Galileo in smartphones

Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system seen at work with commercially available Samsung S8+ smartphones.

The sky has been full of Galileo signals since Europe’s satnav system began Initial Services at the end of last year, and a steady stream of Galileo-ready devices is finding its way to the marketplace.

This has been underpinned with years of effort by ESA’s Navigation Laboratory, working with European manufacturers of mass-market satnav chips and receivers as well as ESA’s Galileo team in cooperation with the European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency.

Industry responded to Initial Services by making the first Galileo-enabled smartphones available to the public. The list of available devices includes phones from Apple, BQ, Huawei, Samsung and Sony. Check the Use Galileo website regularly for an up-to-date list of Galileo-ready products.

ESA’s Navigation Lab began working with manufacturers in 2013, making their facilities available for testing prototypes.

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A glimpse of the future

This image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows what happens when two galaxies become one. The twisted cosmic knot seen here is NGC 2623 — or Arp 243 — and is located about 250 million light-years away in the constellation of Cancer (The Crab).

NGC 2623 gained its unusual and distinctive shape as the result of a major collision and subsequent merger between two separate galaxies. This violent encounter caused clouds of gas within the two galaxies to become compressed and stirred up, in turn triggering a sharp spike of star formation. This active star formation is marked by speckled patches of bright blue; these can be seen clustered both in the centre and along the trails of dust and gas forming NGC 2623’s sweeping curves (known as tidal tails). These tails extend for roughly 50 000 light-years from end to end. Many young, hot, newborn stars form in bright stellar clusters — at least 170 such clusters are known to exist within NGC 2623.

NGC 2623 is in a late stage of merging. It is thought that the Milky Way will eventually resemble NGC 2623 when it collides with our neighbouring galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, in four billion years time.

In contrast to the image of NGC 2623 released in 2009 (heic0912), this new version contains data from recent narrow-band and infrared observations that make more features of the galaxy visible.

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Winning ideas on offer


Aude de Clercq, Secretary to ESA Patents Group

ESA currently has about 150 inventions to its name, protected by some 450 patents across different countries – with 300 patents granted and 150 patent applications still under examination. We file patents to protect our programmes and European industry, to give them the opportunity to exploit these innovations freely, without any potential blocking by competitors. 

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Winning ideas on offer


Aude de Clercq, Secretary to ESA Patents Group

ESA currently has about 150 inventions to its name, protected by some 450 patents across different countries – with 300 patents granted and 150 patent applications still under examination. We file patents to protect our programmes and European industry, to give them the opportunity to exploit these innovations freely, without any potential blocking by competitors. 

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Ireland signs up for Sentinel data

The ESA–Ireland Sentinel Collaborative Ground Segment Agreement was signed on 13 October 2017 at ESA in the Netherlands by Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes (left) and Conor Sheehan from Enterprise Ireland (right) in the presence of John Halligan Ireland’s Minister of State for Training and Skills (centre).

Read full story: Ireland signs up to Copernicus Sentinel agreement

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Ireland signs up for Sentinel data

The ESA–Ireland Sentinel Collaborative Ground Segment Agreement was signed on 13 October 2017 at ESA in the Netherlands by Josef Aschbacher, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes (left) and Conor Sheehan from Enterprise Ireland (right) in the presence of John Halligan Ireland’s Minister of State for Training and Skills (centre).

Read full story: Ireland signs up to Copernicus Sentinel agreement

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Testing (under)ground for Mars

If life exists on Mars, it will have sought refuge underground. Trying to uncover one of the best-kept secrets in the Solar System, scientists are working a kilometre beneath the ground, with ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer joining them this week.

Teams from around the world are gathering at the UK’s Boulby Mine to test new technologies for exploring Mars and the Moon. Almost 30 people are venturing into the deep for the fifth Mine Analogue Research (MINAR) sortie.

They have been testing a wide range of equipment for two weeks, including a robotic hammer to chisel rock and expose fresh surfaces for signs of life.

A team from the University of Leicester carefully monitors the performance of a tool that could one day be part of a Mars rover.

Matthias will take part in several more campaigns this year. Next up is ESA’s Pangaea geology field training in Lanzarote, Spain. There, the hammer will be used to pound the rocks of the Mars-like landscape to test a human–robot partnership for future planetary excursions.

In these campaigns astronauts can learn from scientists and instrument specialists how to use life-detection equipment, drills and cameras for robotic and human exploration. 

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