News Aggregator

Water cycle wrapped

ESA Top News - Wed, 15/05/2019 - 11:00

As our climate changes, the availability of freshwater is a growing issue for many people around the world. Understanding the water cycle and how the climate and human usage is causing shifts in natural cycling processes is vital to safeguarding supplies. While numerous satellites measure individual components of the water cycle, it has never been described as a whole over a particular region – until now.

The global thaw

ESA Top News - Wed, 15/05/2019 - 11:00

ESA’s satellites observing Earth’s cryosphere provide key information to understand and respond to global thawing

Downstream Gateway: bringing space down to Earth

ESA Top News - Wed, 15/05/2019 - 10:06

ESA is launching its Downstream Gateway, a ‘one-stop shop’ service for all downstream opportunities, creating links between new and emerging business sectors and the capabilities being developed in ESA programmes.

Tug-of-war drives magnetic north sprint

ESA Top News - Wed, 15/05/2019 - 08:55

As far as we know, Earth’s magnetic north has always wandered, but it has recently gained new momentum and is making a dash towards Siberia at a pace not seen before. While this has some practical implications, scientists believe that this sprint is being caused by tussling magnetic blobs deep below our feet.

Gamma flash

ESA Top News - Tue, 14/05/2019 - 16:15

Human and robotic exploration image of the week: first ever image of a terrestrial gamma-ray flash

Mapping salty waters

ESA Top News - Tue, 14/05/2019 - 14:45

The length and precision with which climate scientists can track the salinity, or saltiness, of the oceans is set to improve dramatically according to researchers working as part of ESA’s Climate Change Initiative.

New potential for tracking severe storms

ESA Top News - Tue, 14/05/2019 - 12:45

Even just within the last couple of months, Cyclones Fani, Idai and Kenneth have brought devastation to millions. With the frequency and severity of extreme weather like this expected to increase against the backdrop of climate change, it is more important than ever to forecast and track events accurately. And, an ESA satellite is helping with the task in hand.

Shaped by ice

ESA Top News - Tue, 14/05/2019 - 11:35

A nifty way of processing data from ESA’s CryoSat mission yields a high-resolution view of Antarctica in 3D

Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier bucks the trend

ESA Top News - Tue, 14/05/2019 - 09:55

Our planet works in mysterious ways. We are all used to hearing about the world’s ice being the first casualty of climate change and, indeed, it is declining fast. However, recent findings show that one glacier is not conforming to the norm – it’s actually been flowing more slowly and getting thicker.

How Venus and Mars can teach us about Earth

ESA Top News - Mon, 13/05/2019 - 17:00

One has a thick poisonous atmosphere, one has hardly any atmosphere at all, and one is just right for life to flourish – but it wasn’t always that way. The atmospheres of our two neighbours Venus and Mars can teach us a lot about the past and future scenarios for our own planet.

Joining forces on Earth science to benefit society

ESA Top News - Mon, 13/05/2019 - 15:20

With human activity leaving its indelible mark on the landscape and affecting the climate, our natural world is changing faster than at any other time in history. Science is fundamental to understanding environmental change so that these huge challenges can be tackled. To ensure a more efficient approach on Earth-system science and to bring direct benefits to society, ESA and the European Commission are working to join forces.

Space Station science looking at Earth

ESA Top News - Mon, 13/05/2019 - 15:06

In this edition of our bi-weekly update on European research run on the International Space Station, we’re taking our cue from the Living Planet Symposium – the largest conference on Earth Observation taking place this week in Milan, Italy – and focusing on our own planet.

Pale blue dot – or not?

ESA Top News - Mon, 13/05/2019 - 14:25

Space Science Image of the Week: Earth’s evil twin Venus offers a natural laboratory to study the outcome of a runaway greenhouse effect

Spotlight on the pulse of our planet

ESA Top News - Mon, 13/05/2019 - 13:48

Satellites deliver crucial information to help solve what is our biggest global problem: climate change. As well as taking the pulse of our planet, satellite data are used in a myriad of daily applications, and are also used increasingly in business. It’s no surprise then that over 4 000 people have flocked to Milan to hear the latest scientific findings on Earth’s natural processes and global change, and to learn about the wealth of new opportunities that Earth observation has to offer.

Surpassing expectations

ESA Top News - Mon, 13/05/2019 - 13:15

Learn how each Earth Explorer satellite continues to surpass expectations by revealing new insights into our planet

Living Planet replay

ESA Top News - Mon, 13/05/2019 - 11:40

The biggest Earth observation conference in the world got underway today in Milan, Italy. Watch the replay of the opening session

Beyond news conference

ESA Top News - Sat, 11/05/2019 - 21:33

Watch a replay of the news conference with ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano ahead of his Beyond mission to the International Space Station.

The night sky for May 2019

The Night Sky This Month - Fri, 10/05/2019 - 19:00
Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the Northern Hemisphere night sky during May 2019.

The Planets

  • Jupiter, starts the month shining at magnitude -2.5 which increases to to -2.6 as the month progresses. At the same time, its angular size increases from 43 to 46 arc seconds. As May begins it rises by midnight UT so will be due south around 3 am UT whilst at month's end it rises at ~9:30 pm UT so due south at ~01:30 UT. See the highlights fro when the Great Red Spot faces the Earth. Sadly it is heading towards the southernmost part of the ecliptic and currently lies in the southern part of Ophiuchus just above Scorpius so, as it crosses the meridian, it will only have an elevation of ~ 14 degrees. It lies just above the centre of the Milky Way. Atmospheric dispersion will thus take its toll and an atmospheric dispersion corrector would greatly help to improve our views of the giant planet.

  • Saturn, shining with a magnitude increasing from +0.5 to +0.3 during the month, rises around midnight during the month so crosses the meridian just before dawn. Its disk is ~18 arc seconds across and its rings - which are still nicely tilted from the line of sight - spanning 40 arc seconds across. Morning twilight is the best time to observe it but, sadly, now in Sagittarius and lying on the southern side of the milky way, it is at the lowest point of the ecliptic and will only reach an elevation of ~10 degrees. As with Jupiter, an atmospheric dispersion corrector will help improve our view.

  • Mercury, passes through superior conjunction (behind the Sun) on May 21st and will only be visible, low in the west-northwest, on the last few days of the month. One will need a very low horizon and binoculars could well be needed to reduce the Sun's background glare, but please do not use them until after the Sun has set.

  • Mars, though fading from +1.6 to +1.8 magnitudes during the month, is still visible in Taurus in the south western sky after sunset lying half way between Betelgeuse, in Orion, and Capella, in Auriga. Mars sets some three hours after the Sun at the start of May (with an elevation as darkness falls of ~20 degrees) but less than two and a half hours by month's end. Its angular size falls from 4.2 arc seconds to less than 4 arc seconds during the month so one will not be able to spot any details on its salmon-pink surface.

  • Venus, has a magnitude of -3.8 in May with its angular size reducing from 11.5 to 10.8 arc seconds during the month as it moves away from the Earth. However, at the same time, the percentage illuminated disk (its phase) increases from 88% to 92% - which is why the brightness remains constant at 3.8 magnitudes. It rises about an hour before the Sunbut its elevation is only ~4 degrees at sunrise so a very low horizon in the East is required and binoculars may well be needed to spot it through the Sun's glare - but please do not use them after the Sun has risen.

  • Highlights
  • May 7th - after sunset: Mars lies above a thin crescent Moon. Given a low horizon looking towards the west after sunset one should, if clear, be able to spot Mars lying halfway between Betelgeuse and Capella above a very thin crescent Moon.

  • April 12th - evening: The Moon in Leo Looking southwest in the evening a first quarter Moon will be seen lying close to Regulus in Leo.

  • May 19th - early evening: Mars above M35 in Gemini. Looking west in early evening if clear, and using binoculars or a small telescope one could see Mars lying just above the open cluster, M35, in Gemini. Perhaps a last chance to see Mars at the very end of its apparition.

  • May20th - midnight: Jupiter and the Moon. During the night of the 20 May, Jupiter will lie over to the right of the waning gibbous Moon.

  • May 23rd - early morning: Saturn and the Moon. In the early Morning of the 23rd of May, Saturn will lie up to the right of the waning gibbous Moon.

  • May 28th - around midnight: spot asteroid 1, Ceres. On the 28th May, Ceres is at its closest approach to Earth lying over to the right of Jupiter. It will have a magnitude of 7 so binoculars should enable you to spot it and the chart will help you find it. A planetarium program such as Stellarium will show you its position in the days before and after its closest approach. Ceres is the largest of the minor planets and is now classified as a 'Dwarf Planet'.

  • Haritina Mogosanu and Samuel Leske from the Carter Science Centre in New Zealand speak about the Southern Hemisphere night sky during May 2019.

    • The rise of the Galaxy Kia Ora from New Zealand, we are here at Space Place at Carter Observatory holding Galactic Conversations from the heart of Wellington in the Southern Hemisphere, with the music of the amazing Rhian Sheehan, our Wellingtonian star composer. This month we have a very special guest, one of our own Milky Way Kiwi - from far across the Cook Strait and The Southern Alps, from Lake Tekapo - Holly. We have again instructions for looking up, we talk a little bit about the month of May, we look at what the Sun is up to, the Milky Way, Orion and Scorpius, we talk about the brightest stars visible and finally some favourite binocular and telescope objects, circumpolar objects and planets.

    • A bit about May is the fifth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars a month of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. It is named after the Greek goddess, Maia or Roman goddess of fertility, Bona Dea. Old English - Maius, Latin name - Maius mensis - Month of Maia, Old French - Mai. Maia was one of the Pleiades and the mother of Hermes. Maia is the daughter of Atlas and Pleione the Oceanid and is the oldest of the seven Pleiades. Because they were daughters of Atlas, they were also called the Atlantides. For the Romans, it embodied the concept of growth and as her name was thought to be related to the comparative adjective maius, maior "larger, greater". Convallaria majalis, the Lily of the Valley, one of my favourite flowers - is named after it and it is the flower of May in Europe.

    • What's the Sun up to? The Sun rises from 7 to 7:30AM throughout the month and sets from around 5:30 to 5:00 PM. Beautiful and long nights are here.In May, the Sun transits first the zodiacal constellations of the Ram (Aries) and after 14th of May is in Taurus. This means that Scorpius is on the other side of the zodiacal wheel and visible starting after sunset.

    • The Milky Way We are now looking towards the centre of our galaxy, which rises in the South East just after sunset and reaches meridian after 3 AM at the beginning of the month and 2 am towards the end.

    • Bright stars in the Milky Way Starting from the West after sunset is Betelegeuse, then in zig-zag to the North is Procyon, the Little Dog alpha star. Zig-zagging again is Sirius, and Adhara, in the Big Dog, and Suhail al Muhlif and Avior in Vela, the beautiful stars of the Southern Cross, the two pointers, Alpha and Beta Centauri then later on in the night after the centre of the Milky Way rises, is Antares and Shaula in Scorpius, Nunki in Sagittarius and last but not least, after midnight, Altair and last but not least, Vega grazing the northern horizon.

    • Orion and Scorpius Orion is very close to Taurus and it will sink further towards the horizon as the month progresses. Enjoy it while it lasts, for the rest of this month.

    • Bright stars on the ecliptic Then Regulus in Leo (which is extremely close to the ecliptic) then Spica, the blue giant in Virgo, Zubenelgenubi, another star grazing the ecliptic and Zubeneschamali just beneath it. Zubenelgenubi means the northern claw and Zubeneschamali the southern claw, alluding to these two stars that have been the claws of Scorpius before they were chopped off and turned into the current constellation of Libra. They are followed by Antares which is the last very bright star visible on the ecliptic before sunrise.

    • Circumpolar Objects to New Zealand The beautiful Southern Cross and the pointers are high in the sky. Gacrux and Acrux are crossing the meridian around 10 PM at the beginning of the month and just after 8PM at the end of it. Omega Centauri is in a great position to observe, as well as Musca, Vela, Carina and their Diamond Cross, and False Cross and the Large Magellanic Cloud and its Tarantula Nebula.

    • Binocular Objects in May Binoculars come in many shapes and forms, a great size for stargazing is 7 x 50 or 10 x 50. The first number is a measure of power, it means how much these binoculars magnify, in this case the 7 and the 10. The second number is the diameter of the objective (the big lenses at the front) in millimetres, in this case the 50. I really like binoculars, they are my favourite aids to observing the night sky because they are light, you can take them easily with you on trips, they don't really require assembly and disassembly, no polar alignment, and visually are better than telescopes! With a tripod attached they are truly magnificent. Comets and some open star clusters are sometimes better observed with binoculars. We have two eyes, so binocular views are more spectacular in many regards than telescopic, because our brains interpret what we see, binoculars give depth of view as they engage both eyes in the process.
      There are a few great objects that you could admire in binoculars. On the ecliptic, M44 (the Praesepe) is an open cluster in Cancer. Known as the beehive, the open cluster swarms with stars. It's really fuzzy when you look at it with the naked eye and binoculars reveal a beautiful lace of stars. Praesepes are as far as 577 light years and estimated to be about 730 million years old with an average magnitude of 3.5. Also in Cancer, M37, is another open cluster, one of the oldest known, almost 3.2 billion years.
      You can get a map and look for all these objects. Or, if everything else fails, simply take your binoculars and swipe the Milky Way from one edge to the other. You might not figure out exactly which objects you are looking at but you would definitely find amazing sights, especially in the region close to Carina. You will find there IC2602, NGC3114, NGC353, NGC2516 that are all open clusters then in Crux NGC4755 which is another open cluster, NGC2451 in Puppis, and IC2391 in Vela. Lower down, Omega Centauri, is a globular cluster in Centaurus and in Scorpius, there are the Butterfly Cluster, M7 open cluster and NGC6231 open cluster.

    • Telescope Objects in May A fantastic night in central Wellington where the Large Magellanic Cloud is only visible with averted vision, still, not bad for a capital city. We looked at the Southern Beehive NGC 2516, Gem Cluster NGC 3293, Southern Pleiades IC 2602, Wishing Well NGC 3532, Jewel Box NGC 4755, Omicron Velorum IC 2391, Omega Centauri NGC 5139, Alpha Centauri and Acrux, Tarantula NGC 2070.

    • Planets Jupiter is in the sky just after 7:30 followed by Saturn two hours later and Venus is in the morning sky.

    • Clear skies from New Zealand.

Week in images

ESA Top News - Fri, 10/05/2019 - 14:13

Our week through the lens:
6 - 10 May 2019

Earth from Space

ESA Top News - Fri, 10/05/2019 - 09:05

In this week's edition, discover the city of Milan in Italy with Copernicus Sentinel-2
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