Rosetta: Navcam image of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, August 23rd 2014.

Rosetta navigation camera image taken on 23 August 2014 at about 61 km from 4 km-wide comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. From 23 August, Rosetta started taking NAVCAM image sequences as small 2 x 2 rasters, such that roughly one quarter of the comet is seen in the corner of each of the four images, rather than all in just one shot. This is one example of the 512 x 512 pixel ‘corner’ image.

Copyright ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

alanis: Clouds and shadows on Mars, photographed by Mars Express, 24th May 2012.

Between 28 and 36°S, 284°E, on the arc of highlands that surround the southeast Solis Planum. The crater split between the 2nd and 3rd images is Voeykov, about 75 km across, named for climatologist and geographer Alexander Ivanovich Voeykov (1842-1916). The small, deep crater toward bottom left of the 4th image is Los, named for a village of about 400 people in Gävleborg County, Sweden.

Composite of 3 visible light images for colour, and 5 monochrome images for animation. Colour is not balanced naturalistically, and the slightly psychedelic colours of the clouds are a result of mismatches between the images where the clouds have moved between exposures.

Image credit: ESA. Composite: AgeOfDestruction.


Rabe Crater, Mars

Rabe Crater is a 108 km-wide impact crater with an intricately shaped dune field. The dune material likely comprises locally eroded sediments that have been shaped by prevailing winds. Other smaller craters in the region also contain these dark deposits. One relatively young and deep crater can be seen in the upper left; as well as the dark material, channels and grooves are clearly visible in its crater walls.

via European Space Agency

Some things are so awesomely enormous that it’s difficult to grasp just how big they are until they’re put into a more relatable perspective. Today, thanks to Belgian amateur astronomer Michel (@quark1972), we get to appreciate the size of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (aka the rubber ducky comet).

This is the comet that the ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft reached on August 6, 2014 after a ten year, five month and four day-long journey nearly 4 million miles into space. The Rosetta will now spend the next two years studying the comet, including the deployment of a lander, the Philae, down to the comet’s surface.

Head over to the ESA website to learn lots more about this amazing mission.

[via io9]

Venus Express gets ready to take the plunge

After eight years in orbit, ESA’s Venus Express has completed routine science observations and is preparing for a daring plunge into the planet’s hostile atmosphere.

Venus Express was launched on a Soyuz–Fregat from the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 9 November 2005, and arrived at Venus on 11 April 2006.

It has been orbiting Venus in an elliptical 24-hour loop that takes it from a distant 66 000 km over the south pole – affording incredible global views – to an altitude of around 250 km above the surface at the north pole, close to the top of the planet’s atmosphere.

With a suite of seven instruments, the spacecraft has provided a comprehensive study of the ionosphere, atmosphere and surface of Venus.

“Venus Express has taught us just how variable the planet is on all timescales and, furthermore, has given us clues as to how it might have changed since its formation 4.6 billion years ago,” says Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s project scientist.

“This information is helping us decipher how Earth and Venus came to lead such dramatically different lives, but we’ve also noticed that there are some fundamental similarities.”

Image credit: ESA–C. Carreau

Three launch pads at Europe’s Spaceport

Three very different rockets lift off from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana: the heavy Ariane 5, the medium Soyuz and the latest addition, the  small Vega.

In 1964 the French Government chose Kourou, from 14 other sites, as a base from which to launch its satellites. Kourou lies at latitude 5°3’, just over 500 km north of the equator. Its nearness to the equator makes it ideally placed for launches into geostationary transfer orbit as few changes have to be made to a satellite’s trajectory.

When the European Space Agency came into being in 1975, the French Government offered to share its Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG) with ESA. For its part, ESA approved funding to upgrade the launch facilities at the CSG to prepare the Spaceport for the Ariane launchers under development.

Since then, ESA has continued to fund two thirds of the spaceport’s annual budget to finance the operations and the investments needed to maintain the top level services provided by the Spaceport. ESA also finances new facilities, such as launch complexes and industrial production facilities, for new launchers such as Vega and Soyuz.


substitute: Surface of Mars, photographed by Mars Express, 31st May 2007.

84°S 280°E to 75°S 266°E; the top (southernmost) of the image shows the terminus of the Australe Scopuli, fading into Parva Planum.

The vivid violet areas at the bottom of the 3rd and 4th images are where the red channel was blown out; I used the infrared image for this, rather than the (visible) red light image because the latter was even more glitched.

Image credit: ESA. Composite: AgeOfDestruction.


Photographer Edgar Martins offers us a rare opportunity to see inside the European Space Agency’s Headquarters.

Martins on his project:

In 2012 I approached the European Space Agency with a very ambitious proposal: to produce the most comprehensive survey ever assembled about a leading scientific and space exploration organization. I have contacted ESA at an interesting time in their history when they are looking to establish a more coherent dialogue with the wider public and the arts. Unlike NASA or CERN, ESA do not have an artist residency program. So I was delighted when they agreed to support my endeavor. It is the first time in their history that they have granted an artist exclusive access to all of their facilities, staff, programs, technology, partners, etc. The access I have been granted is unparalleled, even within the framework of the residency programs specified above. This project had an 18-month gestation period and will be launched in early 2014.

Hubble Sees a Flickering Light Display on Saturn

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have captured new images of the dancing auroral lights at Saturn’s north pole.

Taken from Hubble’s perspective in orbit around the Earth, these images provide a detailed look at Saturn’s stormy aurorae — revealing previously unseen dynamics in the choreography of the auroral glow.

The cause of the changing patterns in Saturn’s aurorae is an ongoing mystery in planetary science. These ultraviolet images, taken by Hubble’s super-sensitive Advanced Camera for Surveys, add new insight by capturing moments when Saturn’s magnetic field is affected by bursts of particles streaming out from the Sun.

Saturn has a long, comet-like magnetic tail known as a magnetotail — as do Mercury, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Earth [1]. This magnetotail is present around planets that have a magnetic field, caused by a rotating core of magnetic elements. It appears that when bursts of particles from the Sun hit Saturn, the planet’s magnetotail collapses and later reconfigures itself, an event that is reflected in the dynamics of its aurorae.

Some of the bursts of light seen shooting around Saturn’s polar regions travelled at over three times faster than the speed of the gas giant’s rotation!

There are 10,000 galaxies in the image above—a beautiful composite of pictures taken by the Hubble from 2003-2012. The galaxies, which look like jewels set against the black backdrop of space, were captured by two different cameras—the Wide Field Camera 3 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys, which are capable of detecting ultraviolet light.

Credit: Mary Beth Griggs, NASA, ESA, STScI


checkpoint: Surface of Mars, photographed by Mars Express, 11th August 2007.

From about 71°S 285°E to 81°S 277°E; approximately 600 km long and 57 km wide.

At top left, the edge of Schmidt Crater is visible on the northeast edge of Aonia Terra; below, the terrain is cut into by the Cavus Angusti; the brown area is the Planum Angustum; ridged by the Australe Scopuli that surround the south pole.

Composite of visible light images; colours are not naturalistic.

Image credit: ESA. Composite: AgeOfDestruction.