SMAP Takes to the Skies

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory onboard is seen in this long exposure photograph as it launches from Space Launch Complex 2, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. SMAP is NASA’s first Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state. SMAP will provide high resolution global measurements of soil moisture from space. The data will be used to enhance scientists' understanding of the processes that link Earth's water, energy, and carbon cycles. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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NASA Launches Groundbreaking Soil Moisture Mapping Satellite

NASA successfully launched its first Earth satellite designed to collect global observations of the vital soil moisture hidden just beneath our feet. The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, a mission with broad applications for science and society, lifted off at 6:22 a.m. PST (9:22 a.m. EST) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

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Astronauts Speak with University of California Students from Space Station

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering students at the University of California, Davis will have a rare opportunity to speak with Expedition 42 crew members currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS) at 12:45 p.m. EST (9:45 a.m. PST) Thursday, Feb. 5. The 20-minute Earth-to-space call will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

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Launch of NASA Soil Moisture Mapping Mission Set for Saturday

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive mission (SMAP) now is scheduled to launch from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California at 9:20 a.m. EST (6:20 a.m. PST) Saturday, Jan. 31 on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. NASA Television coverage of the launch will begin at 7 a.m.

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NASA TV Coverage Set for NOAA DSCOVR Launch Feb. 8

The Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is scheduled to launch at 6:10 p.m. EST Sunday, Feb. 8 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. A backup launch opportunity is available at 6:07 p.m. on Feb. 9, if needed.

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Hubble’s View of the Polar Ring of Arp 230

This image shows Arp 230, also known as IC 51, observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Arp 230 is a galaxy of an uncommon or peculiar shape, and is therefore part of the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies produced by Halton Arp. Its irregular shape is thought to be the result of a violent collision with another galaxy sometime in the past. The collision could also be held responsible for the formation of the galaxy’s polar ring. The outer ring surrounding the galaxy consists of gas and stars and rotates over the poles of the galaxy. It is thought that the orbit of the smaller of the two galaxies that created Arp 230 was perpendicular to the disk of the second, larger galaxy when they collided. In the process of merging the smaller galaxy would have been ripped apart and may have formed the polar ring structure astronomers can observe today. Arp 230 is quite small for a lenticular galaxy, so the two original galaxies forming it must both have been smaller than the Milky Way.  A lenticular galaxy is a galaxy with a prominent central bulge and a disk, but no clear spiral arms.  They are classified as intermediate between an elliptical galaxy and a spiral galaxy. European Space Agency Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Flickr user Det58

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Height of Bangladesh mangrove

Information on mangrove forest height can be used to estimate biomass, which is extremely important for climate studies and as an energy source in developing countries. The image of mangrove forest in Bangladesh is based on data from the German TanDEM-X satellite and Polarimetric InSAR techniques. Read more: Mapping forest structure from space

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Philae above the comet?

Rosetta’s OSIRIS wide-angle camera captured this view of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on 12 November 2014 at 17:18 GMT (onboard spacecraft time). Marked is what the OSIRIS team believe to be the Philae lander above the rim of the large depression – named Hatmehit – on the comet’s small lobe. The image has been used to guide subsequent lander search efforts, and provides the basis for trajectory reconstructions.


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The Mediterranean Sea’s most mountainous island, Corsica, dominates this image from the Landsat-8 satellite.

About 40% of the island’s surface area is dedicated to nature reserves, and its mountains are a popular destination for hiking. For beachgoers, the island boasts over 1000 km of coastline. 

Near the northeastern coast we can see the island’s largest coastal lagoon, the Etang de Biguglia. This nature reserve has been noted for its support of numerous breeding and wintering waterbirds, as well as the vulnerable Hermann’s tortoise and long-fingered bat.

This lagoon is one of the over 2000 sites worldwide considered to be wetlands of international importance by the Ramsar Convention, an intergovernmental treaty for the sustainable use of wetlands. World Wetlands Day is observed on 2 February, the anniversary of the signing of the Convention.

ESA has been assisting the Ramsar Convention for a decade through the GlobWetland project, which provides satellite data to be used to monitor these precious resources. The next phase of the project, called GlobWetland Africa, will collaborate closely with ESA’s TIGER initiative, which trains African water authorities and researchers in exploiting satellite data and Earth observation technology for sustainable water resource management.

The Etang de Biguglia is not the island’s only Ramsar site: further inland in the central-north part of the island is an active raised bog, home to a number of protected bat, reptile, bird and amphibian species.

Other Ramsar sites on the island are two more coastal lagoons about halfway down the east coast, and a series of temporary pools in the south. These pools in the semi-arid granitic landscape are an uncommon geomorphological phenomenon in the region supporting a diversity of rare species.

Over the water in the upper-left section of the image we can see condensation trails, or 'contrails', from aircraft or ships.

Contrails form when exhaust particles act as nuclei around which water condenses, resulting in elongated cloud-like trails that can last anywhere from minutes to hours. They can also form persistent artificial cirrus clouds that can last for days or weeks, and can affect Earth’s climate by trapping heat in our atmosphere.

This image, also featured on the Earth from Space video programme, was captured by Landsat-8 on 29 August 2014.

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ESA Euronews: The dark side

All we can see around us, from planet Earth to distant galaxies, represents just five per cent of the Universe - the rest is dark energy or dark matter. So what do we know and what do we not know about these elusive components of the cosmos?

The simple answer is that we don't know much about dark matter and even less about dark energy.

However, that could change quite soon thanks to groundbreaking research being done by scientists at ESA and CERN, home to the world's foremost particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. The LHC's discovery three years ago of the Higgs Boson set researchers on a voyage of discovery to the dark side of the Universe. They are about to fire up the colossal accelerator again this year, and for the first time at full power. That extra energy is what's giving optimism for new revelations about dark energy and dark matter. One scientists tells Space: "we might have a discovery even in the first days, if not in the first weeks."

At the same time ESA is building a new space telescope called Euclid which will watch how the gravity of dark matter acts on galaxies, and how dark energy is pushing the expansion of our Universe.

Find out how science is unraveling the dark mysteries of the cosmos.

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