and heat get the spacecraft and its crew of four safely around the Moon and back.
Partially visible at the bottom of the Service Module are the auxiliary thrusters that have recently been installed. These along with two other types of engines will get Orion to its destination.
The main engine is a repurposed Space Shuttle Orbital Maneuvering System engine that has flown in space before. The eight auxiliary thrusters come in as backup to this main engine and to provide orbit corrections.
Lastly, 24 smaller engines grouped into six pods provide attitude control. In fixed positions, they can be fired individually as needed to move the spacecraft in different directions and rotate it into any position.
ESM-2 is expected to be completed and delivered to NASA in 2020.
The first European Service Module arrived at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in November 2018. It has since been mated with the Crew Module Adapter. It will then be mated with the Crew Module in July, and the trio will undergo thermal and balance testing at NASA’s Plum Brook Facility in Ohio this fall.
The recent successful Launch Abort Test that proved the spacecraft’s system can pull astronauts to safety in the event of a launch anomaly has marked another major milestone for Orion’s first exploratory mission.
Artemis 1 will qualify the spacecraft’s performance. Orion will make a flyby of the Moon, using lunar gravity to go into lunar orbit and propel itself 70 000 km beyond the Moon, almost half a million km from Earth – farther than any human has ever travelled.
On its return journey, Orion will do another flyby of the Moon before heading back to Earth.
The total trip will take around 20 days, ending with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean without the European Service Module – it separates and burns up harmlessly in the atmosphere.
Artemis 2 will follow a similar flight path with a crew of four astronauts, but with a direct return trajectory that includes a flyby of the Moon, without entering Lunar orbit.
The European Service Module is built by Airbus, with smaller components coming from suppliers all over Europe, making the mission a truly international endeavour.
Orion is the first collaboration between ESA and NASA on a spacecraft that will take humans farther into space.
In addition to returning humans to the moon, Orion will be instrumental to building the Gateway, a staging post to be located in lunar orbit that will allow humans to go deeper into space.
ESA is committed to working with partners globally to achieve its exciting vision of human and robotic exploration targeting the Moon and Mars.
The purple lines and blotches scattered across this image show something incredible: all of the X-ray sources that were serendipitously detected – that is, not intentionally targeted – by ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory from 2000 to 2017.
The catalogue, released in May 2018, features sources in the 0.2 to 12 keV energy range drawn from 10 242 observations made by XMM-Newton’s European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC), an instrument capable of detecting very faint sources and rapid changes in intensity, between 3 February 2000 and 30 November 2017. It contains 532 more observations and 47 363 more detections than the preceding 3XMM-DR7 catalogue, which was made public in June 2017.
While the pattern of sources across the sky may appear random, some structure can be seen here. The oval represents the celestial sphere, an abstract perspective upon which our observations of the Universe are projected. The data are plotted in galactic coordinates, such that the centre of the plot corresponds to the centre of our Milky Way galaxy – and this can be seen in the image. Through the centre of the oval is a horizontal line, where patches of purple appear to draw together. This line is the plane of the Milky Way galaxy, with the large splotch of colour in the centre corresponding to our galaxy’s core, where XMM-Newton made a higher number of serendipitous detections.
XMM-Newton has been orbiting the Earth since 1999, observing the cosmos around us while on the hunt for X-rays coming from high-energy phenomena such as black holes, stellar winds, pulsars, and neutron stars. With every patch of sky that XMM-Newton observes, the telescope detects between 50 and 100 serendipitous sources, such as those shown here, besides the objects that were the original target of the observations. This is due to the large collecting area of the telescope’s mirrors and its wide field of view.
All-sky images and large-scale cosmic data are immensely valuable in our study of the cosmos. Upcoming missions – such as the eROSITA space telescope, a German-led satellite scheduled for launch on 12 July to complete the first all-sky survey in the medium-energy X-ray band, up to 10keV – will add to this wealth of knowledge, and help further our understanding of the X-ray Universe.
The galaxy NGC 1156 resembles a delicate cherry blossom tree flowering in springtime in this Hubble Picture of the Week. The many bright "blooms" within the galaxy are in fact stellar nurseries — regions where new stars are springing to life. Energetic light emitted by newborn stars in these regions streams outwards and encounters nearby pockets of hydrogen gas, causing it to glow with a characteristic pink hue.
NGC 1156 is located in the constellation of Aries (The Ram). It is classified as a dwarf irregular galaxy, meaning that it lacks a clear spiral or rounded shape, as other galaxies have, and is on the smaller side, albeit with a relatively large central region that is more densely packed with stars.
Some pockets of gas within NGC 1156 rotate in the opposite direction to the rest of the galaxy, suggesting that there has been a close encounter with another galaxy in NGC 1156's past. The gravity of this other galaxy — and the turbulent chaos of such an interaction — could have scrambled the likely more orderly rotation of material within NGC 1156, producing the odd behaviour we see today.
Week in images
8 - 12 July 2019