#ESA; #Sardina; #Science; #Technology; #Exploration; #IodineThruster
Europe/Canadian-Media: An intergovernmental organization of 22 member states dedicated to the exploration of space, the European Space Agency (ESA) was established in 1975 and headquartered in Paris.
In this story ESA throws more light on Sardina, Italy; Science & Exploration; Iodine thruster.
Sardina, Italy. Image credit: ESA
Sardinia, the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, is featured in this false-colour image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission.
Situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the west and south and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the east, Sardinia (also known as Sardegna) is the island 200 km west of the Italian Peninsula, 200 km north of Tunisia and around 12 km south of the French island of Corsica, partially visible in the top of the image.
The shortwave infrared band and the near infrared band has been used to process this image, which uses data from 11 October to 14 October 2019, to highlight crops and dense vegetation which appear in bright green in the image, while bare soil can be seen in various shades of orange and brown.
Grasslands and croplands with a higher moisture content appear more vibrant in the image. As water is a strong absorber of infrared, inland water bodies are delineated and can be easily spotted in black. Much of the Sardinia’s arable land is devoted to cereal cultivation and fruit growing.
Being mainly a mountainous region, Sardinia with its highest point Mount La Marmora in the Gennargentu massif is visible in the centre-right of the image. Sardinia, with over 1800 km of coastline is internationally renowned for its beaches including those along the Emerald Coast, or Costa Smeralda, Alghero and Villasimius. The coasts, particularly in the east, are high and rocky, with long stretches of coastline with bays, inlets and various smaller islands located off the coast.
The archipelago of La Maddalena, including the renowned islands of La Maddalena, Caprera and Santo Stefano, can be seen in the top-right of the image. Its islands are known for their pristine beaches and wild beauty. Cagliari, the island’s capital and largest city, lies on the southern coast of the island.
Copernicus Sentinel-2 is designed to provide images that can be used to distinguish between different crop types as well as data on numerous plant indices, such as leaf area index, leaf chlorophyll content and leaf water content – all of which are essential to accurately monitor plant growth.
Science & Exploration: Keep this surface dirty. Image credit: ESA
A ‘do not touch’ directive applies to both a Matisse painting and this Matiss experiment on board the International Space Station.
Designed to test the antibacterial properties of hydrophobic (or water-repelling) surfaces on the Station, the sample holders of the upgraded Matiss-2.5 experiment have done their work for roughly a year on board and are now back on Earth for analysis.
Bacteria are a big problem in space as they tend to build up in the constantly-recycled atmosphere of the Space Station. For the six astronauts living in humanity’s habitat in space, keeping the Station clean is an important part of their life to avoid bacteria and fungus. Every Saturday is cleaning day, when the whole crew wipe surfaces, vacuum and collect waste.
Matiss or Microbial Aerosol Tethering on Innovative Surfaces in the international Space Station, driven by French space agency CNES, in collaboration ENS de Lyon and CEA-Leti, and commissioned in 2016 by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, examines the performance of five advanced materials in preventing illness-causing microorganisms from settling and growing in microgravity.
The experiment consists of plaques each containing the five materials to be tested plus a glass control surface. The units are open on the sides to let air flow naturally through and collect any bacteria floating past.
The first set of the Matiss experiment, known as Matiss-1, provided some baseline data points for researchers. Four sample holders were set up in three different locations within the European Columbus laboratory, where they remained for six months.
Once these samples were returned to Earth, researchers characterised the deposits formed on each surface and used the control material to establish a reference for the level and type of contamination expected over half a year.
A continuation of the experiment, known as Matiss-2, saw four identical sample holders containing three different types of material installed in a single location in Columbus. This study aimed to better understand how contamination spreads over time across the hydrophobic and control surfaces. The upgraded Matiss-2.5 aimed to study how contamination spreads, this time spatially, across the hydrophobic surfaces using patterned samples.
The materials are a diverse mix of advanced technology – from self-assembly monolayers and green polymers to ceramic polymers and water-repellent hybrid silica. The smart materials should stop bacteria from sticking and growing over large areas, and effectively making them easier to clean and more hygienic – but which one works best?
Understanding the effectiveness and potential use of these materials will be essential to the design of future spacecraft, especially those carrying humans father out in space.
The findings could also lead to the development and greater use of antimicrobial surfaces on elevator buttons and door handles, in bars, on public transport and in other high-traffic areas.
Iodine thruster used to change the orbit of a small satellite for the first time ever. Image credit: ESA
For the first time ever, a telecommunications satellite has used an iodine propellant to change its orbit around Earth.
The small but potentially disruptive innovation could help to clear the skies of space junk, by enabling tiny satellites to self-destruct cheaply and easily at the end of their missions, by steering themselves into the atmosphere where they would burn up.
The technology could also be used to boost the mission lifetime of small cubesats that monitor agricultural crops on Earth or entire mega-constellations of nanosats that provide global internet access, by raising their orbits when they begin to drift towards the planet.
The technology was developed by ThrustMe, a spin-off company from the École Polytechnique and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), and supported by ESA through its programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES).
It uses a novel propellant – iodine – in an electric thruster that controls the satellite’s height above Earth. Iodine is less expensive and uses simpler technologies than traditional propellants.
Unlike many traditional propellants, iodine is non-toxic and it is solid at room temperature and pressure. This makes it easier and cheaper to handle on Earth.
When heated, it turns to gas without going through a liquid phase, which makes it ideal for a simple propulsion system. It is also denser than traditional propellants, so it occupies smaller volumes onboard the satellite.
ThrustMe launched its iodine thruster on a commercial research nanosat called SpaceTy Beihangkongshi-1 that went into space in November 2020. It was test fired earlier this month before being used to change the orbit of the satellite.
#ESA; #StormFilomena; #Colka; #lunarTelecommunications; #ARTES; #HubbleArchive; #XMMNewton; #BioAsteroid; #TanezrouftBasin
France/Canadian-Media: Originated in 1975, European Space Agency (ESA) is situated in the northeast of South America in French Guiana and is an overseas department of France and since then ESA has continued to fund two thirds of the spaceport's annual budget to finance the operations and the investments needed to maintain the top level services provided by the Spaceport. ESA also finances new facilities, such as launch complexes and industrial production facilities, for new launchers such as Vega-C and Ariane 6.
European Space Agency. Image credit: esa.net
European Space Agency week in images Jan 11 to Jan 15, 2021
Madrid Snowbound. Image credit: @contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission on 11 January 2021 at 12:14 CET, this image of Madrid in Spain appears to have been taken in black and white. In fact, it is a true-colour image – but the heaviest snowfall in 50 years has blanketed the region, turning the landscape white.
Storm Filomena hit Spain over the weekend, blanketing parts of the country in thick snow and leaving half of the country on red alert. Madrid, one of the worst affected areas, was brought to a standstill with the airport having to be closed, trains cancelled and roads blocked.
Although this satellite image was taken after the storm had passed, it is clear to see that much snow still remains, especially in the outskirts of the city. For example, some runways at the airport, which is visible in the top-right of the image, are still covered by snow. The unusual cold weather on the Iberian Peninsula is expected to last until later this week with temperatures forecasted to plunge to –12°C. The race is on to clear roads so that supplies of essential goods such as food supplies and Covid vaccines can be delivered.
Copernicus Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission. Each satellite carries a high-resolution camera that images Earth’s surface in 13 spectral bands. Together they cover all Earth’s land surfaces, large islands, inland and coastal waters every five days at the equator.
Pool preps. Image credit: @ NASA EVA NBL
Prepping for a spacewalk typically means diving underwater to rehearse and fine-tune operations.
In 2016, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst performed such an underwater rehearsal for the Colka high speed radio, the brown box imaged above, that will be installed this month on the International Space Station.
NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover will integrate the small fridge-sized device outside the European Columbus module during a spacewalk scheduled this year. ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen will be at NASA’s mission control directing the spacewalkers as Capcom. The Columbus Ka-band terminal, nicknamed ‘Colka’, will enable faster communication with Europe.
Orbiting the planet every 90 minutes means the Space Station is constantly making and breaking short links with ground stations on Earth as it passes over them at a height of 400 km.
With Colka, a European telecommunications satellite in geostationary orbit can pick up data sent from the Columbus module. This satellite is part of the European Data Relay System and will be able to directly relay the signals from Columbus to European soil via a ground station in Harwell, in the UK.
The current data relay system routes via USA, which results in longer data transfer times. The Colka upgrade will ensure faster communications between Columbus and Europe, speeds of up to 50 Mbit/s for downlink and up to 2 Mbit/s for uplink. This will allow astronauts and researchers to benefit from a direct link with Europe at home broadband speeds – delivering a whole family’s worth of video streaming and data for science and communications.
Colka will be installed just weeks after the announcement that Europe will start building a communications module in support of the Gateway, the next spaceship to be assembled and operated in the vicinity of the Moon by International Space Station partners. The ESPRIT High-speed Lunar Communication System will be launched on NASA’s Gateway living quarters, in 2024.
As humankind ventures farther from Earth and goes forward to the Moon, a robust communications infrastructure is necessary for the lunar economy and to return knowledge and benefits to Earth. ESA is working on this with the Moonlight project, a system for lunar telecommunications and navigation to reduce design complexity, liberating missions to concentrate on their core activities.
ColKa was designed and built by British and Italian companies, using products from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany and Norway, some of which have been qualified under the ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES).
Spain's Chilly Blanket. Image credit: @ contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
The heavy snowfall that hit Spain a few days ago still lies heavy across much of the country as this Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite image shows.
While the idea of snuggling under a blanket in the cold winter months is very appealing, the blanket that covers half of Spain is not remotely comforting. This satellite image, captured on 12 January at 11:40 CET, shows how much of the country is still facing hazardous conditions following the snow that fell at the weekend – the heaviest snowfall the country has had in five decades.
Storm Filomena hit Spain over the weekend, covering a large part of the country in thick snow. Madrid one of the worst affected areas (see satellite image), was brought to a standstill with the airport having to be closed, trains cancelled and roads blocked.
People in central Spain are struggling as a deep freeze follows the heavy snow. Yesterday, the temperature plunged to –25°C in Molina de Aragón and Teruel, in mountains east of Madrid – Spain's coldest night for at least 20 years.
Copernicus Sentinel-3 is a two-satellite mission. Each satellite carries a suite of cutting-edge instruments to measure systematically Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere to monitor and understand large-scale global dynamics. For example, with a swath width of 1270 km, the ocean and land colour instrument, which acquired the two tiles for this image, provides global coverage every two days.
Hubble pinpoints supernova blast. Image credit: @ NASA, ESA, and J. Banovetz and D. Milisavljevic (Purdue University); CC BY 4.0
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has observed the supernova remnant named 1E 0102.2-7219. Researchers are using Hubble’s imagery of the remnant object to wind back the clock on the expanding remains of this exploded star in the hope of understanding the supernova event that caused it 1700 years ago.
The featured star that exploded long ago belongs to the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way located roughly 200 000 light-years away. The doomed star left behind an expanding, gaseous corpse — a supernova remnant — known as 1E 0102.2-7219.
Because the gaseous knots in this supernova remnant are moving at different speeds and directions from the supernova explosion, those moving toward Earth are coloured blue in this composition and the ones moving away are shown in red. This new Hubble image shows these ribbons of gas speeding away from the explosion site at an average speed of 3.2 million kilometres per hour. At that speed, you could travel to the Moon and back in 15 minutes.
Researchers have studied the Hubble archive looking for visible-light images of the supernova remnant and they have analysed the data to calculate a more accurate estimate of the age and centre of the supernova blast.
According to their new estimates, light from this blast arrived at Earth 1700 years ago, during the decline of the Roman Empire. This supernova would only have been visible to inhabitants of Earth’s southern hemisphere. Unfortunately, there are no known records of this titanic event. Earlier studies proposed explosion dates of 2000 and 1000 years ago, but this new analysis is believed to be more robust.
To pinpoint when the explosion occurred, researchers studied the tadpole-shaped, oxygen-rich clumps of ejecta flung out by this supernova blast. Ionised oxygen is an excellent tracer because it glows brightest in visible light. By using Hubble’s powerful resolution to identify the 22 fastest moving ejecta clumps, or knots, the researchers determined that these targets were the least likely to have been slowed down by passage through interstellar material. They then traced the knots’ motion backward until the ejecta coalesced at one point, identifying the explosion site. Once that was known, they could calculate how long it took the speedy knots to travel from the explosion centre to their current location.
Hubble also measured the speed of a suspected neutron star — the crushed core of the doomed star — that was ejected from the blast. Based on the researchers’ estimates, it must be moving at more than 3 million kilometres per hour from the centre of the explosion to have arrived at its current position. The suspected neutron star was identified in observations with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, in combination with data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Cosmic neon lights. Image credit: @ESA/XMM-Newton, L. Oskinova/Univ. Potsdam, Germany
This image shows a new type of star that has never been seen before in X-ray light. This strange star formed after two white dwarfs – remnants of stars like our Sun – collided and merged. But instead of destroying each other in the event, the white dwarfs formed a new object that shines bright in X-ray light.
A team of astronomers led by Lidia Oskinova of the University of Potsdam, Germany, used ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray telescope to study the object that was originally discovered in 2019. Back then, astronomers already reported that the object has very high wind speeds and is too bright, and therefore too massive, to be an ordinary white dwarf. They suggested that the object is a new type of star that survived the merger of two white dwarfs.
Based on new information from XMM-Newton, Lidia and her team now suggest that what we see in the image is a new type of X-ray source powered by the merger of two white dwarfs. The remnant of the clash – the nebula – is also visible in this image, and is mostly made out of the element neon (shown in green). The star is very unstable and will likely collapse into a neutron star within 10 000 years.
Tanezrouft Basin. Image credit: @contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over the Tanezrouft Basin – one of the most desolate parts of the Sahara Desert.
Zoom in to see this image at its full 10 m resolution or click on the circles to learn more about the features in this image.
Tanezrouft is a region of the Sahara lying in southern Algeria and northern Mali. The hyperarid area is known for its soaring temperatures and scarce access to water and vegetation, a reason why it’s often referred to as the ‘Land of Terror’. There are no permanent residents that live here, only occasional Tuareg nomads.
The barren plain extends to the west of the Hoggar mountains and southeast of the sandy Erg Chech. The terrain shows evidence of water erosion that occurred many years ago, when the Sahara Desert’s climate was much wetter, as well as wind erosion caused by frequent sandstorms – exposing ancient folds in the Paleozoic rocks.
The region is characterised by dark sandstone hills, steep canyon walls, salt flats (visible in white in the image), stone plateaus and seas of multi-storey sand dunes known as ‘ergs’. Concentric rings of exposed sandstone strata create a stunning pattern predominantly visible in the left of the image.
White lines in the right of the image are roads that lead to In Salah – the capital of the In Salah Province and In Salah District. Just above the centre-left of the image, an airstrip can be seen. An interesting, grid-like pattern can be seen in the bottom of the image and mostly consists of human-made clearings and roads.
This image, also featured on the Earth from Space video programme, was captured on 12 January 2020 by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission – a two-satellite mission to supply the coverage and data delivery needed for Europe’s Copernicus programme.
Asteroids vs. microbes. Image credit: @ NASA
Inside one of the containers of this 40-cm-across miniature laboratory in orbit, a battle is set to start between asteroid-like fragments and rock-hungry microbes, to probe their use for space mining in the future.
The University of Edinburgh’s ‘BioAsteroid’ payload is one of multiple experiments running simultaneously aboard ESA’s Kubik – Russian for cube – facility aboard Europe's Columbus module of the International Space Station. It found its way to orbit via the new commercial Bioreactor Express Service.
The experimenters want to see how BioAsteroid’s combination of bacteria and fungi interact with the rock in reduced gravity, including to observe whether characteristic ‘biofilms’ will be grown on rock surfaces, comparable to dental plaque on teeth.
The microbes could in the future be cultivated to help mine resources. So-called bio-mining has potential on Earth and in space exploration to recover economically useful elements from rock, as well as creating fertile soil from lunar dust.
Technology image of the week