ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst announces the 2018/19 European Astro Pi Challenge

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst launches the 2018/19 European Astro Pi Challenge; an ESA Education project run in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. He invites students and young people to conduct their own scientific investigations in space, by writing computer programs that run on Raspberry Pi computers on board the International Space Station.

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The European Astro Pi Challenge: Code your experiment. Send it to space!

The European Astro Pi Challenge is an ESA Education project run in collaboration with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. It offers students and young people the amazing opportunity to conduct scientific investigations in space, by writing computer programs that run on Raspberry Pi computers on board the International Space Station.

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Lights, camera, geology!

Scene: the entrance of a cave, Riegelberg, Germany. An intrepid group of explorers carefully approach the opening, ready to seek out origins of life on this planet.

This scene is not out of a sci-fi film but from last week’s Pangaea field training course. Named after the ancient supercontinent, Pangaea equips future explorers with a better understanding of planetary geology and includes collecting and documenting interesting rock samples to assess the most likely places where to find traces of life on other planets.

Now in its third year, the 2018 campaign includes participants ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter, Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergei Kud-Sverchkov and ‘Spaceship EAC’ lead Aidan Cowley.

Lead by European planetary geologists, the crew attended lectures, worked with satellite imagery, and used robotic tools to analyse rock samples. They put knowledge into practice at the Ries crater in Germany, one of the best-preserved impact craters on Earth and the place to find extra-terrestrial minerals.

Around 15 million years ago, a one-kilometre-diameter asteroid hit Earth at 20 km/s releasing one trillion times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The result is still visible in west Bavaria today: a 25 km-crater with a depth of roughly 200 metres.

At the Ries crater Pangaea participants find the best resemblance on Earth to a Moon crater. With eyes set on returning to our rocky satellite, practical knowledge of lunar formation is vital. Future astronauts must understand both the science and operations of lunar geology to make the right moves while on the Moon.

The structure in this image is made out of a megablock of limestone that was cracked open by the Ries impact event and is the ideal classroom for learning about cave formation. Tracing the origins of such rocky structures helps to tell the greater story of life on Earth and of detecting life on other planets.

This week the Pangaea course moves on to the Italian Dolomites to study layers that reveal a past characterised by an abundance of running water. The veins in the terrain are similar to those found on Mars and suggest sedimentary processes on the Red Planet.

Pangaea’s last stop will be the alien landscapes of Lanzarote, Spain, in November. This is one of the best areas on Earth to understand the geological interactions between volcanic activity and water – two key factors in the search for life.

Follow the Pangaea course on social media and keep up to date with field activities via the blog.

Click here to visit Original posting

Lights, camera, geology!

Scene: the entrance of a cave, Riegelberg, Germany. An intrepid group of explorers carefully approach the opening, ready to seek out origins of life on this planet.

This scene is not out of a sci-fi film but from last week’s Pangaea field training course. Named after the ancient supercontinent, Pangaea equips future explorers with a better understanding of planetary geology and includes collecting and documenting interesting rock samples to assess the most likely places where to find traces of life on other planets.

Now in its third year, the 2018 campaign includes participants ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter, Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergei Kud-Sverchkov and ‘Spaceship EAC’ lead Aidan Cowley.

Lead by European planetary geologists, the crew attended lectures, worked with satellite imagery, and used robotic tools to analyse rock samples. They put knowledge into practice at the Ries crater in Germany, one of the best-preserved impact craters on Earth and the place to find extra-terrestrial minerals.

Around 15 million years ago, a one-kilometre-diameter asteroid hit Earth at 20 km/s releasing one trillion times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The result is still visible in west Bavaria today: a 25 km-crater with a depth of roughly 200 metres.

At the Ries crater Pangaea participants find the best resemblance on Earth to a Moon crater. With eyes set on returning to our rocky satellite, practical knowledge of lunar formation is vital. Future astronauts must understand both the science and operations of lunar geology to make the right moves while on the Moon.

The structure in this image is made out of a megablock of limestone that was cracked open by the Ries impact event and is the ideal classroom for learning about cave formation. Tracing the origins of such rocky structures helps to tell the greater story of life on Earth and of detecting life on other planets.

This week the Pangaea course moves on to the Italian Dolomites to study layers that reveal a past characterised by an abundance of running water. The veins in the terrain are similar to those found on Mars and suggest sedimentary processes on the Red Planet.

Pangaea’s last stop will be the alien landscapes of Lanzarote, Spain, in November. This is one of the best areas on Earth to understand the geological interactions between volcanic activity and water – two key factors in the search for life.

Follow the Pangaea course on social media and keep up to date with field activities via the blog.

Click here to visit Original posting

Aeolus quick steps to launch

This timelapse video shows ESA’s Aeolus satellite being prepared for liftoff. It includes shots from the cleanroom in France, its arrival by ship in French Guiana, preparations at Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, roll out to the launch pad and, finally, liftoff on a Vega rocket on 22 August 2018. Aeolus carries one of the most sophisticated instruments ever to be put into orbit. The first of its kind, the Aladin instrument includes revolutionary laser technology to generate pulses of ultraviolet light that are beamed down into the atmosphere to profile the world’s winds – a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.

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Saturn and its moons at opposition

Cassini ended its 13-year mission at Saturn on 15 September 2017 when it plunged into the gas giant's atmosphere, but the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is still keeping an eye on the ringed planet.

This is a composite image taken by Hubble on 6 June 2018 showing a fully-illuminated Saturn and its rings, along with six of its 62 known moons. The visible moons are (from left to right) Dione, Enceladus, Tethys, Janus, Epimetheus and Mimas (click here for an annotated version). Dione is the largest moon in the picture, with a diameter of 1123 km, compared to the smallest, oddly-shaped Epimetheus with a diameter around 116 km.

During Cassini’s mission, Enceladus was identified as one of the most intriguing moons, with the discovery of water vapour jets spewing from the surface implying the existence of a subsurface ocean. Icy moons with subsurface oceans could potentially offer the conditions to harbour life, and understanding their origins and properties are essential for furthering our knowledge of the Solar System. ESA's JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (Juice), due to launch in 2022, aims to continue this theme by studying Jupiter's ocean-bearing moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto.

The Hubble image shown here was taken shortly before Saturn's opposition on 27 June, when the Sun, Earth and Saturn were aligned so that the Sun fully illuminated Saturn as seen from Earth. Saturn's closest approach to Earth occurs around the same time as opposition, which makes it appear brighter and larger and allows the planet to be imaged in greater detail.

In this image the planet’s rings are seen near their maximum tilt towards Earth. Towards the end of Cassini’s mission, the spacecraft made multiple dives through the gap between Saturn and its rings, gathering spectacular data in this previously unchartered territory.

The image also shows a hexagonal atmospheric feature around the north pole, with the remnants of a storm, seen as a string of bright clouds. The hexagon-shaped cloud phenomenon is a stable and persistent feature first seen by the Voyager 1 space probe when it flew past Saturn 1981. In a study published just last week, scientists using Cassini data collected between 2013 and 2017, as the planet approached northern summer, identified a hexagonal vortex above the cloud structure, showing there is still much to learn about the dynamics of Saturn’s atmosphere.

The Hubble observations making up this image were performed as part of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project, which uses Hubble to observe the outer planets to understand the dynamics and evolution of their complex atmospheres. This was the first time that Saturn was imaged as part of OPAL. This image was first published on 26 July.

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Saturn and its moons at opposition

Cassini ended its 13-year mission at Saturn on 15 September 2017 when it plunged into the gas giant's atmosphere, but the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope is still keeping an eye on the ringed planet.

This is a composite image taken by Hubble on 6 June 2018 showing a fully-illuminated Saturn and its rings, along with six of its 62 known moons. The visible moons are (from left to right) Dione, Enceladus, Tethys, Janus, Epimetheus and Mimas (click here for an annotated version). Dione is the largest moon in the picture, with a diameter of 1123 km, compared to the smallest, oddly-shaped Epimetheus with a diameter around 116 km.

During Cassini’s mission, Enceladus was identified as one of the most intriguing moons, with the discovery of water vapour jets spewing from the surface implying the existence of a subsurface ocean. Icy moons with subsurface oceans could potentially offer the conditions to harbour life, and understanding their origins and properties are essential for furthering our knowledge of the Solar System. ESA's JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (Juice), due to launch in 2022, aims to continue this theme by studying Jupiter's ocean-bearing moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto.

The Hubble image shown here was taken shortly before Saturn's opposition on 27 June, when the Sun, Earth and Saturn were aligned so that the Sun fully illuminated Saturn as seen from Earth. Saturn's closest approach to Earth occurs around the same time as opposition, which makes it appear brighter and larger and allows the planet to be imaged in greater detail.

In this image the planet’s rings are seen near their maximum tilt towards Earth. Towards the end of Cassini’s mission, the spacecraft made multiple dives through the gap between Saturn and its rings, gathering spectacular data in this previously unchartered territory.

The image also shows a hexagonal atmospheric feature around the north pole, with the remnants of a storm, seen as a string of bright clouds. The hexagon-shaped cloud phenomenon is a stable and persistent feature first seen by the Voyager 1 space probe when it flew past Saturn 1981. In a study published just last week, scientists using Cassini data collected between 2013 and 2017, as the planet approached northern summer, identified a hexagonal vortex above the cloud structure, showing there is still much to learn about the dynamics of Saturn’s atmosphere.

The Hubble observations making up this image were performed as part of the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy (OPAL) project, which uses Hubble to observe the outer planets to understand the dynamics and evolution of their complex atmospheres. This was the first time that Saturn was imaged as part of OPAL. This image was first published on 26 July.

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California Dreamin’

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst captured this image of the city of the Baja California peninsula and the border between the United States and Mexico from the International Space Station and shared it on social media saying: "California dreaming. One of my favourite orbits is down along the West Coast of USA, from Alaska to the Andes. We fly this route once a day."

Follow Alexander and the Horizons mission on social media on his website and on his blog.

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North Sea bloom

The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite takes us over the North Sea, revealing a significant algae bloom covering most of the southern part.  One of Europe's most productive fisheries, the North Sea covers an area of 570 000 sq km and is linked to the Atlantic by one of the world’s busiest shipping regions – the English Channel.

The image covers a large section of Scandinavia, including Norway, the south of Sweden, and Denmark, stretching down to Germany and the Netherlands in the bottom right. On the left of the image we can see the east coast of Scotland and the Northern Isles, comprising two archipelagos – Orkney and Shetland.

This true-colour image taken using Sentinel-3’s Ocean and Land Colour Instrument shows a significant algae bloom.

Harmful algal blooms caused by excessive growth of marine algae have occurred in the North Sea and the English Channel area in recent years, with satellite data being used to track their growth and spread. These data can then be used to help develop alert systems to mitigate against damaging impacts for tourism and fishing industries.

Harmful blooms, which pose a threat to various forms of water life, are thought to carry an annual cost of over 900 million euros to these industries in the EU.

Helping to map algal blooms and providing critical information for marine operations are just some of the ways that the two-satellite Sentinel-3 is used for Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme. Since 2016, Sentinel-3A has been measuring our oceans, land, ice and atmosphere to monitor and understand large-scale global dynamics. In April 2018, it was joined by its twin satellite Sentinel-3B.

This image, which was captured on 27 May 2017, is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.

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