Publication archive

Publication archive

Reference: SPC(2013)33 The CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite (CHEOPS) is a Small mission in the ESA Science Programme to be implemented in partnership with Switzerland, and with a number of Member States delivering significant contributions. These Member States are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Sweden, and UK, and will cooperate under a Swiss led CHEOPS Mission Consortium (CMC). The Science Management Plan (SMP) defines the top-level science management principles and organisation of the mission. It identifies roles and duties of ESA, the CMC, and the scientific community at large. The document provides an overview of the mission science objectives and a high-level description of the operations and processes that will be established to generate the outlined scientific data products. The SMP addresses the data rights policy, and the distribution of responsibilities for public outreach and communication.
Published: 25 October 2013
The deflection angles of lensed sources increase with their distance behind a given lens. We utilize this geometric effect to corroborate the zphot ≃ 9.8 photometric redshift estimate of a faint near-IR dropout, triply imaged by the massive galaxy cluster A2744 in deep Hubble Frontier Fields images. The multiple images of this source follow the same symmetry as other nearby sets of multiple images that bracket the critical curves and have well-defined redshifts (up to zspec ≃ 3.6), but with larger deflection angles, indicating that this source must lie at a higher redshift. Similarly, our different parametric and non-parametric lens models all require this object be at z ≳ 4, with at least 95% confidence, thoroughly excluding the possibility of lower-redshift interlopers. To study the properties of this source, we correct the two brighter images for their magnifications, leading to a star formation rate of ~0.3 M yr-1, a stellar mass of ~4 × 107 M, and an age of ≲ 220 Myr (95% confidence). The intrinsic apparent magnitude is 29.9 AB (F160W), and the rest-frame UV (~1500 Å) absolute magnitude is MUV, AB = -17.6. This corresponds to ~ 0.1 L*z=8 (~0.2 L*z=10, adopting dM*/dz ~ 0.45), making this candidate one of the least luminous galaxies discovered at z ~ 10.
Published: 05 September 2014
Hundreds of lakes and a few seas of liquid hydrocarbons have been observed by the Cassini spacecraft to cover the polar regions of Titan. A significant fraction of these lakes or seas could possibly be interconnected with subsurface liquid reservoirs of alkanes. In this paper, we investigate the interplay that would happen between a reservoir of liquid hydrocarbons located in Titan's subsurface and a hypothetical clathrate reservoir that progressively forms if the liquid mixture diffuses throughout a preexisting porous icy layer. To do so, we use a statistical-thermodynamic model in order to compute the composition of the clathrate reservoir that forms as a result of the progressive entrapping of the liquid mixture. This study shows that clathrate formation strongly fractionates the molecules between the liquid and the solid phases. Depending on whether the structures I or II clathrate forms, the present model predicts that the liquid reservoirs would be mainly composed of either propane or ethane, respectively. The other molecules present in the liquid are trapped in clathrates. Any river or lake emanating from subsurface liquid reservoirs that significantly interacted with clathrate reservoirs should present such composition. On the other hand, lakes and rivers sourced by precipitation should contain higher fractions of methane and nitrogen, as well as minor traces of argon and carbon monoxide.
Published: 02 August 2014
A type Ia supernova is thought to be a thermonuclear explosion of either a single carbon-oxygen white dwarf or a pair of merging white dwarfs. The explosion fuses a large amount of radioactive 56Ni (refs 1-3). After the explosion, the decay chain from 56Ni to 56Co to 56Fe generates γ-ray photons, which are reprocessed in the expanding ejecta and give rise to powerful optical emission. Here we report the detection of 56Co lines at energies of 847 and 1,238 kiloelectronvolts and a γ-ray continuum in the 200-400 kiloelectronvolt band from the type Ia supernova 2014J in the nearby galaxy M82. The line fluxes suggest that about 0.6 ± 0.1 solar masses of radioactive 56Ni were synthesized during the explosion. The line broadening gives a characteristic mass-weighted ejecta expansion velocity of 10,000 ± 3,000 kilometres per second. The observed γ-ray properties are in broad agreement with the canonical model of an explosion of a white dwarf just massive enough to be unstable to gravitational collapse, but do not exclude merger scenarios that fuse comparable amounts of 56Ni.
Published: 29 August 2014
On 21 January 2005, a moderate magnetic storm produced a number of anomalous features, some seen more typically during superstorms. The aim of this study is to establish the differences in the space environment from what we expect (and normally observe) for a storm of this intensity, which make it behave in some ways like a superstorm. The storm was driven by one of the fastest interplanetary coronal mass ejections in solar cycle 23, containing a piece of the dense erupting solar filament material. The momentum of the massive solar filament caused it to push its way through the flux rope as the interplanetary coronal mass ejection decelerated moving toward 1 AU creating the appearance of an eroded flux rope (see companion paper by Manchester et al. (2014)) and, in this case, limiting the intensity of the resulting geomagnetic storm. On impact, the solar filament further disrupted the partial ring current shielding in existence at the time, creating a brief superfountain in the equatorial ionosphere - an unusual occurrence for a moderate storm. Within 1 h after impact, a cold dense plasma sheet (CDPS) formed out of the filament material. As the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) rotated from obliquely to more purely northward, the magnetotail transformed from an open to a closed configuration and the CDPS evolved from warmer to cooler temperatures. Plasma sheet densities reached tens per cubic centimeter along the flanks - high enough to inflate the magnetotail in the simulation under northward IMF conditions despite the cool temperatures. Observational evidence for this stretching was provided by a corresponding expansion and intensification of both the auroral oval and ring current precipitation zones linked to magnetotail stretching by field line curvature scattering.
[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]
Published: 29 August 2014
Type-Ia supernovae result from binary systems that include a carbon-oxygen white dwarf, and these thermonuclear explosions typically produce 0.5 MSun of radioactive 56Ni. The 56Ni is commonly believed to be buried deeply in the expanding supernova cloud. Surprisingly, in SN2014J we detected the lines at 158 and 812 keV from 56Ni decay (τ~8.8 days) earlier than the expected several-week time scale, only ~20 days after the explosion, and with flux levels corresponding to roughly 10% of the total expected amount of 56Ni. Some mechanism must break the spherical symmetry of the supernova, and at the same time create a major amount of 56Ni at the outskirts. A plausible explanation is that a belt of helium from the companion star is accreted by the white dwarf, where this material explodes and then triggers the supernova event.
Published: 01 August 2014

Press kit for the 6 August 2014 press event marking the arrival of Rosetta at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Contents:
Media services
Rosetta arrives at comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Quick reference mission facts
Highlights from the Rosetta mission thus far
How Rosetta arrives at and orbits comet 67P/C-G
Selecting a Landing Site for Rosetta’s lander, Philae
Landing on a Comet
Comets – an introduction
Rosetta's comet – at a glance
Missions to comets - Rosetta in context
Appendix A: Draft programme for press event
Appendix B: Speakers at the 6 August press event
Appendix C: Selected Rosetta images & videos
Appendix D: Mission timeline for August to November
Appendix E: Distances, dates, times for mission milestones

An earlier version of the press kit contained an error on page 12: the paragraph on the provision of the lander should read: Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI.

Published: 05 August 2014

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 considered to be the most primitive building blocks of our cosmic neighbourhood, surviving the Solar System's chaotic 4.6 billion-year history more or less intact. Laced with ice and organic materials, comets likely helped to 'seed' Earth with water, and perhaps even the ingredients for life. By studying one of these icy treasure chests in great detail, ESA's Rosetta is set to unlock the secrets of the Solar System.

Table of contents:

  • Rosetta: Europe's comet-chaser
  • The long trek
  • Fleeting flybys of battered worlds
  • Hot and cold
  • What do we know about comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko?
  • Rendezvous with a comet
  • Landing on a comet
  • The Rosetta orbiter
  • The Philae lander
  • Escorting a comet
  • Long-distance communications
  • An international enterprise
  • Join the adventure

Note: a more recent Rosetta mission brochure (ESA BR-321) is available here.

Published: 23 July 2014
During its sungrazing perihelion passage, comet ISON appeared in the field of view of the SUMER spectrometer and allowed unique observations at far-ultraviolet wavelengths with high spatial and temporal resolution. We report results of these observations completed on November 28, 2013, when the comet was only 2.82 RSun away from the Sun. Our data show the arrow-shaped dust tail in Ly-alpha emission trailing behind the predicted position of the nucleus, but offset from the trajectory. We interpret the emission as sunlight that is scattered at micron-sized dust particles. We modeled the dust emission and dynamics to reproduce the appearance of the tail. We were unable to detect any signature of cometary gas or plasma around the expected position of the nucleus and conclude that the outgassing processes must have stopped before the observation started. Moreover, the model we used to reproduce the observed dust tail needs a sharp fall-off of the dust production hours before perihelion transit. We compare the radiances of the disk and the dust tail for an estimate of the dust column density and tail mass.
Published: 05 July 2014
GRB 130925A is a peculiar event characterized by an extremely long gamma-ray duration (~7 ks), as well as dramatic flaring in the X-rays for ~20 ks. After this period, its X-ray afterglow shows an atypical soft spectrum with photon index Γ ~ 4, as observed by Swift and Chandra, until ~107 s, when XMM-Newton observations uncover a harder spectral shape with Γ ~ 2.5, commonly observed in gamma-ray burst (GRB) afterglows. We find that two distinct emission components are needed to explain the X-ray observations: a thermal component, which dominates the X-ray emission for several weeks, and a non-thermal component, consistent with a typical afterglow. A forward shock model well describes the broadband (from radio to X-rays) afterglow spectrum at various epochs. It requires an ambient medium with a very low-density wind profile, consistent with that expected from a low-metallicity blue supergiant (BSG). The thermal component has a remarkably constant size and a total energy consistent with those expected by a hot cocoon surrounding the relativistic jet. We argue that the features observed in this GRB (its ultralong duration, the thermal cocoon, and the low-density wind environment) are associated with a low metallicity BSG progenitor and, thus, should characterize the class of ultralong GRBs.
Published: 12 July 2014
X-rays from massive stars are ubiquitous yet not clearly understood. In an XMM-Newton observation devoted to observing the first site of star formation in the ρ Ophiuchi dark cloud, we detect smoothly variable X-ray emission from the B2IV+B2V system of ρ Ophiuchi. We tentatively assign the emission to the primary component. The light curve of the pn camera shows a first phase of low, almost steady rate, then a rise phase of duration of 10 ks, followed by a high rate phase. The variability is seen primarily in the band 1.0−8.0 keV while little variability is detected below 1 keV. The spectral analysis of the three phases reveals the presence of a hot component at 3.0 keV that adds up to two relatively cold components at 0.9 keV and 2.2 keV. We explain the smooth variability with the emergence of an extended active region on the surface of the primary star as being due to its fast rotation (νsin i ~ 315 km s-1). We estimate that the region has a diameter in the range 0.5−0.6 R. The hard X-ray emission and its variability hint at a magnetic origin, as suggested for a few other late-O through early-B type stars. We also discuss an alternative explanation based on the emergence from occultation of a young (5−10 Myr) low mass companion that is bright and hot in X-rays.
Published: 05 July 2014
Reference: CDF-145(A)

This document presents the results of the CDF study performed in 2014, that analysed the feasibility of a joint ESA-ROSCOSMOS Phobos sample return mission. It was performed by an interdisciplinary team composed of specialists from ESA, IKI (RU) and Lavochkin (RU).

Published: 01 July 2014
Almost six months have passed since ESA's Rosetta spacecraft woke up from deep-space hibernation, ready to complete the final leg of its 10-year comet chase. Now, with a gap of less than 200 000 km to close, the comet is firmly in Rosetta's sights.
Published: 26 June 2014
We detect a weak unidentified emission line at E = (3.55-3.57) ± 0.03 keV in a stacked XMM-Newton spectrum of 73 galaxy clusters spanning a redshift range 0.01-0.35. When the full sample is divided into three subsamples (Perseus, Centaurus+Ophiuchus+Coma, and all others), the line is seen at >3-sigma statistical significance in all three independent MOS spectra and the PN "all others" spectrum. It is also detected in the Chandra spectra of the Perseus Cluster. However, it is very weak and located within 50-110 eV of several known lines. The detection is at the limit of the current instrument capabilities. We argue that there should be no atomic transitions in thermal plasma at this energy. An intriguing possibility is the decay of sterile neutrino, a long-sought dark matter particle candidate. Assuming that all dark matter is in sterile neutrinos with ms = 2E = 7.1 keV, our detection corresponds to a neutrino decay rate consistent with previous upper limits. However, based on the cluster masses and distances, the line in Perseus is much brighter than expected in this model, significantly deviating from other subsamples. This appears to be because of an anomalously bright line at E = 3.62 keV in Perseus, which could be an Ar XVII dielectronic recombination line, although its emissivity would have to be 30 times the expected value and physically difficult to understand. Another alternative is the above anomaly in the Ar line combined with the nearby 3.51 keV K line also exceeding expectation by a factor of 10-20. Confirmation with Astro-H will be critical to determine the nature of this new line.
Published: 25 June 2014
Context. The Helix nebula (NGC 7293) is our closest planetary nebulae. Therefore, it is an ideal template for photochemical studies at small spatial scales in planetary nebulae. Aims. We aim to study the spatial distribution of the atomic and the molecular gas, and the structure of the photodissociation region along the western rims of the Helix nebula as seen in the submillimeter range with Herschel. Methods. We used five SPIRE FTS pointing observations to make atomic and molecular spectral maps. We analyzed the molecular gas by modeling the CO rotational lines using a non-local thermodynamic equilibrium (non-LTE) radiative transfer model. Results. For the first time, we have detected extended OH+ emission in a planetary nebula. The spectra towards the Helix nebula also show CO emission lines (from J = 4 to 8), [N ii] at 1461 GHz from ionized gas, and [C i] (3P2-3P1), which together with the OH+ lines trace extended CO photodissociation regions along the rims. The estimated OH+ column density is ~ 1012 - 1013 cm-2. The CH+ (1-0) line was not detected at the sensitivity of our observations. Non-LTE models of the CO excitation were used to constrain the average gas density (n(H2) ~ (1 - 5) × 105 cm-3) and the gas temperature (Tk ~ 20-40 K). Conclusions. The SPIRE spectral-maps suggest that CO arises from dense and shielded clumps in the western rims of the Helix nebula, whereas OH+ and [C i] lines trace the diffuse gas and the UV and X-ray illuminated clump surfaces where molecules reform after CO photodissociation. The [N ii] line traces a more diffuse ionized gas component in the interclump medium.
Published: 18 June 2014
Aims. We report the first detections of OH+ emission in planetary nebulae (PNe). Methods. As part of an imaging and spectroscopy survey of 11 PNe in the far-IR using the PACS and SPIRE instruments aboard the Herschel Space Observatory, we performed a line survey in these PNe over the entire spectral range between 51μm and 672μm to look for new detections. Results. The rotational emission lines of OH+ at 152.99, 290.20, 308.48, and 329.77μm were detected in the spectra of three planetary nebulae: NGC 6445, NGC 6720, and NGC 6781. Excitation temperatures and column densities derived from these lines are in the range of 27-47 K and 2 × 1010 - 4 × 1011 cm-2, respectively. Conclusions. In PNe, the OH+ rotational line emission appears to be produced in the photodissociation region (PDR) in these objects. The emission of OH+ is observed only in PNe with hot central stars (Teff> 100 000 K), suggesting that high-energy photons may play a role in OH+ formation and its line excitation in these objects, as seems to be the case for ultraluminous galaxies.
Published: 18 June 2014
We present the first overview of the Herschel observations of the nearby high-mass star-forming region NGC 7538, taken as part of the Herschel imaging study of OB young stellar objects (HOBYS) Key Programme. These PACS and SPIRE maps cover an approximate area of one square degree at five submillimeter and far-infrared wavebands. We have identified 780 dense sources and classified 224 of those. With the intention of investigating the existence of cold massive starless or class 0-like clumps that would have the potential to form intermediate- to high-mass stars, we further isolate 13 clumps as the most likely candidates for follow-up studies. These 13 clumps have masses in excess of 40 MSun and temperatures below 15 K. They range in size from 0.4 pc to 2.5 pc and have densities between 3 × 103 cm–3 and 4 × 104 cm–3. Spectral energy distributions are then used to characterize their energetics and evolutionary state through a luminosity-mass diagram. NGC 7538 has a highly filamentary structure, previously unseen in the dust continuum of existing submillimeter surveys. We report the most complete imaging to date of a large, evacuated ring of material in NGC 7538 which is bordered by many cool sources.
Published: 21 August 2013
The dust-HI correlation is used to characterize the emission properties of dust in the diffuse interstellar medium (ISM) from far infrared wavelengths to microwave frequencies. The field of this investigation encompasses the part of the southern sky best suited to study the cosmic infrared and microwave backgrounds. We cross-correlate sky maps from Planck, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), and the diffuse infrared background experiment (DIRBE), at 17 frequencies from 23 to 3000 GHz, with the Parkes survey of the 21 cm line emission of neutral atomic hydrogen, over a contiguous area of 7500 deg2 centred on the southern Galactic pole. We present a general methodology to study the dust-Hi correlation over the sky, including simulations to quantify uncertainties. Our analysis yields four specific results. (1) We map the temperature, submillimetre emissivity, and opacity of the dust per H-atom. The dust temperature is observed to be anti-correlated with the dust emissivity and opacity. We interpret this result as evidence of dust evolution within the diffuse ISM. The mean dust opacity is measured to be (7.1 ± 0.6) × 10-27 cm2 H-1 × (ν/353 GHz)1.53 ± 0.03 for 100 ≤ ν ≤ 353 GHz. This is a reference value to estimate hydrogen column densities from dust emission at submillimetre and millimetre wavelengths. (2) We map the spectral index βmm of dust emission at millimetre wavelengths (defined here as ν ≤ 353 GHz), and find it to be remarkably constant at βmm = 1.51 ± 0.13. We compare it with the far infrared spectral index βFIR derived from greybody fits at higher frequencies, and find a systematic difference, βmm − βFIR = − 0.15, which suggests that the dust spectral energy distribution (SED) flattens at ν ≤ 353 GHz.
--- Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations ---
Published: 12 June 2014
We explore the 2013 Planck likelihood function with a high-precision multi-dimensional minimizer (Minuit). This allows a refinement of the ΛCDM best-fit solution with respect to previously-released results, and the construction of frequentist confidence intervals using profile likelihoods. The agreement with the cosmological results from the Bayesian framework is excellent, demonstrating the robustness of the Planck results to the statistical methodology. We investigate the inclusion of neutrino masses, where more significant differences may appear due to the non-Gaussian nature of the posterior mass distribution. By applying the Feldman-Cousins prescription, we again obtain results very similar to those of the Bayesian methodology. However, the profile-likelihood analysis of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) combination (Planck+WP+highL) reveals a minimum well within the unphysical negative-mass region. We show that inclusion of the Planck CMB-lensing information regularizes this issue, and provide a robust frequentist upper limit ∑ mν ≤ 0.26 eV (95% confidence) from the CMB+lensing+BAO data combination.
Published: 12 June 2014
Strong lensing has been employed extensively to obtain accurate mass measurements within the Einstein radius. We here use strong lensing to probe mass distributions beyond the Einstein radius. We consider SL2S J08544-0121, a galaxy group at redshift z = 0.35 with a bimodal light distribution and with a strong lensing system located at one of the two luminosity peaks separated by ~54". The main arc and the counter-image of the strong lensing system are located at ~5" and ~8" from the lens galaxy centre. We find that a simple elliptical isothermal potential cannot satisfactorily reproduce the strong lensing observations. However, with a mass model for the group built from its light-distribution with a smoothing factor s and a mass-to-light ratio M/L, we obtain an accurate reproduction of the observations. We find M/L = 98 ± 27 (i band, solar units, not corrected for evolution) and s = 20" ±  9 (2-sigma confidence level). Moreover, we use weak lensing to independently estimate the mass of the group, and find a consistent M/L in the range 66-146 (1-sigma confidence level). This suggests that light is a good tracer of mass. Interestingly, this also shows that a strong lensing-only analysis (on scales of ~10") can constrain the properties of nearby objects (on scales of ~100"). We characterise the type of perturbed strong lensing system that allows such an analysis: a non dominant strong lensing system used as a test particle to probe the main potential. This kind of analysis needs to be validated with other systems because it could provide a quick way of probing the mass distribution of clusters and groups. This is particularly relevant in the context of forthcoming wide-field surveys, which will yield thousands of strong lenses, some of which perturbed enough to pursue the analysis proposed in this paper.
Published: 25 December 2010
24-Jun-2024 06:14 UT

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