European Space Agency Flickr Update

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Saturn’s B ring peaks
19-02-2018 10:43 AM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Saturn’s B ring peaks

While the Winter Olympics is in full swing in PyeongChang, South Korea, and many winter sport fanatics head to snow-clad mountains to get their thrills on the slopes this ski-season, this dramatic mountain scene is somewhat off-piste – in Saturn’s rings to be precise.

These fluffy peaks are among the tallest seen in Saturn’s main rings, towering as high as 2.5 km above the plane of the rings, a significant deviation from the vertical thickness of the planet’s main rings, which is generally only about 10 m. They rise abruptly from the edge of the B ring to cast long shadows in this image.

But these mountains are far from solid: they are constantly changing accumulations of ring particles that respond to the gravity of moonlets and wave-like formations induced in the rings.

Part of the Cassini Division, between the B and the A rings, appears at the top of the image, showing ringlets in the inner division. This is one prominent region at the outer edge of the B ring where moonlets up to a kilometre or more in size are found. It is possible that these bodies significantly affect the ring material streaming past them and force the particles upward in a ‘splashing’ manner, in reality making them impossible to ski.

Images like this are only possible around the time of Saturn’s equinox, which occurs every half-Saturn-year, or about every 15 Earth years. The illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the Sun’s angle to the ring plane and causes structures jutting out of the plane to cast long shadows across the rings.

This image was taken by the international Cassini spacecraft’s narrow-angle camera on 26 July 2009, two weeks before the planet’s 11 August equinox, as the Sun shone directly edge-on to the ring plane.

This view looks toward the southern, sunlit side of the rings from about 32º below the ring plane. The view was acquired at a distance of 336 000 km from Saturn and at a Sun–Saturn–spacecraft, angle of 132º. Image scale is 2 km/ pixel and the image captures a 1200 km-long section arcing along the outer edge of the B ring.

The image was previously highlighted in a release on 1 November 2010.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project of NASA, ESA and Italy’s ASI space agency. The mission concluded in September 2017.

Credits: NASA/JPL/SSI

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Off-piste

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Off-piste
19-02-2018 10:00 AM CET

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Space Science Image of the Week: These enticing peaks in the outer Solar System would challenge even skilled Olympic skiers

European Space Agency Flickr Update

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Beijing
16-02-2018 01:24 PM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Beijing

Today, 16 February, upwards of 20% of the world’s population will be celebrating Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. According to the traditional Chinese calendar, which is based on the lunar cycle and the position of the Sun, the New Year changes each year, but always falls between 21 January and 20 February. There are 12 Chinese zodiac animals that represent years, and 2018 is the year of the dog.

Marking this special day, we take a look at a Sentinel-2 image of Beijing, the capital of China. It is one of the most populous cities in the world, with over 21 million people, but during the New Year millions travel from the big cities back to their hometowns to spend the holiday with their families in what is considered the world’s largest annual migration.

Beijing lies in northeast China at the northern tip of the North China Plain. While the city lies on flat ground, it is surrounded by mountains to the north and west (not pictured). From space, the city appears to be divided up into many squares, which is a consequence of it being one of oldest planned cities in the world. Beijing’s present urban form was established in the early Ming dynasty – between 1368 and 1644 – with planning stipulating that the city should be a square encompassing nine avenues running north–south and nine running east–west.

While this Copernicus Sentinel-2 image details much of the city, a number of famous landmarks can be picked out easily. For example, lying in the heart of Beijing, the Forbidden City, one of China’s largest and best preserved heritage sites, and Tiananmen Square can be seen.

Happy Chinese Year – or Xīn nián kuài lè – to all.

This Sentinel-2 image, which was captured on 3 May 2016, is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.

Credits: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2016), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Meteor

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Meteor
16-02-2018 03:23 PM CET

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Vor fünf Jahren rauschte ein kleiner, bis dato unbekannter, Meteorit mit einer Geschwindigkeit von 66000 km/h durch die Erdatmosphäre und explodierte hoch über Tscheljabinsk.

Beijing

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Beijing
15-02-2018 02:52 PM CET

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Earth observation image of the week: with the Chinese calendar rolling over into a new year today, the Sentinel-2 mission offers us a view of the country’s capital

European Space Agency Flickr Update

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Space radiation on Earth
15-02-2018 10:42 AM CET

europeanspaceagency posted a photo:

Space radiation on Earth

The constant ‘rain’ of radiation in space includes cosmic rays, which, despite the name ‘ray’, comprises highly energetic particles arriving from beyond the Solar System. These rays are considered the main health hazard for astronauts conducting future exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

This bad stuff can also play havoc with sensitive spacecraft electronics, corrupting data, damaging circuits and degrading microchips.

There are many different kinds of cosmic rays, and they can have very different effects on spacecraft and their occupants, depending on the types of particles, the particles’ energies and the duration of the exposure.

A new international accelerator, the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (

), now under construction near Darmstadt, Germany, at the existing GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research (GSI), will provide particle beams like the ones that exist in space and make them available to scientists for studies that will be used to make spacecraft more robust and help humans survive the rigours of spaceflight.

For example, researchers will be able to investigate how cells and human DNA are altered or damaged by exposure to cosmic radiation and how well microchips stand up to the extreme conditions in space.

FAIR’s central element will be a new accelerator ring with a circumference of 1100 m, capable of accelerating protons to near-light speeds. The existing GSI accelerators will repurposed to serve as pre-accelerators for the new FAIR facility.

This image shows the high-tech equipment that generates the particles, which are then injected into the GSI and FAIR accelerator systems.

On 14 February 2018, ESA and FAIR inked a cooperation agreement that will build on an existing framework of cooperation between the Agency and GSI, and see the two cooperate in the fields of radiation biology, electronic components, materials research, shielding materials and instrument calibration.

The agreement also includes cooperation in technology and software development and in joint activities in areas such as innovation management.

More information
– The Universe in the Laboratory: ESA and FAIR form partnership for researching cosmic radiation
Heavy but fast
New radiation research programme for human spaceflight
Cosmic opportunity for radiation research at ESA
Radiation: satellites’ unseen enemy

Follow GSI/FAIR
– Instagram: @universeinthelab
– Twitter: @GSI_en
– Facebook: GSIHelmholtzzentrum & FAIRAccelerator

Credits: GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH/Jan Michael Hosan 2018

Swarm details energetic coupling

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Swarm details energetic coupling
15-02-2018 04:50 PM CET

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The Sun bathes our planet in the light and heat it needs to sustain life, but it also bombards us with dangerous charged particles in solar wind. Our magnetic field largely shields from this onslaught, but like many a relationship, it’s somewhat complicated. Thanks to ESA’s Swarm mission the nature of this Earth–Sun coupling has been revealed in more detail than ever before.