News archive

News archive

The first 'ringed molecule' found around starsLife as we know it is based on the ability of the carbon atom to form ring-shaped molecules. But rings of carbon are not exclusive to Earth, as experts in space chemistry now know. A Spanish team of astronomers that observed with ESA's Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) report this week the first detection in interstellar space of benzene, the ring molecule par excellence. They think benzene is produced by stars at a specific stage of evolution, and that it is an essential chemical step towards the synthesis of more complex organic molecules whose true nature is still unclear -although their fingerprints are very conspicuous in the Universe. In industry, benzene is obtained from petroleum and has many uses.
Published: 21 January 2001
With less than two years remaining before launch, engineers at AleniaSpazio in Turin were eagerly awaiting yesterday's delivery of the RosettaOrbiter flight structure.
Published: 17 January 2001
Dual Camera ObservationsDuring the nights of 16-17 and 17-18 November, Joe Zender and DetlefKoschny of ESA's Space Science Department at ESTEC attempted to obtain'stereo' observations of the Leonid meteors with image intensified videocameras. These cameras are equipped with wide-angle lenses and can recordmeteors that are too faint to be seen with the naked eye.
Published: 16 January 2001
Studies of near-Earth space will never be the same again. For the first time in the history of space exploration, identical instruments on four spacecraft have begun to return simultaneous measurements of a region of space known as the bow shock.
Published: 14 January 2001
In December 2000, when NASA's Cassini spacecraft will pass by Jupiter, scientists from the Max Planck Institut für Kernphysik in Heidelberg, Germany, will analyse microscopic ash particles from volcanoes on the giant planet's satellite Io. It will be the first in-situ analysis of surface material from a planetary satellite of our solar system other than the Earth's moon.
Published: 9 January 2001
Sophisticated spacecraft such as ESA's Rosetta comet chaser are designed to carry state-of-the art instrumentation into the depths of the Solar System. However, innovative technology that has been developed for exploration beyond the Earth can sometimes find unusual applications back on the ground.
Published: 7 January 2001
Astronomers have so far detected about 50 planets orbiting other stars. They are all giant, Jupiter-like planets, made mostly of gas, and their formation process is still unclear. ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, now sheds some light on this problem. Observing with ISO, a Dutch-US team of astronomers has detected a key ingredient for planet making in the faint disks of matter that surround three nearby stars: the gas molecular hydrogen. The discovery, published in the January 4th issue of Nature, is relevant because current theories about the formation of giant planets were built on the assumption that the gas was 'not' present in the kind of disks observed by ISO. These models will now have to be reviewed. They said, for instance, that Jupiter-like planets had to form in just a few million years, but the ISO result implies that the process can take up to 20 million years.
Published: 3 January 2001
Seventeen years ago the Horizon 2000 plan was formulated and then approved in January 1985 in Rome. It took seventeen years to prepare and have its first two Cornerstones operating in orbit, giving the year 2000 (if necessary) another mythical significance.The double launch of Cluster using two consecutive Starsem-Soyouz rockets from Baokonur this year on 16 July and 9 August allowed the fleet of four Cluster satellites (Salsa, Samba, Rumba and Tango) to rejoin the fully operating SOHO mission, realising the dream of the first Cornerstone, STSP.The second Cornerstone, XMM-Newton, was launched on 10 December 1999 and a continuous stream of results is now regularly coming out of this mission. Their scientific quality is first class, and the European scientific community can be proud of it. They were recently shown to the press on 6 December. They stunned every one.
Published: 31 December 2000
As the year draws to a close international teams of scientists have been enjoying a unique opportunity to make coordinated observations of the largest planet in our Solar System. The NASA/ESA Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Jupiter, around 9.7 million kilometres, yesterday morning. NASA's Galileo spacecraft has already been orbiting Jupiter since 1995. Scientists using instruments on both Cassini and Galileo gave a preview at a press conference at JPL of what they are beginning to discover from their joint studies.
Published: 30 December 2000
On 25 December 2003, ESA's Mars Express orbiter will arrive in orbit around the Red Planet after releasing a small lander named Beagle 2 onto its rust-coloured, dusty deserts. This wonderful Christmas present for planetary scientists would not have been possible without major contributions from another ESA project - the Rosetta comet chaser.
Published: 24 December 2000
Members of the Cluster science community and operations teams at ESOC (Darmstadt, Germany) and JSOC (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK) are looking forward to a well deserved Christmas break after successfully concluding the instrument interference campaign with the Cluster quartet.
Published: 21 December 2000
In science, new answers often trigger new questions. And in astronomy, new questions often mean new instruments. The ESA 'Herschel Space Observatory', formerly called 'Far Infrared and Submillimetre Telescope' (FIRST), is the instrument that inherits many of the questions triggered by its predecessor, ESA's Infrared Space Observatory (ISO). 200 astronomers from all over the world met last week in Toledo, Spain, to discuss how to insert these new questions in Herschel's 'scientific agenda'. Thus, Herschel will study the origin of stars and galaxies -its main goals-, but it will also keep on searching for water in space -as ISO did-, and will help us to understand the formation of our own Solar System through detailed observations of comets and of the poorly known 'transneptunian objects'.
Published: 21 December 2000
The Mars Express lander, Beagle 2, will land on Isidis Planitia, a large flat region that overlies the boundary between the ancient highlands and the northern plains. The choice of site was announced last week at a meeting of the Mars Express science working team in ESTEC, Noordwijk, the Netherlands.
Published: 19 December 2000
In February 2000, after the fifth in-flight cruise check-out of the Huygens Probe, a dedicated Probe Relay Link Test was performed, aimed at characterising the performance of the Probe Support Equipment (PSE) under realistic mission conditions. This test revealed some unexplained anomalies in the communication subsystem in terms of data recovery in the presence of Doppler at mission-representative levels.
Published: 19 December 2000
NASA's Cassini spacecraft, approaching Jupiter, is detecting waves inthe thin gas of charged particles that fills the space between the Sunand its planets. The waves are in low radio frequencies, which have beenconverted to sound waves to make the patterns audible.
Published: 17 December 2000
Quasars are the most luminous known objects in the Universe. They can emit 1000 times the energy of our entire Galaxy, and this prodigious luminosity originates from objects only the size of our solar system. XMM-Newton has detected the X-rays of the most distant known quasar, providing a view of the Universe when it was less than 1 billion years old.
Published: 15 December 2000
The nineteenth century spirit of discovery is inspiring the effort to land the first probe on Mars in the twenty first century. Last week, as if to give the inspiration a boost, the largely-British team building the Beagle 2 lander for Mars Express held the second meeting for 'adjunct' scientists in one of the finest nineteenth century monuments to discoveries about life on Earth - the Natural History Museum in London.
Published: 14 December 2000
There are still quite a lot of unsolved mysteries in our neighbourhood, the Solar System. Astronomers knowvery little, for instance, about the so-called 'transneptunian objects': a ring of asteroid-type bodies located beyond planet Neptune. Dutch astronomer Gerald Kuiper predicted the existence of this 'belt' fifty years ago - it is therefore named the 'Kuiper belt'-, but the first detection of one of its constituent bodies only happened in 1992. Further surveys have provided an estimate of how many objects are actually there: possibly 10.000 bodies with a diameter larger than 300 kilometres, and maybe three million larger than 30 kilometres in diameter. Only 300 of them have been observed so far. The list of pending questions about them is very long: what's their precise origin and composition? Which of the comets that periodically visit the Earth are 'Kuiper objects'? ESA's next infrared space telescope, the Herschel Space Observatory - formerly called 'FIRST' - will help to provide the answers, astronomers gathered in Toledo (Spain) said yesterday.
Published: 14 December 2000
The Andromeda galaxy (M31), only 2.6 million light years away, is an ideal field of study for X-ray astronomy. XMM-Newton has observed its galactic centre, revealing many new point sources and the probable presence of a very hot diffuse gas which contributes to the overal X-ray luminosity.
Published: 14 December 2000
ESA's 'Herschel Space Observatory' will find out the nature of the first galaxies.How much energy has been released throughout the history of the Universe? As surprising as it may seem, astronomers can deduce that value. Most of the energy is 'locked' in a faint 'glow' that fills the whole universe, and is the remnant of all the energy emitted in the remote past by the first galaxies. That glow, called the 'infrared background radiation', was first detected a few years ago. Now the big question for astronomers is: 'what' were the sources that created the glow? No telescope so far has been able to 'pinpoint' those primeval galaxies to say what they were. ESA's next infrared space telescope, FIRST, is the only instrument able to do the job, as concluded yesterday by astronomers gathered in Toledo (Spain).
Published: 13 December 2000
27-Oct-2021 01:41 UT

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