23 Jan 2020

Taal volcano blanketed by ash


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The Philippines’ Taal volcano erupted on 12 January 2020 – spewing an ash plume approximately 15 km high and forcing large-scale evacuations in the nearby area.

This almost cloud-free image was captured today 23 January at 02:20 GMT (10:20 local time) by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, and shows the island, in the centre of the image, completely covered in a thick layer of ash.  

This optical image has also been processed using the mission’s short-wave infrared band to show the ongoing activity in the crater, visible in bright red. Ash blown by strong winds can be seen in Agoncillo, visible southwest of the Taal volcano. Ash has also been recorded in other areas of the Batangas province, as well as Manila and Quezon.

According to The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology bulletin published today, sulphur dioxide emissions were measured at an average of around 140 tonnes. The Taal volcano still remains on alert level four, meaning an explosive eruption is possible in the coming hours or days. The highest alert level is five which indicates an eruption is taking place.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, over 50 000 people have been affected so far. In response to the eruption, the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service was activated. The service uses satellite observations to help civil protection authorities and, in cases of disaster, the international humanitarian community, respond to emergencies.

Source: ESA news

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23 Jan 2020

Spacewalks, science and Beyond

Spacewalk season continues on the International Space Station. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan are getting ready to step outside the Quest airlock for their fourth and final time together on Saturday. But before they do, we look back at an action-packed fortnight of science and operations on the world’s only orbital outpost.

Source: ESA news

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23 Jan 2020

Second space data highway satellite set to beam

EDRS-C

The second satellite in the European Data Relay System has reached its intended orbit and completed its in-orbit tests.

Dubbed the “SpaceDataHighway” by its commercial operator Airbus, EDRS uses innovative laser technology to enable Earth-observation satellites to deliver their information to users on the ground in near real-time, accelerating responses to emergency situations and spurring the development of new services and products.

EDRS-C is the second satellite in the system and was launched on 6 August.

Source: ESA news

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22 Jan 2020

Microbial wipe down


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Sometimes doing science is as simple as wiping up. NASA astronaut Jack Fisher is seen here using a wet wipe on the surfaces of the European Cupola module of the International Space Station.

Doubling as both Station maintenance and science experiment, Jack collected microbes living on the surfaces of his orbital home for ESA’s Extremophiles experiment. Headed by Dr. Christine-Moissl Eichinger from the Medical University of Graz, Austria, the experiment studies how microbes settle into the harsh environment of space.  

Cosmic radiation exposes not only humans but also bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms to cellular stress. A typical stay in microgravity for an astronaut weakens the immune system and causes more health issues, prompting researchers to ask whether the same was happening to microbiomes, or the organisms found in a particular environment, and whether they resist treatment, becoming ‘super bugs.’

Because the Space Station is a closed environment, microbes can only arrive with new crew and cargo. The Station has accumulated a core group of 55 microbes over 20 years of continuous human inhabitants.

Researchers tested these against microbes found in a similar environment on Earth: spacecraft cleanrooms. They found that space-based microbes did not have a higher resistance and were not more stressed than Earth-based ones.

In short, microbes are no more extremophilic – able to survive in uninhabitable environments – in the weightless and radiative environment of space. The results were recently published in a paper in Nature Communications.

Interestingly, researchers found that space-based microbiomes can react negatively to metal surfaces, especially when those surfaces are wet. As they struggle to adapt to their environment, they attack the metal surfaces they find themselves on by corroding them or creating biofilm.

Researchers and crew are monitoring the situation by keeping metal surfaces dry and easily accessible for regular cleaning and sampling.

After all, there is no getting rid of microbes or any need to. They are a fact of human life.

Source: ESA news

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22 Jan 2020

Call for media: ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano returns from commanding the Space Station

Press Release N° 28–2020

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano is returning to Earth after six months on the International Space Station. He will land with Alexander Skvortsov and Christina Koch in Kazakhstan on 6 February 2020 after 201 days in space. Luca will fly directly to ESA’s European Astronaut Centre (EAC) in Cologne for an expected arrival around 21:00 GMT (22:00 CET).

Source: ESA news

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21 Jan 2020
21 Jan 2020
20 Jan 2020

XMM-Newton maps black hole surroundings

Mapping the surroundings of a black hole

Material falling into a black hole casts X-rays out into space – and now, for the first time, ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory has used the reverberating echoes of this radiation to map the dynamic behaviour and surroundings of a black hole itself.

Source: ESA news

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20 Jan 2020

The Sun in 2019

The Sun in 2019
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The changing activity of our Sun as seen by ESA’s Proba-2 satellite in 2019.

The satellite is continuously monitoring the Sun – one image was selected to represent each day of the year in this montage of 365 Suns. The images were taken by the satellite’s SWAP camera, which works at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths to capture the Sun’s hot turbulent atmosphere – the corona, at temperatures of about a million degrees.

Throughout 2019, the Sun showed low levels of activity, as it is currently at the minimum of its 11-year activity cycle. The most energetic flare of the year was observed on 6 May close to the eastern limb of the Sun (the left side of the Sun in the corresponding image). It was classified as a C9.9 class flare that divides solar flares according to their strength. The smallest are A, followed by B, C, M and X, with each letter representing a ten-fold increase in energy output such that an X-class flare is 100 times stronger than a C-class flare.

Proba-2 also performed various scientific campaigns in 2019. One of these campaigns is evident in the images above in early September, where the Sun is positioned to one side of the images. Throughout this period Proba-2 provided extended images of the solar atmosphere to the east of the Sun, in support of a scientific study performed with NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission. To make these observations the whole satellite was reoriented to observe more of the solar atmosphere.

Proba-2 will continue to support scientific campaigns and missions throughout 2020, including ESA’s Solar Orbiter mission, which is scheduled for launch on 5 February 2020 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA. Proba-2 has already supported Solar Orbiter during the mission’s preparation, as technology heritage has passed from the satellite’s SWAP imager to the Solar Orbiter Extreme Ultraviolet Imager.

With its suite of 10 state-of-the-art instruments, Solar Orbiter will perform unprecedented close-up observations of the Sun and from high-latitudes, providing the first images of the uncharted polar regions of the Sun, and investigating the Sun-Earth connection. The mission will provide unprecedented insight into how our parent star works in terms of the 11-year solar cycle, and how we can better predict periods of stormy space weather.

Source: ESA news

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17 Jan 2020

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