21 Oct 2021

ESA Vision: accelerate the use of space

ESA Vision: accelerate the use of space

Europe must have the ambition to have a space programme and a space agency that is world-class and is leading. Agenda 2025 will bring European space to the next level. To meet our ambitions we need to accelerate the use of space in Europe.

Source: ESA news

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21 Oct 2021
21 Oct 2021

Galileo: the first ten years


Video:
00:01:25

Europe’s own satellite navigation system, Galileo, has become the world’s most precise, delivering metre-level accuracy, available anywhere on Earth. It is also saving lives, relaying distress calls for search and rescue. Today there are 26 Galileo satellites in orbit 23 222 km over our heads; the first of them were launched on 21 October 2011, with nine more launches in the following years. The satellites in space are supported by a globe-spanning ground segment. The system as a whole is set to grow, with the first of 12 ‘Batch 3’ about to join the current satellites in orbit and new ‘Galileo Second Generation’ satellites in development.

Galileo has been financed by the EU and developed by ESA, with services delivered by EUSPA.

Source: ESA news

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21 Oct 2021

Three new Directors join the European Space Agency’s Executive Board

As of today, ESA has appointed three new Directors – for Commercialisation, Industry and Procurement, Earth Observation Programmes and Navigation. The new Directors were appointed by ESA Council at its meeting on 21 October; they will support the Director General with responsibility for activities and overall objectives in their respective directorates.

Source: ESA news

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20 Oct 2021
20 Oct 2021

Calm above the storm


Image:

Auroras make for great Halloween décor over Earth, though ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet snapped these green smoky swirls of plasma from the International Space Station in August. Also pictured are the Soyuz MS-18 “Yuri Gagarin” (left) and the new Nauka module (right).  

The Station saw quite some aurora activity that month, caused by solar particles colliding with Earth’s atmosphere and producing a stunning light show.

Fast forward to October and space is quite busy.

On 9 October the Sun ejected a violent mass of fast-moving plasma into space that arrived at Earth a few days later. The coronal mass ejection (CME) crashed into our planet’s magnetosphere and once again lit up the sky.

CMEs explode from the Sun, rush through the Solar System and while doing so speed up the solar wind – a stream of charged particles continuously released from the Sun’s upper atmosphere.

While most of the solar wind is blocked by Earth’s protective magnetosphere, some charged particles become trapped in Earth’s magnetic field and flow down to the geomagnetic poles, colliding with the upper atmosphere to create the beautiful Aurora.

While the view outside the Space Station is mesmerising, the astronauts inside are busy with science and prepping for the next crew’s arrival later this month. 

Thomas will welcome fellow ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, currently scheduled to launch to the Space Station on Halloween.

In the meantime, Thomas has taken over command of the Space Station and is busy completing more science ahead of the end of mission Alpha and his return to Earth.

The astronauts have taken up space farming lately, tending to New Mexico Hatch Green Chili peppers in the name of science. A few investigations are looking into different aspects of plant behaviour in microgravity.

Tending to the body via exercise is also standard practice on the Space Station. The crew performed cycles of experiments looking into immersive exercise practices as well as the familiar Grasp experiment on reflexes under microgravity conditions.

Even downtime is ripe for experimentation, with Thomas wearing a headset to bed to track quality of sleep under weightless conditions. Read more about the goings-on in the latest monthly science recap.

Find more stunning imagery and exciting news on the Alpha blog.

Source: ESA news

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19 Oct 2021

Humans to blame for warming lakes

Lake Ontario temperature

While the climate crisis is, unfortunately, a reality, it is all too easy to assume that every aspect of our changing world is a consequence of climate change. Assumptions play no role in key environmental assessments and mitigation strategies such as we will see in the upcoming UN climate change COP-26 conference – it’s the science and hard facts that are critical. New research published this week is a prime example of facts that matter. Using model projections combined with satellite data from ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, this latest research shows that the global rise in the temperature of lake water and dwindling lake-ice cover can only be explained by the increase in greenhouse gas emissions since the industrial revolution – in other words, humans are clearly to blame. 

Source: ESA news

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19 Oct 2021
18 Oct 2021

Three hours to save Integral

Integral

On 22 September, around midday, ESA’s Integral spacecraft went into emergency Safe Mode. One of the spacecraft’s three active ‘reaction wheels’ had turned off without warning and stopped spinning, causing a ripple effect that meant the satellite itself began to rotate.

Source: ESA news

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15 Oct 2021

Solar storm stirs stunning aurora


Video:
00:00:29

After the Sun ejected a violent mass of fast-moving plasma into space on 9 October, ESA waited for the storm to strike. A few days later, the coronal mass ejection (CME) arrived at Earth, crashing into our planet’s magnetosphere, and lighting up the sky.

CMEs explode from the Sun, rush through the Solar System and while doing so speed up the solar wind – a stream of charged particles continuously released from the Sun’s upper atmosphere.

While most of the solar wind is blocked by Earth’s protective magnetosphere, some charged particles become trapped in Earth’s magnetic field and flow down to the geomagnetic poles, colliding with the upper atmosphere to create the beautiful Aurora.

A marbled sky

This stunning video was created from images taken every minute during this recent period of intense auroral activity in the early hours of 12 October, by an all-sky camera in Kiruna, Sweden – part of ESA’s Space Weather Service Network. The goal of such cameras is to view as much as the sky as possible, so they are fitted with a ‘fish-eye’ lens to see horizon to horizon when pointed straight up.

The video, running in half-speed to accentuate the beautiful auroral motion, starts with a mass of green, swirling structures, created when energetic particles in the solar wind collide with oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere, which then, ‘excited’ gives off light in the green range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This typically occurs at around 120 – 180 kilometres from Earth’s surface.

As we humans have evolved to be very adept at seeing different shades of green, it’s the most predominant colour we see. Harder to see is the purple aurora seen later in the video, this time created as energetic particles strike ‘ionic’ nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere.

Not just beautiful, such observations are vital to understanding the complex, and sometimes hazardous interactions between the Sun and Earth.

“What I love about this video is the chance to see this beautiful, purple aurora, more clearly visible during intense geomagnetic storms” explains Hannah Laurens, RHEA Space Weather Applications Scientist based at ESOC.

“The movement of this swirly structure in space and time is often referred to as auroral dynamics, and this is very important when studying the relationship between the ionosphere and magnetosphere, linked by lines of magnetic field. The aurora is a manifestation of complex drivers operating in the distant magnetosphere which makes it a useful, and beautiful, tool with which to monitor space weather conditions”.

A beautiful side of something more troubling

The all-sky auroral camera is operated by the Kiruna Atmospheric and Geophysical Observatory (KAGO) within the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF), and data from here is provided as part of the ESA’s network of space weather services within the Agency’s Space Safety Programme.

This is the first auroral display captured by the instrument following its integration into the ESA Space Weather Portal, which provides timely information to anyone affected by the Sun’s outbursts – from airline pilots, to operators of spacecraft and power grids, or even hopeful aurora hunters.

While humans on Earth are protected by Earth’s magnetic field, Space Weather can have an extreme and disruptive impact on satellites in orbit and infrastructure on Earth, and ultimately our society. For this reason, ESA’s Space Weather Service Network continues to monitor our star and the conditions around Earth, to provide information to keep our systems safe.

In 2027, ESA will launch a first-of-its kind mission to monitor the Sun from a unique vantage point. Studying our star from the side, it will provide a stream of data that will warn of potentially hazardous regions before they roll into view from Earth.

Find out more about Space Weather, and sign up for free updates from ESA’s Space Weather Service Network.

Credit: All-sky camera, Kiruna Atmospheric and Geophysical Observatory (KAGO) within the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF). Data provided as part of ESA’s Space Weather Service Network.

Source: ESA news

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