ESA kosmose uudised
ESA’s Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, Cheops, lifts off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. The Soyuz-Fregat launcher will also deliver the Italian space agency’s Cosmo-SkyMed Second Generation satellite, and three CubeSats – including ESA’s OPS-SAT – into space today.
Cheops is ESA’s first mission dedicated to the study of extrasolar planets, or exoplanets. It will observe bright stars that are already known to host planets, measuring minuscule brightness changes due to the planet’s transit across the star’s disc.
Europe will power the NASA spacecraft that take astronauts to a new international outpost and forward to the Moon, following decisions made by ESA Member States at Space19+ in Seville, Spain.
Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite revealed that an explosion in a natural gas well in Ohio in February 2018 released more than 50 000 tons of methane into the atmosphere. The blowout leaked more of this potent greenhouse gas in 20 days than the majority of many European nations do in a year from their oil and gas industries.
The findings were published in a study yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the study reveals the importance of using satellite data to detect and quantify pollutants such as methane. Data from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P’s Tropomi instrument revealed that 120 tons of methane were emitted per hour due to the blowout.
The location of the explosion is marked by a black dot in the image, and shows the methane emissions before and after the blowout. The black arrow indicates the wind direction and the direction of the methane plume.
Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager, comments, “These Sentinel-5P measurements show that satellites can measure the concentrations of greenhouse gases emitted by a point source. The satellite’s capabilities will be further exploited with the upcoming Copernicus Carbon Dioxide Monitoring mission.”
While carbon dioxide is more abundant in the atmosphere and therefore more commonly associated with global warming, methane is about 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas. It usually enters the atmosphere mainly from the fossil fuel industry, landfill sites, livestock farming, rice agriculture and wetlands – but can also be released during oil and gas extraction.
Sentinel-5P, with its state-of-the-art instrument Tropomi, can also map other pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and aerosols – all of which affect the air we breathe and our climate.
Someone decked the skies with boughs of sprites.
The red jellyfish in the sky is a unique red sprite high above a storm across the southern plains of the United States.
Taken in the early hours of 21 October by outdoor photographer Paul Smith, red sprites, along with blue jets and elves, are elusive electrical discharges in the upper atmosphere that are difficult to study as they occur over thunderstorms and propagate out into space.
“There were some very strong events and many dancing sprites as the storms matured,” says Paul.
“I was so amazed to capture some very bright reflections in the lake I was shooting from. I was out until the early hours of the morning and got home at 5:00, but so worth it!” The photo was taken from Lake Acadia, Oklahoma. Watch a video of the storm here.
Sightings of these elusive high altitude optical phenomena had long been based on hearsay and appeared to be linked with thunderstorms. First camera images of red sprites were obtained about 30 years ago. The scientific community was intrigued and wanted to learn more, leading to the creation of an observatory that is now aboard the International Space Station.
Called the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor, or ASIM, the suite of instruments includes optical cameras and photometers to capture red sprites and other high altitude luminous events as well as lightning. ASIM also carries a Gamma-ray detector to study so-called Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs).
All these instruments are mounted together outside the European Columbus module and look downwards towards the Earth. The combination of optical and Gamma-ray detectors in the same payload makes it possible to describe the lightning processes that lead to TGF emissions. ASIM provides the highest ever spatial and temporal resolution for the study of electrical activity linked to thunderstorms.
New data from ASIM will improve our understanding of the effect of thunderstorms on the atmosphere and thus contribute to more accurate climate models.
Though they are difficult to detect due to their faintness and the fact that they disappear within milliseconds, the conditions from Earth were just right to catch these sprites in action.
What would you do with a powerful computer based in space? At just 30 cm in height, OPS-SAT is a tiny CubeSat designed to serve as a large-scale software laboratory in orbit – containing one of the most powerful flight computers ever flown – to test innovative control software from teams all over Europe. Anyone can apply to try out their software aboard OPS-SAT, from companies to research teams to computer clubs, linking directly from the internet. The small satellite packs in a high-resolution camera, radio antennas, optical receiver, reaction wheels and GPS. OPS-SAT can be rebooted if any experimental software crashes, allowing otherwise risky inflight testing as a way to make space smarter.
Spare a thought this Christmas for researchers hunkered down on their Polarstern icebreaker, adrift in the frozen Arctic Ocean. Subjected to temperatures as low as –45°C and the perpetual darkness of the polar winter, they are willing participants in MOSAiC – the world’s largest and longest polar research expedition. Despite the darkness, however, the researchers and crew remain aware of what is happening close by. How? With the help of radar imaging satellites.
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 1175, a galaxy with an intriguing and distinctive shape.
Galaxies come in a range of shapes and sizes. Spiral galaxies are characterised by a bright core and vast, pinwheeling arms of gas, dust and stars – NGC 1175 is such a galaxy, and also hosts something known as a ‘bar’ of material that slices through its centre. Bars affect how material circulates throughout a galaxy, and look uniquely intriguing from afar.
And there’s more. When viewed edge-on, galaxies like this one have an even more peculiar morphology: their inner regions appear to be thicker in some directions than others, causing them to adopt a shape that is boxy and resembles an unshelled peanut or giant ‘X’.
NGC 1175 was observed as part of a Hubble proposal named ‘Gems of the Galaxy Zoos’, for which a number of citizen scientists voted on the galaxies they wanted Hubble to observe when the telescope had gaps of time between scheduled projects. Voting took place on the Zooniverse platform. This image comprises infrared data gathered by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys on 18 July 2019.
Despite studies implying that our very own cosmic home, the Milky Way, has an ‘X’-shaped core, it remains unclear how and when these boxy bulges formed. A recent study led by ESA research fellow Sandor Kruk used high-resolution Hubble data to explore galaxies more distant than NGC 1175. They found that these boxy bulges began forming some seven billion years ago, when the Universe was around half its current age. Their formation is related to that of galactic bars, which are thought to have formed about two billion years before the intriguingly shaped bulges began to emerge. The stars within these bars orbit the galactic centre in complex, dynamic ways, with an array of vertical motions that contribute to the galaxies’ observed central boxy morphology.
Hubble has spied a number of boxy/peanut-shaped galaxies, including the beautiful NGC 4710. Further research into these intriguing galaxies will be made possible by ESA’s upcoming Euclid mission, which will be able to survey how often these bulges crop up across a much larger number of galaxies, and by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Hubble’s successor, which will be able to observe incredibly distant galaxies like these in order to better understand their history and formation. JWST is a joint project of NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.
Cheops: Characterising exoplanets
Tune in to ESA Web TV from 08:30 GMT (09:30 CET) Tuesday 17 December to watch ESA’s exoplanet mission soar into space on a Soyuz-Fregat rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
This coming Tuesday, ESA is launching the most powerful flight computer ever flown in space – inside a satellite smaller than a shoebox. The OPS-SAT nanosatellite will be the world’s first orbiting software laboratory, available to test novel methods of operating missions in actual space conditions.
As France’s top rugby players scrum, run and tackle they are being tracked by more than just TV cameras and the watching eyes of the crowd. Satnav-based tracking devices between their shoulder blades are keeping tabs on their position and performance – and helping to safeguard their health.
The work of Dr Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) is well known for being central to the discovery of the iconic double-helix structure of DNA, the fabric of life as we know it on Earth. More than half a century later, she also inspired the name of ESA’s ExoMars rover, scheduled to launch in 2020 and start its exploration of the Red Planet in 2021. But the lasting imprint Rosalind left on her family also inspired her younger brother to name his own daughter Rosalind.
After learning that the rover had been named in honour of her aunt – the result of a public competition led by the UK Space Agency – and also sharing the same name, Rosalind Franklin reached out to ESA, curious to learn more about the mission. Last month, she visited ESA’s technical centre in the Netherlands and is pictured here meeting the 1:1 scale model of the Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover for the first time.
Rosalind said: “I was overwhelmed to see the rover and to meet the extraordinary scientists that have dedicated years to the development of the project, bringing it from concept to reality, and recognising my Aunt Rosalind’s contribution to science by naming it after her. It was truly moving and filled me with pride and appreciation. It was an amazing day of learning and discovery and I know she would feel so honored and full of admiration towards everyone involved.”
ExoMars mission experts were on hand to answer her questions and to explain more about how the rover will be driven across the martian surface, and the science experiments it will carry out. One of the unique aspects of the rover is its two metre long drill that will retrieve underground samples for analysis in its onboard laboratory, where it will be able to sniff out signatures of life past or present.
Just as scientific discovery is in the soul of the ExoMars programme, Dr Rosalind Franklin knew from a young age that she wanted to be a scientist. Devoted and determined, she followed her dream, graduating with a Natural Sciences degree from Cambridge University, UK, in 1941, and earning a PhD in physical chemistry in 1945. She became an expert in X-ray diffraction imaging, applied to studying the physical chemistry of coals, and later revealing the hidden secrets of DNA, RNA and viruses.
Her legacy lives on today in a number of ways: numerous scientific institutes carry her name – one example being in the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago, U.S, that her niece is a trustee of. Next year her legacy will extend into space, and her adventurous spirit will be lived through the intrepid exploration of the Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover as it discovers hidden secrets of the Red Planet.
The ExoMars programme is a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos and comprises two missions: the first – the Trace Gas Orbiter – launched in 2016 while the second, comprising the Rosalind Franklin rover and Kazachok surface platform, is planned for 2020. Together they will address the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars. The TGO is already delivering important scientific results and will also relay the data from the ExoMars 2020 mission once it arrives at Mars in March 2021.
It is now almost 10 years since ESA’s CryoSat was launched. Throughout its decade in orbit, this novel satellite, which carries a radar altimeter to measure changes in the height of the world’s ice, has returned a wealth of information about how ice sheets, sea ice and glaciers are responding to climate change. One of the most recent findings from this extraordinary mission shows how it can be used to map changes in the seaward edges of Antarctic ice shelves.
Sébastien Perrault talks about his YGT experience as a System Engineer working the Clean Space Office at ESOC, Germany.
On 17 December, ESA will launch a first-of-its-kind space laboratory, OPS-SAT. The small, low-cost test satellite has been specifically designed for operational experiments in space, and includes the most powerful flight computer on board any current ESA spacecraft.
Consumer electronics have gone through a revolution over the last 30 years with computers becoming ever faster, smaller and better. But when it comes to million- or even billion-euro satellites, their onboard hardware and software have not seen this revolution because of the risks of testing new technology in flight.
As spacecraft managers dare to fly only tried-and-tested hard and software in the harsh conditions of space, innovation on the operational side of satellites is a very slow-moving process. This is where OPS-SAT steps in, bringing down the barriers to spacecraft operations it provides a chance to safely test out new mission control techniques.
Anyone can apply to become an 'experimenter' and test their innovative software and new mission operations techniques in space. Proving technology for future missions and paving the way for satellites to further evolve with minimum risk, OPS-SAT will be launched with ESA's Cheops satellite from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over the green algae blooms swirling around the Baltic Sea.
'Algae bloom' is the term used to describe the rapid multiplying of phytoplankton – microscopic marine plants that drift on or near the surface of the sea. The chlorophyll that phytoplankton use for photosynthesis collectively tints the surrounding ocean waters, providing a way of detecting these tiny organisms from space.
In most of the Baltic Sea, there are two annual blooms – the spring bloom and the cyanobacterial (also called blue-green algae) bloom in late summer. The Baltic Sea faces many serious challenges, including toxic pollutants, deep-water oxygen deficiencies, and toxic blooms of cyanobacteria affecting the ecosystem, aquaculture and tourism.
Cyanobacteria have qualities similar to algae and thrive on phosphorus in the water. High water temperatures and sunny, calm weather often lead to particularly large blooms that pose problems to the ecosystem.
In this image captured on 20 July 2019, the streaks, eddies and whirls of the late summer blooms, mixed by winds and currents, are clearly visible. Without in situ measurements, it is difficult to distinguish the type of algae that covers the sea as many different types of algae grow in these waters.
The highest concentrations of algal blooms are said to occur in the Central Baltic and around the island of Gotland, visible to the left in the image.
Although algal blooms are a natural and essential part of life in the sea, human activity is also said to increase the number of annual blooms. Agricultural and industrial run-off pours fertilisers into the sea, providing additional nutrients algae need to form large blooms.
The bacteria that consume the decaying plants suck oxygen out of the water, creating dead zones where fish cannot survive. Large summer blooms can contain toxic algae that are dangerous for both humans and other animals.
Satellite data can track the growth and spread of harmful algae blooms in order to alert and mitigate against damaging impacts for tourism and fishing industries.
This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
It's confirmed! ESA is building its fourth deep space antenna – much like the Cebreros dish pictured here – that will ensure upcoming missions like JUICE and the Hera mission have someone to talk to when they get to space.
'Deep Space Antenna 4' will be located at the New Norcia ground station in Western Australia, home of Europe’s first 35-metre antenna.
ESA’s ESTRACK network is currently made up of three deep space stations across the globe as well as a number of smaller dishes, and it is running at peak capacity. Following analysis of future mission needs, this fourth antenna will provide much-needed communication support to upcoming European and non-European deep-space missions.
Using the latest super-cool technology, the ‘antenna feed’ – through which data flows in from space – will be cryogenically cooled to just 10 degrees Kelvin (only 10 degrees above absolute zero, about -263 C). Doing this, incredibly, is expected to increase the amount of data returned by 40% at the high frequencies used for spacecraft command and control.
Such technology will also be used in the Cebreros station pictured here, and the Malagüe station, dramatically increasing the amount we can ‘hear’ from space.
Work should be finished on the station by the end of 2023, ready to begin operations by mid-2024 – just in time for the JUICE and HERA missions.
You now now find out, in real time, exactly what each ground station is up to using ESTRACKnow. Find out out exactly which spacecraft are communicating with which ground antennas at any moment, via http://estracknow.esa.int, and check out the handy guide for more information!
Calling all radio amateurs! ESA is challenging anyone with amateur radio equipment to catch the first signals from OPS-SAT, ESA’s brand new space software laboratory.
The space-borne storm-hunter on Europe’s Columbus laboratory is continuously monitoring thunderstorms as it flies 400 km overhead on the International Space Station.