Mount Mayon, Philippines

The Copernicus Sentinel-1B satellite takes us over one of the most active volcanos in the world: Mount Mayon on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

Luzon is the biggest island in the Philippines and home to most of the country’s active volcanoes. This volcanism is associated with plate tectonic processes where the floor of the South China Sea is being drawn down into the mantle along the Manila Trench, which is to the west of the island. The image just shows part of the southern end of this large island, but features no less than five volcanoes.

While Mount Mayon – the most southerly volcano in the image – is famous not only for being perfectly formed, but also for being one of the most active in the world, the other four volcanoes in the image are actually either dormant or extinct.Dubbed a perfect volcano because of its symmetry, Mount Mayon has a classical conical shape, built up by many layers of hardened lava. It erupts frequently with the most recent eruption occurring in January this year.

This image was captured on 16 January 2018 and while satellite radar isn’t typically used to detect hot lava flows, the way it has been processed reveals a pink line running down the southeast flank of the volcano that matches the flow of lava in optical images from satellites such as Sentinel-2. The predominant bright green in the image corresponds to vegetation, the lighter green and pink to towns and the blue to cultivated fields.

While the Sentinel-1 radar mission is used for a myriad of everyday applications, it is also used to detect ground movement, which is essential for monitoring shifts from earthquakes and volcanic uplift.

This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.

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Launch of ESRO-2B satellite

ESRO-2 control room at ESOC, Darmstadt, Germany, in 1968. 

On 17 May 1968, ESA’s predecessor, the European Space Research Organisation (ESRO), launched ESRO-2B – an 86kg cylindrical spacecraft designed to study X-rays from our closest star, the Sun, and cosmic rays from the rest of the Universe.

The ESRO-2 satellites were the first developed by ESRO, with ESRO-2B launched after ESRO-2A failed to reach orbit around Earth, becoming the first mission controlled by teams at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

Also known as the International Radiation Investigation Satellite, ESRO-2B was launched with the Scout B rocket from Vandernberg Air Force Base in California.

The launch of the first European satellites on US rockets came after an offer from NASA to fly these first two satellites free of charge, as a ‘christening gift’ to ESRO.

Powered by 3456 solar cells ESRO-2B was designed to work for one year, however it continued to return data until it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on 9 May 1971 after completing 16,282 orbits.

ESRO’s first satellites concentrated on solar and cosmic radiation and their interaction with the Earth and its magnetosphere. While ESRO-2B was designed for solar observations, it is also credited with the detection of X-rays from non-solar sources.

More information

ESRO-2B
ESOC

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Preparing Sentinel-3B for liftoff

This timelapse video shows the Sentinel-3B satellite being prepared for liftoff on 25 April 2018 from Plesetsk in Russia. Sentinel-3B joined its twin, Sentinel-3A, in orbit. The pairing of identical satellites provides the best coverage and data delivery for Europe’s Copernicus programme – the largest environmental monitoring programme in the world. The satellites carry the same suite of cutting-edge instruments to measure oceans, land, ice and atmosphere.

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30% efficiency solar cell

Solar cells have a hard life in space – their efficiency at converting sunlight into energy at the end of their time there is more prized than their initial efficiency. This next generation solar cell having an area of around 30 sq. cm boosts the beginning of life efficiency of up to 30.9% and end of life efficiency to 27.5% - and in the future designers expect to push this figure above 30%.

Developed for ESA by a consortium led by German solar cell manufacturer Azur Space, CESI in Italy, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, Qioptiq in the UK, Umicore in Belgium, tf2 devices in the Netherlands, and Finland’s Tampere University of Technology, this design is a ‘four-junction’ 0.1 mm-thick device containing four layers of different materials (AlGaInP, AlGaInAs, GaInAs,Ge) to absorb separate wavelengths of sunlight.

This design was originated through ESA’s Technology Research Programme with further development and qualification testing supported through the Agency’s ARTES, Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems, programme. It is currently intended to fly with ESA’s next generation Neosat telecom satellites.

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Graffiti without gravity

Spanish street artist Lily Brik works on her canvas art during the Graffiti without Gravity space art competition.

ESA and The Hague Street Art teamed up for a unique crossover project between street art and space travel last week.
On May 18th, 10 street artists from across Europe competed to create their own masterpiece on a square canvas using ‘space’ as inspiration at Space Expo in Noordwijk, the Netherlands.

A three-member jury, together with voting by the public, will select which artist created the very best artwork within the deadline of one day.

The selected artist will win a seat on a parabolic flight and become the first street artist to draw a piece of art in microgravity.

During three-hour flights, ESA runs experiments on a rollercoaster aircraft that offers 20 seconds of zero gravity at the top of the apex as it flies up and down at 45° angles.

See the final 12 products and vote here from now until 1 June.

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Zambezi Delta diversity

Covering 3000 sq km, the Zambezi Delta in Mozambique is one of the most diverse and productive river delta systems in the world. This unique wetland, which is protected under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, features a broad alluvial plain with vast mosaics of grassland, woods, deep swamps and extensive mangroves. Recognised as a global biodiversity conservation hotspot, this remarkable delta is home to a myriad of wildlife, from big mammals such as buffaloes, lions and elephants to water birds such as fish eagles and flamingos, to marine species such as dolphins and freshwater fish. As well as this rich biodiversity, this extraordinary delta not only provides a source of food for Mozambique, but also protects the coast from flooding.

While the Zambezi River Delta is an example of a healthy ecosystem, biological diversity is declining around the world. It is estimated that between 100 and 150 species disappear every day. The International Day for Biological Diversity is held every 22 May to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues such as this. Ratified by 196 nations, the Convention on Biological Diversity is the international legal instrument for the conservation of biological diversity and the sustainable use of its components.

Satellites observing Earth have an important role to play as images can be used to assess the health of important ecosystems and show how they may be changing. This image was captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite on 28 September 2016.

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