European Space Agency Flickr Update

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Copernicus Sentinel-1B handed over for operations
19-09-2016 04:46 PM CEST

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Copernicus Sentinel-1B handed over for operations

Following liftoff on 25 April 2016, the Copernicus Sentinel-1B satellite has been commissioned and handed over for mission operations. It joins its identical twin, Sentinel-1A, which has been systematically scanning Earth with its radar since October 2014. Orbiting 180° apart, the two satellites optimise coverage and data delivery for the Copernicus services that are making a step change in the way our environment is managed. More than 45 000 users have registered to access Sentinel data, under the free and open policy framework of Europe’s Copernicus environmental monitoring programme.

Both satellites carry a radar that images Earth’s surface through cloud and rain and regardless of whether it is day or night. These images are used for many applications, such as monitoring ice in the polar seas, tracking land subsidence, and for responding to disasters such as floods.

On 14 September, project manager Ramón Torres (left) who led the development team, handed over the satellite to the mission manager, Pierre Potin (right) in the presence of Volker Liebig, Senior Advisor to ESA’s Director General.

Credit: ESA

Methane-flooded canyons on Titan
19-09-2016 02:14 PM CEST

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Methane-flooded canyons on Titan

The aptly named Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is remarkably Earth-like. Its diameter is only about 40% that of our planet, but Titan’s nitrogen-rich, dense atmosphere and the geological activity at the moon’s surface make comparisons between the two bodies inevitable.

This image, taken with the radar on the Cassini spacecraft, shows just how similar the features in Titan’s surface are to Earth’s landforms.

Aside from Earth, Titan is the only other body where we have found evidence of active erosion on a large scale. There are seas, lakes and rivers filled with liquid hydrocarbons – mainly methane and some ethane – that etch the moon’s surface, in much the same way water erodes Earth’s.

A striking example is Vid Flumina, the Nile-like, branching river system visible on the upper-left quadrant of the image. The river, in the moon’s north polar region, flows into Ligeia Mare, a methane-rich sea that appears as a dark patch on the right side of the image.

Researchers in Italy and the US analysed Cassini radar observations from May 2013 and recently revealed that the narrow channels that branch off Vid Flumina are deep, steep-sided canyons filled with flowing hydrocarbons.

The channels are a little less than a kilometre wide, up to 570 m deep and with slopes steeper than 40º. This suggests they have been sculpted by liquid methane, flowing into the main Vid Flumina river, that has persistently eroded the canyon walls – a geological process reminiscent of the carving of river gorges on our planet.

The study is the first direct evidence of deeply entrenched, methane-flooded channels on Titan. Finding out how they formed provides insights into the moon’s origin and evolution and could help understand similar geological processes on Earth.

The Cassini–Huygens radar team is hoping to observe the Ligeia Mare and Vid Flumina region again in April 2017, during Cassini’s final approach to Titan. The mission is a cooperation between NASA, ESA and Italy’s ASI space agency.

Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI

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