Juice’s magnetometer boom

A test version of the 10.5-m long magnetometer boom built for ESA’s mission to Jupiter, developed by SENER in Spain, seen being tested at ESA’s Test Centre in the Netherlands, its weight borne by balloons.

The flight model will be mounted on the Juice spacecraft – Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer – due to launch in 2022, arriving at Jupiter in 2029. The mission will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the giant gaseous planet Jupiter and three of its largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

The Juice spacecraft will carry the most powerful remote sensing, geophysical, and in situ payload complement ever flown to the outer Solar System. Its payload consists of 10 state-of-the-art instruments.

This includes a magnetometer instrument that the boom will project clear of the main body of the spacecraft, allowing it to make measurements clear of any magnetic interference. Its goal is to measure Jupiter’s magnetic field, its interaction with the internal magnetic field of Ganymede, and to study subsurface oceans of the icy moons.

The deployment of this qualification model boom has been performed before and after simulated launch vibration on Test Centre shaker tables to ensure it will deploy correctly in space. Since the boom will deploy in weightlessness, three helium balloons were used to help bear its weight in terrestrial gravity.

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Cyclone Idai west of Madagascar

Captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission, this image shows Cyclone Idai on 13 March 2019 west of Madagascar and heading for Mozambique. Here, the width of the storm is around 800–1000 km, but does not include the whole extent of Idai. The storm went on to cause widespread destruction in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. With thousands of people losing their lives, and houses, roads and croplands submerged, the International Charter Space and Major Disasters and the Copernicus Emergency Mapping Service were triggered to supply maps of flooded areas based on satellite data to help emergency response efforts.

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Exoplanet science with Cheops

Kate Isaak, ESA Cheops project scientist, talks to ESA Web TV about the science that will be performed with our upcoming Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, Cheops, scheduled for launch in late 2019. She describes how Cheops will make observations of exoplanet-hosting stars, targeting in particular stars hosting planets in the Earth-to-Neptune size range, and how it will measure small changes in their brightness – due to the transit of a planet across the star's disc – to determine precisely the sizes of these planets. Combined with measurements of the planet masses, this will provide an estimate of their mean density and so a first-step characterisation of planets beyond our Solar System.
More about Cheops     

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Exoplanet science with Cheops

Kate Isaak, ESA Cheops project scientist, talks to ESA Web TV about the science that will be performed with our upcoming Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, Cheops, scheduled for launch in late 2019. She describes how Cheops will make observations of exoplanet-hosting stars, targeting in particular stars hosting planets in the Earth-to-Neptune size range, and how it will measure small changes in their brightness – due to the transit of a planet across the star's disc – to determine precisely the sizes of these planets. Combined with measurements of the planet masses, this will provide an estimate of their mean density and so a first-step characterisation of planets beyond our Solar System.
More about Cheops     

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BioRock

This fluorescent work of art captures the beauty of biofilms, or the growth of microbes on rocks. In this microscopic image, Sphingomonas desiccabilis is growing on basalt.

It is one of three microbes chosen for the BioRock experiment, run by a research team from the University of Edinburgh in the UK, that will test how altered states of gravity affect biofilm formation on the International Space Station.

Microbes are able to weather down a rock from which they can extract ions. This natural process enables biomining, in which useful metals are extracted from rock ores.

Already a common practice on Earth, biomining will eventually take place on the Moon, Mars and asteroids as we expand our understanding and exploration of the Solar System. In the meantime, microbes will be used for many other processes that involve microbial growth on rocks, such as making soil.

In preparation for the experiment, researchers performed a “dry run” on Earth ahead of BioRock’s launch to the Space Station aboard a Space-X cargo resupply mission in July.

Cells of one of three organisms that will be used for BioRock were inoculated and dried on a sample of basalt, then given ‘food’ to restore cell growth. The biofilm was left to grow for three weeks at 20°C, then preserved and stored at 4-6°C for one month. Researchers finally observed the sample under a fluorescent microscope to assess its performance.

And it performed beautifully. A patch of biofilm is visible to the right of the central cavity, which is the basalt’s natural porosity.

The results of the dry run show that the experimental conditions for BioRock, from the choice of the organism to the storage temperature and timing, are appropriate. This experiment also gave researchers the first clues as to what would be most interesting to focus on when samples return from space.

Using post-flight data, researchers will map out how altered states of gravity affect the rock and microbe system as a whole. The results hope to shine light on extraterrestial biomining technologies and life support systems involving microbes for longer duration spaceflight.

Biomining in space can also increase the efficiency of the process on Earth and could even reduce our reliance on precious Earth resources.

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ESA and climate change

Climate change is high on the global agenda. To tackle climate change, a global perspective is needed and this can be provided by satellites. Their data is key if we want to prepare ourselves for the consequences of climate change. While the European Space Agency's Earth Explorers gather data to understand how our planet works and understand the impact that climate change and human activity are having on the planet, the European Union’s Copernicus Sentinels provide systematic data for environmental services that help adapt to and mitigate change. The video offers an overview of how European satellites keep watch over our world. It includes interviews with Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes, and Michael Rast, ESA's Earth Observation Senior Advisor.

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ESA and climate change

Climate change is high on the global agenda. To tackle climate change, a global perspective is needed and this can be provided by satellites. Their data is key if we want to prepare ourselves for the consequences of climate change. While the European Space Agency's Earth Explorers gather data to understand how our planet works and understand the impact that climate change and human activity are having on the planet, the European Union’s Copernicus Sentinels provide systematic data for environmental services that help adapt to and mitigate change. The video offers an overview of how European satellites keep watch over our world. It includes interviews with Josef Aschbacher, ESA's Director of Earth Observation Programmes, and Michael Rast, ESA's Earth Observation Senior Advisor.

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Saturn at equinox

Saturn is famous for its bright, glorious rings but in this picture, taken during Saturn's 2009 equinox, the rings are cast in a different light as sunlight hits the rings edge-on.

The equinox is a point in a planet's orbit where the Sun shines directly overhead at the equator. It occurs twice per orbit and on Earth it happens in March and September. At the equinox, day and night are almost equal and the Sun rises due east and sets due west. This year, for northern hemisphere dwellers, the spring equinox occurs on 20 March.

Further afield, the international Cassini mission captured a Saturnian equinox for the first time on 12 August 2009. Saturn's equinoxes occur approximately every 15 Earth years and the next one will take place on 6 May 2025.

When Saturn's equinox is viewed from Earth, the rings are seen edge-on and appear as a thin line – sometimes giving the illusion they’ve disappeared. In this image however, Cassini had a vantage point of 20 degrees above the ring plane, and viewed the planet from a distance of 847,000 kilometres. Its wide angle camera took 75 exposures over eight hours, which were then aligned and combined to create this mosaic.

As the Sun is striking the rings straight on, rather than illuminating them from above or below, the shadows cast by the rings onto the planet are compressed into a single narrow band on the planet.

The rings also appear darker than usual. This can cause out-of-plane structures to look brighter than normal and then cast shadows across the rings. These Saturnian shadow puppets only appear a few months before and after the equinox. The shadows that Cassini saw revealed new ‘mountains’ in the rings, and also discovered previously hidden moonlets. Radial markings known as spokes are also visible on the B ring on the right side of the image.

Several moons are also visible in the mosaic: Janus (lower left), Epimetheus (middle bottom), Pandora (just outside the rings on the right), and Atlas (inside the thin F ring on the right).

Cassini explored the Saturn system for 13 years. It is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and Italy’s ASI space agency. This image was first published in September 2009; read the full caption for more information and imaging details.

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Saturn at equinox

Saturn is famous for its bright, glorious rings but in this picture, taken during Saturn's 2009 equinox, the rings are cast in a different light as sunlight hits the rings edge-on.

The equinox is a point in a planet's orbit where the Sun shines directly overhead at the equator. It occurs twice per orbit and on Earth it happens in March and September. At the equinox, day and night are almost equal and the Sun rises due east and sets due west. This year, for northern hemisphere dwellers, the spring equinox occurs on 20 March.

Further afield, the international Cassini mission captured a Saturnian equinox for the first time on 12 August 2009. Saturn's equinoxes occur approximately every 15 Earth years and the next one will take place on 6 May 2025.

When Saturn's equinox is viewed from Earth, the rings are seen edge-on and appear as a thin line – sometimes giving the illusion they’ve disappeared. In this image however, Cassini had a vantage point of 20 degrees above the ring plane, and viewed the planet from a distance of 847,000 kilometres. Its wide angle camera took 75 exposures over eight hours, which were then aligned and combined to create this mosaic.

As the Sun is striking the rings straight on, rather than illuminating them from above or below, the shadows cast by the rings onto the planet are compressed into a single narrow band on the planet.

The rings also appear darker than usual. This can cause out-of-plane structures to look brighter than normal and then cast shadows across the rings. These Saturnian shadow puppets only appear a few months before and after the equinox. The shadows that Cassini saw revealed new ‘mountains’ in the rings, and also discovered previously hidden moonlets. Radial markings known as spokes are also visible on the B ring on the right side of the image.

Several moons are also visible in the mosaic: Janus (lower left), Epimetheus (middle bottom), Pandora (just outside the rings on the right), and Atlas (inside the thin F ring on the right).

Cassini explored the Saturn system for 13 years. It is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and Italy’s ASI space agency. This image was first published in September 2009; read the full caption for more information and imaging details.

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