Publication archive

Publication archive

We update the all-sky Planck catalogue of 1227 clusters and cluster candidates (PSZ1) published in March 2013, derived from detections of the Sunyaev–Zeldovich (SZ) effect using the first 15.5 months of Planck satellite observations. As an addendum, we deliver an updated version of the PSZ1 catalogue, reporting the further confirmation of 86 Planck-discovered clusters. In total, the PSZ1 now contains 947 confirmed clusters, of which 214 were confirmed as newly discovered clusters through follow-up observations undertaken by the Planck Collaboration. The updated PSZ1 contains redshifts for 913 systems, of which 736 (~ 80.6%) are spectroscopic, and associated mass estimates derived from the Yz mass proxy. We also provide a new SZ quality flag for the remaining 280 candidates. This flag was derived from a novel artificial neural-network classification of the SZ signal. Based on this assessment, the purity of the updated PSZ1 catalogue is estimated to be 94%. In this release, we provide the full updated catalogue and an additional readme file with further information on the Planck SZ detections.
Published: 26 August 2015
The Ku-band (13.8 GHz – 2.2 cm) RADAR instrument onboard the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft has revealed the richness of the surface of Titan, as numerous seas, lakes, rivers, cryo-volcanic flows and vast dune fields have been discovered. Linear dunes are a major geomorphological feature present on Titan, covering up to 17% of its surface, mainly in equatorial regions. However, the resolution of the RADAR instrument is not good enough to allow a detailed study of the morphology of these features. In addition, other linear wind-related landforms, such as mega-yardangs (linear wind-abraded ridges formed in cohesive rocks), are likely to present a comparable radar signature that could be confused with the one of dunes. We conducted a comparative study of the radar radiometry of both linear dunes and mega-yardangs, based on representative terrestrial analogues: the linear dunes located in the Great Sand Sea in western Egypt and in the Namib Desert in Namibia, and the mega-yardangs observed in the Lut Desert in eastern Iran and in the Borkou Desert in northern Chad. We analysed the radar scattering of both terrestrial linear dunes and mega-yardangs, using high-resolution radar images acquired by the X-band (9.6 GHz – 3.1 cm) sensor of the TerraSAR-X satellite. Variations seen in the radar response of dunes are the result of a contrast between the dune and interdune scattering, while for mega-yardangs these variations are the result of a contrast between ridges and erosion valleys. We tested a simple surface scattering model, with parameters derived from the local topography and surface roughness estimates, to accurately reproduce the radar signal variations for both landforms. It appears that we can discriminate between two types of dunes – bare interdunes as in Egypt and sand-covered interdunes as in Namibia, and between two types of mega-yardangs – young yardangs as in Iran and older ones as in Chad.
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Published: 08 August 2015
The database of the Spectroscopy for the Investigation of the Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Mars (SPICAM) instrument between late January 2004 and Mars 2014 has been searched to identify signatures of CO Cameron and CO2+ doublet ultraviolet auroral emissions. This study has almost doubled the number of auroral detections based on SPICAM spectra. Auroral emissions are located in the vicinity of the statistical boundary between open and closed field lines. From a total of 113 nightside orbits with SPICAM pointing to the nadir in the region of residual magnetic field, only nine nightside orbits show confirmed auroral signatures, some with multiple detections along the orbital track, leading to a total of 16 detections. The mean energy of the electron energy spectra measured during concurrent Analyzer of Space Plasma and Energetic Atoms/Electron Spectrometer observations ranges from 150 to 280 eV. The ultraviolet aurora may be displaced poleward or equatorward of the region of enhanced downward electron energy flux by several tens of seconds and shows no proportionality with the electron flux at the spacecraft altitude. The absence of further UV auroral detection in regions located along crustal magnetic field structures where occasional aurora has been observed indicates that the Mars aurora is a time-dependent feature. These results are consistent with the scenario of acceleration of electrons by transient parallel electric field along semiopen magnetic field lines.
Published: 08 August 2015
Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity predicted the existence of ripples in the fabric of space–time called gravitational waves, but so far no experiment has been able to detect them directly. Space offers many advantages in this search, and ESA's LISA Pathfinder mission is a technology demonstrator that will pave the way for future spaceborne gravitational-wave observatories by testing the necessary instrumentation for the first time in that environment.

Table of contents:

  • A quest for silence
  • In the realm of gravity
  • The gravitational Universe
  • How does it work?
  • Building LISA Pathfinder
  • Launch
  • A physics laboratory in space
  • An international enterprise
Published: 01 August 2015
The Philae lander, part of the Rosetta mission to investigate comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, was delivered to the cometary surface in November 2014. Here we report the precise circumstances of the multiple landings of Philae, including the bouncing trajectory and rebound parameters, based on engineering data in conjunction with operational instrument data. These data also provide information on the mechanical properties (strength and layering) of the comet surface. The first touchdown site, Agilkia, appears to have a granular soft surface (with a compressive strength of 1 kilopascal) at least ~20 cm thick, possibly on top of a more rigid layer. The final landing site, Abydos, has a hard surface.
Published: 01 August 2015
The Philae lander provides a unique opportunity to investigate the internal structure of a comet nucleus, providing information about its formation and evolution in the early solar system. We present Comet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radiowave Transmission (CONSERT) measurements of the interior of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. From the propagation time and form of the signals, the upper part of the "head" of 67P is fairly homogeneous on a spatial scale of tens of meters. CONSERT also reduced the size of the uncertainty of Philae's final landing site down to approximately 21 by 34 square meters. The average permittivity is about 1.27, suggesting that this region has a volumetric dust/ice ratio of 0.4 to 2.6 and a porosity of 75 to 85%. The dust component may be comparable to that of carbonaceous chondrites.
Published: 01 August 2015

Published online 14 April 2015 in Science Express

Knowledge of the magnetization of planetary bodies constrains their origin and evolution, as well as the conditions in the solar nebular at that time. Based on magnetic field measurements during the descent and subsequent multiple touchdown of the Rosetta lander Philae on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, we show that no global magnetic field was detected within the limitations of analysis. The ROMAP suite of sensors measured an upper magnetic field magnitude of less than 2 nT at the cometary surface at multiple locations with the upper specific magnetic moment being < 3.1·10-5 Am2/kg for meter-size homogeneous magnetized boulders. The maximum dipole moment of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is 1.6·108 Am2. We conclude that on the meter-scale, magnetic alignment in the pre-planetary nebula is of minor importance.
Published: 01 August 2015
Comets harbor the most pristine material in our solar system in the form of ice, dust, silicates, and refractory organic material with some interstellar heritage. The evolved gas analyzer Cometary Sampling and Composition (COSAC) experiment aboard Rosetta's Philae lander was designed for in situ analysis of organic molecules on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Twenty-five minutes after Philae's initial comet touchdown, the COSAC mass spectrometer took a spectrum in sniffing mode, which displayed a suite of 16 organic compounds, including many nitrogen-bearing species but no sulfur-bearing species, and four compounds – methyl isocyanate, acetone, propionaldehyde, and acetamide – that had not previously been reported in comets.
Published: 01 August 2015
The surface and subsurface of comets preserve material from the formation of the solar system. The properties of cometary material thus provide insight into the physical and chemical conditions during their formation. We present mass spectra taken by the Ptolemy instrument 20 minutes after the initial touchdown of the Philae lander on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Regular mass distributions indicate the presence of a sequence of compounds with additional -CH2- and -O- groups (mass/charge ratios 14 and 16, respectively). Similarities with the detected coma species of comet Halley suggest the presence of a radiation-induced polymer at the surface. Ptolemy measurements also indicate an apparent absence of aromatic compounds such as benzene, a lack of sulfur-bearing species, and very low concentrations of nitrogenous material.
Published: 01 August 2015
The structure and composition of cometary constituents, down to their microscopic scale, are critical witnesses of the processes and ingredients that drove the formation and evolution of planetary bodies toward their present diversity. On board Rosetta's lander Philae, the Comet Infrared and Visible Analyser (CIVA) experiment took a series of images to characterize the surface materials surrounding the lander on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Images were collected twice: just after touchdown, and after Philae finally came to rest, where it acquired a full panorama. These images reveal a fractured surface with complex structure and a variety of grain scales and albedos, possibly constituting pristine cometary material.
Published: 01 August 2015
Thermal and mechanical material properties determine comet evolution and even solar system formation because comets are considered remnant volatile-rich planetesimals. Using data from the Multipurpose Sensors for Surface and Sub-Surface Science (MUPUS) instrument package gathered at the Philae landing site Abydos on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, we found the diurnal temperature to vary between 90 and 130 K. The surface emissivity was 0.97, and the local thermal inertia was 85 ± 35 J m-2 K-1s-1/2. The MUPUS thermal probe did not fully penetrate the near-surface layers, suggesting a local resistance of the ground to penetration of >4 megapascals, equivalent to >2 megapascal uniaxial compressive strength. A sintered near-surface microporous dust-ice layer with a porosity of 30 to 65% is consistent with the data.
Published: 01 August 2015
The structure of the upper layer of a comet is a product of its surface activity. The Rosetta Lander Imaging System (ROLIS) on board Philae acquired close-range images of the Agilkia site during its descent onto comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. These images reveal a photometrically uniform surface covered by regolith composed of debris and blocks ranging in size from centimeters to 5 meters. At the highest resolution of 1 centimeter per pixel, the surface appears granular, with no apparent deposits of unresolved sand-sized particles. The thickness of the regolith varies across the imaged field from 0 to 1 to 2 meters. The presence of aeolian-like features resembling wind tails hints at regolith mobilization and erosion processes. Modeling suggests that abrasion driven by airfall-induced particle "splashing" is responsible for the observed formations.
Published: 01 August 2015

Rosetta is ESA's comet-chasing mission to 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Launched on 2 March 2004, the spacecraft travelled for 10 years and required three gravity-assist flybys at Earth and one at Mars before homing in on its target.

Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when the Sun and its planets formed. By studying the gas, dust and structure of the nucleus and organic materials associated with the comet, via both remote and in situ observations, the Rosetta mission could be the key to unlocking the history and evolution of our Solar System.

Table of contents:

  • Europe's comet-chaser
  • The long trek
  • A human endeavour
  • Rendezvous with a comet
  • Pull-out poster: Rosetta mission selfie
  • Landing on a comet
  • The Rosetta orbiter
  • The Philae lander
  • Getting to know the comet
  • An evolving story
  • An international enterprise
  • Join the adventure

Published: 01 August 2015
Introduction to the 31 July 2015 special issue of the journal Science, "Philae's First Days on the Comet". The issue presents a first set of results acquired aboard Philae in the first 63 hours after it separated from Rosetta, descended, initially touched down on the comet at the site known as Agilkia, and finally came to rest at the site known as Abydos.
Published: 01 August 2015
Planck data when combined with ancillary data provide a unique opportunity to separate the diffuse emission components of the inner Galaxy. The purpose of the paper is to elucidate the morphology of the various emission components in the strong star-formation region lying inside the solar radius and to clarify the relationship between the various components. The region of the Galactic plane covered is l = 300° → 0° → 60° where star-formation is highest and the emission is strong enough to make meaningful component separation. The latitude widths in this longitude range lie between 1° and 2°, which correspond to FWHM z-widths of 100−200 pc at a typical distance of 6 kpc. The four emission components studied here are synchrotron, free-free, anomalous microwave emission (AME), and thermal (vibrational) dust emission. These components are identified by constructing spectral energy distributions (SEDs) at positions along the Galactic plane using the wide frequency coverage of Planck (28.4−857 GHz) in combination with low-frequency radio data at 0.408−2.3 GHz plus WMAP data at 23−94 GHz, along with far-infrared (FIR) data from COBE-DIRBE and IRAS. The free-free component is determined from radio recombination line (RRL) data. AME is found to be comparable in brightness to the free-free emission on the Galactic plane in the frequency range 20−40 GHz with a width in latitude similar to that of the thermal dust; it comprises 45 ± 1% of the total 28.4 GHz emission in the longitude range l = 300° → 0° → 60°. The free-free component is the narrowest, reflecting the fact that it is produced by current star-formation as traced by the narrow distribution of OB stars. It is the dominant emission on the plane between 60 and 100 GHz. RRLs from this ionized gas are used to assess its distance, leading to a free-free z-width of FWHM ≈ 100 pc.
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Published: 21 July 2015
Reference: CDF-148(C)Public

This document presents the results of a study, performed by ESA's Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) in 2014, that analysed the feasibility of a 150 kg-class rover compliant with a potential Mars Sample Return mission and its "FAST" mobility performance requirements. The rover is also able to provide in-situ science for supporting future Mars robotic exploration. For this study, a landing platform delivered by NASA/JPL was considered, in the view of a possible ESA/NASA cooperation in the 2024 timeframe.

Published: 31 October 2014
The Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS) experiment onboard the Rosetta spacecraft currently orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko has yielded unprecedented views of a comet's nucleus. We present here the first ever observations of meter-scale fractures on the surface of a comet. Some of these fractures form polygonal networks. We present an initial assessment of their morphology, topology, and regional distribution. Fractures are ubiquitous on the surface of the comet's nucleus. Furthermore, they occur in various settings and show different topologies suggesting numerous formation mechanisms, which include thermal insulation weathering, orbital-induced stresses, and possibly seasonal thermal contraction. However, we conclude that thermal insolation weathering is responsible for creating most of the observed fractures based on their morphology and setting in addition to thermal models that indicate diurnal temperature ranges exceeding 200 K and thermal gradients of ~15 K/min at perihelion are possible. Finally, we suggest that fractures could be a facilitator in surface evolution and long-term erosion.
Published: 21 August 2015
A number of modes of oscillations of particles and fields can exist in space plasmas. Since the early 1970s, space missions have observed noise-like plasma waves near the geomagnetic equator known as 'equatorial noise'. Several theories were suggested, but clear observational evidence supported by realistic modelling has not been provided. Here we report on observations by the Cluster mission that clearly show the highly structured and periodic pattern of these waves. Very narrow-banded emissions at frequencies corresponding to exact multiples of the proton gyrofrequency (frequency of gyration around the field line) from the 17th up to the 30th harmonic are observed, indicating that these waves are generated by the proton distributions. Simultaneously with these coherent periodic structures in waves, the Cluster spacecraft observes 'ring' distributions of protons in velocity space that provide the free energy for the waves. Calculated wave growth based on ion distributions shows a very similar pattern to the observations.
Published: 15 July 2015
Pits have been observed on many cometary nuclei mapped by spacecraft. It has been argued that cometary pits are a signature of endogenic activity, rather than impact craters such as those on planetary and asteroid surfaces. Impact experiments and models cannot reproduce the shapes of most of the observed cometary pits, and the predicted collision rates imply that few of the pits are related to impacts. Alternative mechanisms like explosive activity have been suggested, but the driving process remains unknown. Here we report that pits on comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko are active, and probably created by a sinkhole process, possibly accompanied by outbursts. We argue that after formation, pits expand slowly in diameter, owing to sublimation-driven retreat of the walls. Therefore, pits characterize how eroded the surface is: a fresh cometary surface will have a ragged structure with many pits, while an evolved surface will look smoother. The size and spatial distribution of pits imply that large heterogeneities exist in the physical, structural or compositional properties of the first few hundred metres below the current nucleus surface.
Published: 03 July 2015
Document reference: CDF-152(A)

ESA's Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) have completed a study of a Next Generation-Cryogenic cooled InfraRed Telescope (NG-CryoIRTel). The purpose of this study is to support the European and Japanese science community in defining a post-SPICA mission for the Cosmic Vision M5 call. Full details of the study can be found in this report.

Published: 30 December 2014
17-Apr-2021 21:24 UT

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