Galileo slid out of Phenix test chamber

ESTEC Test Centre engineers examine the Galileo Full Operational Capability satellite after it has been slid out of the Phenix test chamber on 29 November 2013, following a five-week thermal–vacuum test. The box within the Phenix is the ‘thermal tent’, used to reproduce the extreme temperatures of space. (Released with endorsement of the ESA Security Office)

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Galileo emerging from TVAC

The first Galileo Full Operational Capability satellite seen emerging on 29 November 2013 from the Phenix test chamber after five weeks of thermal–vacuum testing. The testing, simulating space environmental conditions, took place at the ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, Europe's largest spacecraft testing facility. This foreshortened view of Galileo highlights the thrusters on the top of the satellite as well as its main navigation antenna, covered with silver-coloured multilayer-insulation. Beside the navigation antenna is a gridded laser retroreflector, upon which a laser can be shone from Earth to measure Galileo's precise position in space. The projecting C-band antenna beside receives mission data and navigation corrections from uplink stations on the ground. Projecting elements of the satellite's search and rescue antenna can be glimpsed on the far side of the main antenna. (Released with endorsement of the ESA Security Office)

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When ice meets fire

Comet ISON’s brush with the Sun as seen by the ESA/NASA SOHO satellite 27–30 November 2013.

ISON made its closest approach to the Sun during the evening of 28 November, passing just 1.2 million kilometres from the Sun’s visible surface. At first the comet was thought to have disintegrated during its fiery encounter, with just a remnant of its tail continuing along ISON’s trajectory. But, the next day, it seemed clear that something had survived after all – possibly a small chunk of ISON’s nucleus, along with a lot of dust. This progressively faded as it edged towards SOHO’s field of view on 30 November. Over the coming weeks scientists will be analysing the data collected during ISON’s encounter with the Sun to decipher the nail-biting chain of events that took place.

The shaded disc at the centre of the image is a mask in SOHO’s LASCO instrument that blots out direct sunlight to allow study of the faint details in the Sun's corona. The white circle added within the disc shows the size and position of the visible Sun. The images in this sequence coloured blue are from SOHO’s LASCO C3 instrument, which images the corona from about 3.5 solar radii to 30 solar radii; those in red are from LASCO C2, which images the corona from about 1.5 solar radii to 6 solar radii.

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