12 Dec 2019
12 Dec 2019

Mars Express views Phobos phases


Video:
00:00:28

ESA’s Mars Express recently tracked Phobos as the moon passed in front of the spacecraft’s camera, capturing detailed views of the small, irregularly shaped body at different angles and stages of the flyby. This sequence comprises 41 images taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera’s Super Resolution Channel on 17 November 2019 during orbit 20 076, when Phobos passed Mars Express at a distance of roughly 2400 km. The images have a resolution of 21 m/pixel.

This opportunity allowed the spacecraft to capture many features across the moon’s surface; alongside a number of impact craters (including the large and prominent Stickney crater), one can see a number of linear marks and furrows.

The movie shows Phobos at a number of angles – the moon can be seen rotating, and slowly lightens up before it begins to darken again. The slight up-and-down motion of the moon is caused by the oscillation of Mars Express. It nicely illustrates the concept of ‘phase angle’: the angle between a light source (in this case, the Sun) and the observer (Mars Express’ HRSC), as viewed from the target object itself (Phobos). The initial phase angle is 17 degrees, drops to almost 0 degrees mid-way through (0.92, when Phobos is at its brightest), and then rises to 15 degrees by the end of the animation.

This arrangement – of the Sun, Mars Express and Phobos where the latter is observed at a phase angle of near zero degrees – is very rare, and happens only three times a year at most. Other chances to achieve a phase angle of under one will not occur until April and then September of 2020. As such, Mars Express takes every opportunity to view this small and intriguing moon from this angle, to shed light on its properties, behaviour, possible origin, orbital characteristics and location in space – and to probe its potential as a mission destination.

Source: ESA news

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12 Dec 2019
11 Dec 2019
11 Dec 2019

Christmas reflection

Christmas reflection
Image:

The Christmas tree is up at ESA’s ESTEC technical heart in the Netherlands, seen here reflected in the main mirror of a tenth scale model of the NASA-ESA-CSA James Webb Space Telescope.

The Christmas tree’s lights will have taken about 15 billionths of a second to travel to this multi-segment mirror, but the actual JWST’s 6.5 m mirror will observe cosmic sights from far further away.

Scheduled for launch by Ariane 5 in 2021, JWST is designed to collect almost six times more light than the current Hubble Space Telescope, peering back in infrared to the era of the first galaxies in the Universe and hunting out planets around other stars.

Source: ESA news

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10 Dec 2019
10 Dec 2019

Holiday kristall


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This box of holiday cheer is actually tubes of plasma containing suspended microparticles exposed to an electrical current to form 3D crystal structures.

Called Plasma Kristall-4, this ESA–Roscosmos experiment has been helping to visualise atoms on the International Space Station to provide insights on basic physical processes. 

A plasma is an electrically charged gas, somewhat like lightning, that rarely occurs on Earth. It is considered to be the fourth state of matter, distinct from gas, liquids and solids.

Plasma for the PK-4 experiment is created with neon or argon gas in tubes that make particles electrically charged. Scientists excite the particles with electrical fields, a laser and changes in temperature to get them to move them in the plasma.

These manipulations cause the proxy atoms to interact strongly, leading to organised structures – plasma crystals. The plastic particles in PK-4 bond or repulse each other just as atoms do on Earth in fluid state.

By adjusting the voltage across the experiment chamber scientists can tailor their interactions, and observe each particle as if in slow motion. Using PK-4, researchers across the world can follow how an object melts, how waves spread in fluids and how currents change at the atomic level.  

The experiment is installed in the European Physiology Module on the European space laboratory Columbus and was last run in November with assistance from cosmonaut Alexander Skvorstov.

The science team recently met in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, to review the insights gleaned from five years of research on the Space Station.  

 

Source: ESA news

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10 Dec 2019

Cheops: The Hunt for Exoplanets


Video:
00:03:00

A powerful space telescope, due for launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 17 December 2019, will give scientists a new insight into the nature of planets outside our Solar System.

Cheops, the ‘Characterising Exoplanet Satellite’, will study known exoplanets that are orbiting bright stars.
More than 4000 exoplanets have been discovered and Cheops will be targeting known planets between the size of Earth and Neptune, to find out more about their composition, internal structure and whether they might be able to support life.

Cheops’ mission is a partnership between ESA and Switzerland with additional contributions from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

This film examines the nature of exoplanets, the challenge of exoplanet exploration and features the Cheops Science Operations Centre in Geneva, it includes interviews with Didier Queloz, Chair of the Cheops Science Team and 2019 Nobel Physics Laureate, University of Geneva; Willy Benz, Cheops Principal Investigator, University of Bern; and Matthias Beck, Cheops Ground Segment Manager, University of Geneva).

Source: ESA news

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10 Dec 2019

Call for Media: Cheops launch to study exoplanets

Press Release N° 24–2019

Cheops, ESA’s ‘Characterising Exoplanet Satellite’, is scheduled to be launched on a Soyuz-Fregat rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, at 09:54 CET on 17 December 2019. Representatives of traditional and social media are invited to apply for accreditation to follow the launch live from ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) near Madrid, Spain.

Source: ESA news

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09 Dec 2019

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