An area covering northern Namibia and southern Angola is pictured in this Kompsat-2 image. Running across the image, the Okavango River forms the border between Namibia to the south and Angola to the north. Zooming in on the upper left corner, dots of white and other bright colours near a road show rural settlements. The red soil typical of many tropical and subtropical areas of Africa is also evident. In the lower-right corner, we can see large-scale, circular agricultural plots up to about 600 m in diameter. The white lines running through the circle could be maintenance roads.
The Korea Multi-purpose Satellite (Kompsat-2) of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute acquired this image on 3 January 2013. ESA supports Kompsat as a Third Party Mission, meaning it uses its ground infrastructure and expertise to acquire, process and distribute data to users.
This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
A technician checks one of ATV Albert Einstein's thrusters before the space ferry is moved for fuelling at Europe's Spaceport, Kourou, French Guiana. Once launched into space the thrusters are used as ATV's main engines producing 490 kN.
Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATV) are multi-function unmanned ferries sent into orbit by the European Ariane 5 launcher. Each spacecraft can deliver up to 7 tonnes of cargo to the International Space Station including supplies and equipment, water, air, nitrogen, oxygen and fuel.
Test engineer Laurence Levan is bathed in an intense green glow from powerful ultraviolet lamps simulating the unfiltered sunlight of space within a test chamber – the lamplight being in fact blue, but filtered through yellow screens to block the harmful ultraviolet rays.
This is the CROSS1 VUV-UV high vacuum chamber at work, based in the Materials and Electrical Components Laboratories at ESA’s ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
The facility is used to recreate the space environment by attaining space-quality vacuum, while subjecting the test item to temperature extremes – ranging from -150°C to +400°C or higher – and exposing it to simulate ultraviolet solar radiation, up to 13 times the sunlight experienced by satellites in Earth orbit.
Cutting the ribbon to mark the official inauguration of ESA's new SSA Space Weather Coordination Centre (SSCC) located at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, Brussels, on 3 April 2013. ESA's Director for Human Spaceflight and Operations, Thomas Reiter (at right), is joined by Philippe Mettens, Chairman of the Belgian Science Policy Office (wearing scarf), and the centre operations team for the cutting. Ronald Van der Linden, Director General of the ROB, stands behind at left.
Gaia flight model during X-axis CoG (Centre of Gravity) and inertia measurements at Intespace, Toulouse, France, 15 March 2013.
Gaia will create a three-dimensional map of the Milky Way, in the process revealing information about its composition, formation and evolution. The mission will perform positional measurements for about one billion stars in our Galaxy and Local Group with unprecedented precision, together with radial velocity measurements for the brightest 150 million objects. Gaia is scheduled to launch in 2013 for a nominal five-year mission, with a possible one-year extension.
The spacecraft will operate in a Lissajous orbit around the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system (L2). This location in space offers a very stable thermal environment, very high observing efficiency (since the Sun, Earth and Moon are all behind the instrument FoV) and a low radiation environment. Uninterrupted mapping of the sky will take place during the operational mission phase.
Ahead of the launch of Vega VV02, the Proba-V minisatellite is integrated onto its dispenser at Europe's Spaceport, Kourou, French Guiana.
Visible as a small, sparkling hook in the dark sky, this beautiful object is known as J082354.96+280621.6, or J082354.96 for short. It is a starburst galaxy, so named because of the incredibly (and unusually) high rate of star formation occurring within it.
One way in which astronomers probe the nature and structure of galaxies like this is by observing the behaviour of their dust and gas components; in particular, the Lyman-alpha emission. This occurs when electrons within a hydrogen atom fall from a higher energy level to a lower one, emitting light as they do so. This emission is interesting because this light leaves its host galaxy only after extensive scattering in the nearby gas — meaning that this light can be used as a pretty direct probe of what a galaxy is made up of.
The study of this Lyman-alpha emission is common in very distant galaxies, but now a study named LARS (Lyman Alpha Reference Sample)  is investigating the same effect in galaxies that are closer by. Astronomers chose fourteen galaxies, including this one, and used spectroscopy and imaging to see what was happening within them. They found that these Lyman-alpha photons can travel much further if a galaxy has less dust — meaning that we can use this emission to infer how dusty the source galaxy is.
The LARS study relies heavily on the high resolving power of Hubble. When Hubble is decommissioned, no telescope will be able to make observations like this in the far ultraviolet part of the spectrum — meaning that small, glittering galaxies imaged and probed by studies like LARS may give us some of the most detailed data we have to work with for some time to come.
Week In Images
01-05 April 2013