News archive

News archive

The world's most powerful observatory for X-ray astronomy, the European Space Agency's XMM satellite, set off into space from Kourou, French Guiana, at 14:32 UTC on 10 December. The mighty Ariane 5 launcher, making its very first commercial launch, hurled the 3.9-tonne spacecraft into a far-ranging orbit. Within one hour of lift-off the European Space Operations Centre at Darmstadt, Germany, confirmed XMM was under control with electrical power available from the solar arrays.
Published: 10 December 1999
Two of the European Space Agency's most experienced astronauts are preparing to board the Space Shuttle Discovery as part of the international crew to be launched on an end-of-the-year mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.
Published: 8 December 1999
In 1843 the stellar system Eta Carinae suffered a violent explosion which caused it to become, in just a few decades, an amazingly beautiful nebula with two huge round blobs of material symmetrically distributed. For years astronomers have been looking for the cause of the explosion, and to explain the strange hourglass shape. A team of astronomers using ESA's infrared space telescope, ISO, have now succeeded, putting the blame firmly on a previously undetected very massive 'donut' of dust which squeezes the nebula at its centre. They publish their discovery in the current issue of the journal Nature (2 December).
Published: 2 December 1999
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a joint ESA/NASA project launched into a low-Earth orbit 600 km above the ground in 1990 by Space Shuttle mission STS-31. During its first nine years of operations HST has become one of the most important science projects ever.
Published: 25 November 1999
A dozen ancient stars, scattered all over the sky, are survivors from asmall galaxy that invaded the Milky Way like a shipload of Vikings. TheEuropean Space Agency's Hipparcos satellite, which measured the motionsof many thousands of stars, enabled astronomers from Leiden in the Netherlands and Garching in Germany to make this astonishing discovery.It provides clear evidence in favour of the theory that great assembliesof stars, like the Milky Way Galaxy where we live, grew by theamalgamation of smaller galaxies.
Published: 4 November 1999
Moon Craters Help us to Understand How Extrasolar Planets FormMore than a dozen planets orbiting other 'suns' have been found in the last few years, but... are they the rule or the exception? The European Space Agency's infrared space observatory, ISO has shown that the formation of extrasolar planets must be a very common event.
Published: 30 September 1999
Galaxies are known to have much more matter than telescopes can currentlysee. Up to 90% of the total mass of the galaxies is simply missing: ithas to be there, astronomers know, but it remains undetected. Is thisso-called 'dark matter' made up of exotic, virtually undetectableparticles, or is it merely ordinary matter hidden to instruments for somereason? A new result obtained by a Dutch team with the European SpaceAgency's infrared space telescope, ISO, favours the last idea.
Published: 17 August 1999
Newborn stars are difficult to observe because they are always hidden within dense clouds of dust. And if the star is really a massive one, say 10 times heavier than our Sun, spotting the starbirth is almost impossible: massive stars evolve so quickly that by the time the dust disperses they are 'teenagers', not babies anymore, 20% of their lifetime has already passed. Using the ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope a team of European astronomers * has been able to pinpoint several of these massive baby stars, one of which has created - while evolving - an impressive butterfly-shaped nebula of dust around it during its early life.
Published: 10 June 1999
What causes new stars to form inside clouds of gas and dust in space? A team of astronomers using the European Space Agency's infrared space observatory, ISO, believes they have taken a big step towards answering this question. They announced today in Chicago (US), at the American Astronomical Society meeting, the first ever space-based detection of weak magnetic fields in a distant region in which stars are being formed. The differences between these magnetic fields and those from regions with no star formation have revealed what could be the key factor in triggering the birth of new stars.
Published: 2 June 1999
Extraordinary efforts made by individuals who take part in ESA's scientific missions are now to be recognized by a special ESA award called the Director ofScience Medal. At a ceremony in Bern, Switzerland, on 19 May 1999, thefirst four medals were presented to "stars" of the Hipparcos mission,Catherine Turon and Jean Kovalevsky from France, Lennart Lindegren fromSweden and Erik Høg from Denmark.
Published: 19 May 1999
Most chemical elements in the Universe are produced in the stars, and thus the stars' environments act as huge chemical factories. The European Space Agency's infrared space telescope, ISO, has detected, in the dust surrounding a star, the chemical signature of a mysterious compound made of carbon, whose nature is being actively debated by astronomers all over the world. While some say it could be a very tiny diamond, others think it is the famous football-shaped molecule called "fullerene" or "buckyball". If either of these hypotheses is confirmed it will be interesting news for industry as well.
Published: 23 April 1999
The two instruments on board ESA's spacecraft Planck were definitivelyselected on 17February by ESA's Science Programme Committee. Planck is due to belaunched in 2007. The instruments consist of two arrays of highlysensitive detectors to study what can be called the 'echo' of the BigBang, a radiation that fills the whole Universe and was emitted when theUniverse was very young. They will be designed, built and operated bymore than 40 European institutes.
Published: 10 March 1999
The three instruments on board ESA's space observatory FIRST (the Far InfraRed and Submillimetre Telescope), due to be launched in 2007, were formally approved on 17 February by ESA's Science Programme Committee (SPC). As proposed by the scientific community in February last year, FIRST's payload will consist of two cameras and a high-resolution spectrometer.
Published: 10 March 1999
The fate of the Universe depends on the total amount of existing matter.New clues on this value have been obtained by an international team ofastronomers using the European Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, bymeasuring for the first time the abundance of a particular chemicalelement, deuterium, in a very active star-forming region in the Orionnebula. Their result confirms that the total amount of normal matter isnot enough to stop the expansion of the Universe and cause it to collapseinto a Big Crunch in the future.
Published: 3 March 1999
The XMM Upper Module, bearing the Focal Plane Assembly, is currently being tested in the Large Space Simulator (LSS) at ESTEC. Before closing the chamber and starting the pump-down for theThermal-Balance/Thermal Vacuum (TB/TV) tests, some final checks were made on the facility motion system. The TB/TV tests are scheduled to lastten days.
Published: 2 March 1999

Researchers who feel they have an astronomical scoop based on data from the European infrared space telescope, ISO, must now work against the clock. They risk being overtaken by other groups, especially now that the ISO Data Archive, a goldmine of discoveries filled with nearly 30 000 scientific  ISO observations, is open and easily...

Published: 27 February 1999
The Japanese/US X-ray astronomy mission ASCA was launched in 1993.Its advanced detectors continue to provide high resolution spectra ofmany classes of astronomical objects.The long list of ASCA discoveriesinclude the detection of broad, heavily distorted, iron linesfrom some Active Galactic Nuclei. These red-shifted lines providedirect evidence for the presence of massive black holes at thecenters of these galaxies.
Published: 11 January 1999
In astronomy, looking far into space means also looking back in time. This is what ISO has been doing during its so-called 'deep surveys':observation programmes to detect the faintest and farthest objects ever seen at infrared wavelengths.
Published: 28 October 1998
Most young stars are surrounded by discs of dust and gas which in a fewmillion years will probably condense to form planets. This is one of theresults presented today during the international ISO meeting being held inParis this week, "The Universe as seen by ISO".
Published: 23 October 1998
The bright massive central star in the spectacular Trifid nebula iscreating a second generation of young stars, in a 'chain reaction' processthat is taking place in less than a hundred thousand years. The occurrenceof such a process had been theoretically postulated, but now for the firsttime, the European Space Agency's ISO infrared space telescope is seeing itin unprecedented detail.
Published: 21 October 1998
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