Category Archives: ESA

The Value of the Moon

Thanks ESA!

ESA – Advocate of a human return on the Moon, Paul D. Spudis, Senior Staff Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston (Texas, USA), takes us on a journey to rediscover the value of lunar exploration, a topic on which he has spent more than 40 years of study, thought and publications.

The Sun in 2017

Here is a really interesting perspective on our Sun in the last year from ESA. Very cool, check out the eclipse!

There is a larger version available from ESA – the following link goes right to ESA and it’s 2.5 mb — click here. Thank you to ESA and Royal Observatory of Belgium!!

Here’s the original caption: This montage of 365 images shows the changing activity of our Sun through the eyes of ESA’s Proba-2 satellite during 2017, along with a partial eclipse for good measure.

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.

In general, the Sun’s 11-year activity cycle continued throughout 2017 towards a minimum, a period when the number of active regions (seen as bright regions in the images) diminish, and coronal holes (seen as darker regions) are larger and more prominent.

Look closely and several images stand out as different. For around a week at the end of April/beginning of May the Sun is not centred in the field-of-view: this is deliberate, indicating ‘off-pointing’ observations to study the extended atmosphere.

Perhaps the highlight for many Sun-watchers last year was the total eclipse observed from Oregon to South Carolina in the US on 21 August. From its viewpoint in space, about 800 km above Earth, Proba-2 passed through the Moon’s shadow several times and observed three partial eclipses. One such moment is captured in the montage presented here.

Dwarf Galaxy KISO 5639

A nice way to start the new year!

In this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, a firestorm of star birth is lighting up one end of the dwarf galaxy Kiso 5639.

Kiso 5639 is shaped like a pancake but, because it is tilted edge-on, it resembles a skyrocket, with a brilliant blazing head and a long, star-studded tail. Its appearance earns it a place in the “tadpole” class of galaxies.

The bright pink head is from the glow of hydrogen, lit up by the burst of new stars. The mass of these young stars equals about a million Suns. The stars are grouped into large clusters that formed less than a million years ago.

Stars consist mainly of hydrogen and helium, but cook up heavier elements such as oxygen and carbon. When the stars die, they release their heavy elements and enrich the surrounding gas. In Kiso 5639, the bright gas in the galaxy’s head is more deficient in heavy elements than the rest of the galaxy. Astronomers think that the latest star-formation event was triggered when the galaxy accreted primordial gas from its surroundings, since intergalactic space contains more pristine, hydrogen-rich gas.

Cavities in the gas are due to numerous supernova detonations – like bursts of fireworks in the sky – carving out holes of superheated gas.

The elongated tail, seen stretching away from the galaxy’s head and scattered with bright blue stars, contains at least four distinct star-forming regions. These stars appear to be older than those in the star-forming head.

Wispy filaments, comprising gas and some stars, extend from the main body of the cosmic tadpole.

The observations were taken in February 2015 and July 2015 with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. Kiso 5639 is 82 million light-years from us and its head is some 2700 light-years across.

Copyright NASA, ESA, D. Elmegreen (Vassar College), B. Elmegreen (IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center), J. Sánchez Almeida, C. Munoz-Tunon & M. Filho (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias), J. Mendez-Abreu (University of St Andrews), J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin-Madison), M. Rafelski (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) & D. Ceverino (Center for Astronomy at Heidelberg University)

VITA Mission Wrap-up

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli from Italy will shortly be returning to Earth after a long-duration stay on board the International Space Station participating in the mission known as VITA ( or ‘life’ in Italian).

Paolo is set to return to Earth on 14 December 2017 together with his crewmates, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Ryazansky. The landing with the Soyuz spacecraft is scheduled to take place as 08:38 GMT (09:38 CET).