Cluster stars in Bristol
17 July 2001Scientists, VIPs and members of the media gathered in Bristol, UK, yesterday to celebrate the first anniversary of ESA's Cluster mission to explore the magnetosphere.
The special ceremony and press event at The Mansion House in Bristol, which took place exactly one year after the first pair of Cluster satellites was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, was organised by ESA and the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC).
In his welcoming speech, Professor Richard Wade, PPARC Director of Programmes, expressed his pleasure that the event was being held in Bristol.
"It is fitting that it should be in Bristol because a large part of the hardware of the Cluster satellites was built here by Matra Marconi," he said.
The ESA Science Director, Professor David Southwood, then introduced the extremely successful Cluster mission to the distinguished audience and outlined the advantages of flying four spacecraft in close formation around the Earth.
"Cluster is designed to tell us how the Sun and Earth are linked," he said. "It's part of a global effort involving partnerships with the U.S., Japan, Russia and China and others in the International Solar-Terrestrial Physics Programme."
"Cluster has four spacecraft, which allows us to distinguish three dimensions in space," he said. "I was never sure that we would ever see the four spacecraft in orbit, but I am very pleased to say that its promise has been fulfilled."
This was followed by an update on the exciting scientific results that have so far been returned by the Cluster quartet during their exploration of near-Earth space.
Dr. Philippe Escoubet, Cluster Project Scientist, explained the unique findings that have been made during the first six months of full scientific operations as the team of spacecraft has explored different regions of the magnetosphere.
"Cluster is in excellent shape," said Dr. Escoubet. "We are now starting our measurements of the magnetic tail, which will continue for the next few months."
"Looking further ahead, we have a surplus of fuel that would allow us to extend the mission for up to two years," he concluded.
Further insights into the results from ESA's mission to study the interaction between the Sun and Earth were provided by two of the UK's Principal Investigators on the mission.
Dr. Andrew Fazakerley (Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College, London) explained the complexities of the particle measurements made by PEACE and other instruments on Cluster. He also described how, by combining observations from Cluster and ground-based radars in the Arctic, scientists are learning more about the complex interactions in the Earth's upper atmosphere caused by the solar wind and solar storms.
To the amusement of the audience, Dr. Hugo Alleyne (Sheffield University) played a variety of sound recordings and spoke about the celestial 'music' that Cluster's wave experiments are detecting as they fly through different regions of the magnetosphere.
The event culminated in the presentation by Professor Southwood of a special, limited edition model of the Cluster spacecraft to the Lord Mayor of Bristol, the Rt. Hon. Councillor Brenda Hugill, who accepted it on behalf of the City of Bristol.
Also on hand to witness the presentation of the model was the Cotton family from Bristol, who won a pre-launch competition by naming the four Cluster spacecraft - Tango, Salsa, Samba and Rumba. The presentation to their home city of the 1: 10 scale model of the Cluster quartet was part of their prize.