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Sentinel-2A at IABG’s environmental test facilities in Ottobrunn, Germany. Following its delivery in early August 2014, the satellite is being put through a six-month testing programme to ensure it is fit for launch. One of the first tasks was to mate the three-panel solar wing to the satellite and then open it fully. This operation was carried out on a special zero-g rig that cancels out the effect of gravity. Developed by ESA, Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission for Europe’s Copernicus programme. Airbus Defence and Space Germany (Friedrichshafen) is the prime contractor for the Sentinel-2 satellites, Airbus Defence and Space France is the prime contractor for the multispectral imagers and IABG provides satellite test facilities.

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Patch, celebrating the anniversary of the construction of Europe as a space power and 50 years of unique achievements in space, floating in the Cupola of the International Space Station, August 2014.

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Massive stars end their life with a bang, exploding as supernovas and releasing massive amounts of energy and matter. What remains of the star is a small and extremely dense remnant: a neutron star or a black hole.

Neutron stars come in several flavours, depending on properties such as their ages, the strength of the magnetic field concealed beneath their surface, or the presence of other stars nearby. Some of the energetic processes taking place around neutron stars can be explored with X-ray telescopes, like ESA’s XMM-Newton.

This image depicts two very different neutron stars that were observed in the same patch of the sky with XMM-Newton. The green and pink bubble dominating the image is Kesteven 79, the remnant of a supernova explosion located about 23,000 light-years away from us.

From the properties of the hot gas in Kesteven 79 and from its size, astronomers estimate that it is between 5000 and 7000 years old. Taking account of the time needed for light to travel to Earth, this means that the supernova that created it must have exploded almost 30,000 years ago. The explosion left behind a  a young neutron star with a weak magnetic field, which can be seen as the blue spot at the centre of Kesteven 79.

Beneath it, a blue splotch indicates an entirely different beast: a neutron star boasting an extremely strong magnetic field, known as a magnetar. Astronomers discovered this magnetar, named 3XMM J185246.6+003317, in 2013 by looking at images that had been taken in 2008 and 2009. After the discovery, they looked at previous images of the same patch of the sky, taken before 2008, but did not find any trace of the magnetar. This suggests that the detection corresponded to an outburst of X-rays released by the magnetar, likely caused by a dramatic change in the structure of its magnetic field.

While the neutron star in the supernova remnant is relatively young, the magnetar is likely a million years old; the age difference means that it is very unlikely that the magnetar arose from the explosion that created Kesteven 79, but must have formed much earlier.

This false-colour image is a composite of 15 observations performed between 2004 and 2009 with the EPIC MOS camera on board XMM-Newton. The image combines data collected at energies from 0.3 to 1.2 keV (shown in red), 1.2 to 2 keV (shown in green) and 2 to 7 keV (shown in blue).

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A new computing technique that helped boost the capabilities of commercial airliners while reducing their onboard electronics equipment is now being applied to satellites.

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ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen updates us on his latest training in preparation for his mission to the International Space Station in 2015. Andreas has spent the past month at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, training amongst other things on robotics and photography.

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This time-lapse video shows the ATV-5 Georges Lemaitre loading process and its integration on the Ariane 5 launcher before its transfer and launch to the International Space Station from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on 29 July 2014.

The fifth in the series of the largest spacecraft ever built in Europe is also the heaviest load an Ariane 5 has ever launched. ATV-5 is set to carry almost 6.6 tonnes of supplies to the orbital outpost, including a record amount of dry cargo: around 2682 kg.

Georges Lemaîtres will deliver experiments, equipment, spare parts, water, air and even artwork to the six astronauts living in space.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will be responsible for docking and unloading the cargo when ATV arrives at its destination around two weeks after launch.

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Media accreditation now is open to attend an event marking the move of NASA’s Orion spacecraft at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft will be transferred from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility during the second week of September.

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NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes will celebrate on Saturday two years of studying the sun’s influence on our planet and near-Earth space. The probes, shortly after launch in August 2012, discovered a third radiation belt around Earth when only two had previously been detected.

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This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a variety of intriguing cosmic phenomena.

Surrounded by bright stars, towards the upper middle of the frame we see a small young stellar object (YSO) known as SSTC2D J033038.2+303212. Located in the constellation of Perseus, this star is in the early stages of its life and is still forming into a fully-grown star. In this view from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys(ACS) it appears to have a murky chimney of material emanating outwards and downwards, framed by bright bursts of gas flowing from the star itself. This fledgling star is actually surrounded by a bright disk of material swirling around it as it forms — a disc that we see edge-on from our perspective.

However, this small bright speck is dwarfed by its cosmic neighbor towards the bottom of the frame, a clump of bright, wispy gas swirling around as it appears to spew dark material out into space. The bright cloud is a reflection nebula known as [B77] 63, a cloud of interstellar gas that is reflecting light from the stars embedded within it. There are actually a number of bright stars within [B77] 63, most notably the emission-line star LkHA 326, and it nearby neighbor LZK 18.

These stars are lighting up the surrounding gas and sculpting it into the wispy shape seen in this image. However, the most dramatic part of the image seems to be a dark stream of smoke piling outwards from [B77] 63 and its stars — a dark nebula called Dobashi 4173. Dark nebulae are incredibly dense clouds of pitch-dark material that obscure the patches of sky behind them, seemingly creating great rips and eerily empty chunks of sky. The stars speckled on top of this extreme blackness actually lie between us and Dobashi 4173.

European Space Agency
Credit: ESA/NASA

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Students from Mississippi and Louisiana will gather at the INFINITY Science Center in Pearlington, Mississippi, for a long-distance call with NASA astronauts currently orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station.

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