North to south

This stunning image swath was taken by ESA’s Mars Express during camera calibration as the spacecraft flew over the north pole (bottom) towards the equator (top).

The images were taken by the high-resolution stereo camera’s nine channels (one nadir, four colour and four stereo), which were panned over the surface to record a large area at uniform illumination conditions. At the same time the camera was shifted to the horizon, instead of just pointing to the surface as in routine imaging.

The images were taken on 19 June 2017 during Mars Express orbit 17 050. The ground resolution in the centre of the image is about 1 km/pixel and the images are centred at 249ºE / 65°N.

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Vita mission: Farewells to landing

Highlights from ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli's return to Earth on 14 December 2017 at the end of the VITA mission to the International Space Station.

After farewells and hatch closure, Paolo and his Soyuz crewmates, departed the International Space Station with undocking at 05:15 GMT (06:15 CET).

Just a few hours later their spacecraft reentered Earth's atmosphere, landing in the Kazakh Steppe at 08:37 GMT (09:37 CET).

The crew were helped out of the Soyuz by a recovery crew and, after medical checks.

Paolo, Randy and Sergey spent 139 days in space. Paolo took part in more than 60 experiments during his Vita mission.

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Christmas operations

On 25 December 2003, after a journey lasting 205 days and covering 400 million kilometres, Mars Express entered orbit around Mars. Jose Pereira (pictured) recalls the atmosphere in the main control room in Darmstadt, Germany, “This was an evening of highs and lows. The tension and excitement while waiting for Mars Express to come around from behind the planet safely and the subsequent relief and excitement when it did.”

This incredible mission collected many firsts, including being the first European mission to Mars and the first planetary mission operated entirely by Europe. Excitement was in the air and even the team hotel organised something special for this occasion: “It was an unusual way to spend Christmas,” Jose remembers. “The hotel reserved a section of their restaurant for us, decorated with a Christmas tree just like we would do at home. They laid on a special meal and even had some individual gifts that I handed out to the team. I have since been renamed Santa by the staff there.”

Mars Express is the first mission to conduct a thorough search for water on the Red Planet after NASA’s Viking in the 1970s. It also carried Beagle-2, a British lander named after the ship used by Charles Darwin. Beagle-2 was intended to look for past life on the surface but after separating from Mars Express there was no further communication and it was lost until NASA located it in 2015. 

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Gaia’s view of the Large Magellanic Cloud

The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), one of the nearest galaxies to our Milky Way, as viewed by ESA’s Gaia satellite after its first 14 months of operations. These views are not photographs but were compiled by mapping the total density of stars (left) and the total amount of radiation, or flux (right), detected by Gaia in each pixel.

On the left, the image based on the stellar density shows the large-scale distribution of stars in the LMC, clearly delineating the full extent of the spiral arms. It is peppered with bright dots – faint clusters of stars – and presents a series of diagonal stripes along the central thick structure, or bar, which are artefacts caused by Gaia’s scanning procedure and will gradually decrease as more data are gathered throughout the mission.

On the right, the image based on the total flux is dominated by the brightest, most massive stars, which greatly outshine their fainter, lower-mass counterparts. In this view, the bar of the LMC is outlined in greater detail, alongside with individual regions of star formation like the bubbling 30 Doradus, visible just above the centre of the galaxy.

Full story: Gaia’s view of our galactic neighbours

Acknowledgement: this image was produced by André Moitinho, Márcia Barros, Carlos Barata from the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and Hélder Savietto from Fork Research, Portugal.

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