ESA Science & Technology - Publication Archive
The PROBA2 Science Centre (P2SC) is a small-scale science operations centre supporting the Sun observation instruments onboard PROBA2: the EUV imager Sun Watcher using APS detectors and image Processing (SWAP) and Large-Yield Radiometer (LYRA). PROBA2 is one of ESA's small, low-cost Projects for Onboard Autonomy (PROBA) and part of ESA's In-Orbit Technology Demonstration Programme. The P2SC is hosted at the Royal Observatory of Belgium, co-located with both Principal Investigator teams. The P2SC tasks cover science planning, instrument commanding, instrument monitoring, data processing, support of outreach activities, and distribution of science data products. PROBA missions aim for a high degree of autonomy at mission and system level, including the science operations centre. The autonomy and flexibility of the P2SC is reached by a set of web-based interfaces allowing the operators as well as the instrument teams to monitor quasi-continuously the status of the operations, allowing a quick reaction to solar events. In addition, several new concepts are implemented at instrument, spacecraft, and ground-segment levels allowing a high degree of flexibility in the operations of the instruments. This article explains the key concepts of the P2SC, emphasising the automation and the flexibility achieved in the commanding as well as the data-processing chain.
Published: 02 July 2013
The Sun Watcher with Active Pixels and Image Processing (SWAP) is an EUV solar telescope onboard ESA's Project for Onboard Autonomy 2 (PROBA2) mission launched on 2 November 2009. SWAP has a spectral bandpass centered on 17.4 nm and provides images of the low solar corona over a 54×54 arcmin field-of-view with 3.2 arcsec pixels and an imaging cadence of about two minutes. SWAP is designed to monitor all space-weather-relevant events and features in the low solar corona. Given the limited resources of the PROBA2 microsatellite, the SWAP telescope is designed with various innovative technologies, including an off-axis optical design and a CMOS-APS detector. This article provides reference documentation for users of the SWAP image data.
Published: 02 July 2013
The Sun Watcher with Active Pixel System detector and Image Processing (SWAP) telescope was launched on 2 November 2009 onboard the ESA PROBA2 technological mission and has acquired images of the solar corona every one to two minutes for more than two years. The most important technological developments included in SWAP are a radiation-resistant CMOS-APS detector and a novel onboard data-prioritization scheme. Although such detectors have been used previously in space, they have never been used for long-term scientific observations on orbit. Thus SWAP requires a careful calibration to guarantee the science return of the instrument. Since launch we have regularly monitored the evolution of SWAP's detector response in-flight to characterize both its performance and degradation over the course of the mission. These measurements are also used to reduce detector noise in calibrated images (by subtracting dark-current). Because accurate measurements of detector dark-current require large telescope off-points, we also monitored straylight levels in the instrument to ensure that these calibration measurements are not contaminated by residual signal from the Sun. Here we present the results of these tests and examine the variation of instrumental response and noise as a function of both time and temperature throughout the mission.
Published: 02 July 2013
The heliosphere represents a uniquely accessible domain of space, where fundamental physical processes common to solar, astrophysical and laboratory plasmas can be studied under conditions impossible to reproduce on Earth and unfeasible to observe from astronomical distances. Solar Orbiter, the first mission of ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015 - 2025 programme, will address the central question of heliophysics: How does the Sun create and control the heliosphere? In this paper, we present the scientific goals of the mission and provide an overview of the mission implementation.
Published: 02 June 2013
This booklet is a compilation of the White Papers received from the scientific community in response to ESA's Call for Science Themes for the L2 and L3 Missions, issued in March 2013. On 3-4 September 2013, a meeting will be held at the Institut Océanographique de Paris, France, at which a number of spokespersons will introduce and advocate their proposed science themes. Further details of this meeting are available here. The pdf file, which can be downloaded from the link below, comprises 587 pages and is approximately 130 Mb in size.
Published: 06 July 2013
We discuss the state of the assembly of the Hubble Sequence in the mix of bright galaxies at redshift 1.4 < z <= 2.5 with a large sample of 1,671 galaxies down to HAB~26, selected from the HST/ACS and WFC3 images of the GOODS-South field obtained as part of the GOODS and CANDELS observations. We investigate the relationship between the star formation properties and morphology using various parametric diagnostics, such as the Sersic light profile, Gini (G), M20, Concentration (C), Asymmetry (A) and multiplicity parameters. Our sample clearly separates into massive, red and passive galaxies versus less massive, blue and star forming ones, and this dichotomy correlates very well with the galaxies' morphological properties. Star-forming galaxies show a broad variety of morphological features, including clumpy structures and bulges mixed with faint low surface brightness features, generally characterized by disky-type light profiles. Passively evolving galaxies, on the other hand, very often have compact light distribution and morphology typical of today's spheroidal systems. We also find that artificially redshifted local galaxies have a similar distribution with z~2 galaxies in a G-M20 plane. Visual inspection between the rest-frame optical and UV images show that there is a generally weak morphological k-correction for galaxies at z~2, but the comparison with non-parametric measures show that galaxies in the rest-frame UV are somewhat clumpier than rest-frame optical. Similar general trends are observed in the local universe among massive galaxies, suggesting that the backbone of the Hubble sequence was already in place at z~2.
Published: 03 July 2013
Plumes, forming at the plasmapause and released outwards, constitute a well-established mode for plasmaspheric material release to the Earth's magnetosphere. They are associated to active periods and the related electric field change. In 1992, Lemaire and Shunk proposed the existence of an additional mode for plasmaspheric material release to the Earth's magnetosphere: a plasmaspheric wind, steadily transporting cold plasmaspheric plasma outwards across the geomagnetic field lines, even during prolonged periods of quiet geomagnetic conditions. This has been proposed on a theoretical basis. Direct detection of this wind has, however, eluded observation in the past. Analysis of ion measurements, acquired in the outer plasmasphere by the CIS experiment onboard the four Cluster spacecraft, provide now an experimental confirmation of the plasmaspheric wind. This wind has been systematically detected in the outer plasmasphere during quiet and moderately active conditions, and calculations show that it could provide a substantial contribution to the magnetospheric plasma populations outside the Earth's plasmasphere. Similar winds should also exist on other planets, or astrophysical objects, quickly rotating and having an atmosphere and a magnetic field.
Published: 03 July 2013
The mechanism that produces energetic electrons during magnetic reconnection is poorly understood. This is a fundamental process responsible for stellar flares, substorms, and disruptions in fusion experiments. Observations in the solar chromosphere and the Earth's magnetosphere indicate significant electron acceleration during reconnection, whereas in the solar wind, energetic electrons are absent. Here we show that energetic electron acceleration is caused by unsteady reconnection. In the Earth's magnetosphere and the solar chromosphere, reconnection is unsteady, so energetic electrons are produced; in the solar wind, reconnection is steady, so energetic electrons are absent. The acceleration mechanism is quasi-adiabatic: betatron and Fermi acceleration in outflow jets are two processes contributing to electron energization during unsteady reconnection. The localized betatron acceleration in the outflow is responsible for at least half of the energy gain for the peak observed fluxes.
Published: 26 June 2013
eLISA is a space mission designed to measure gravitational radiation over a frequency range of 0.1-100 mHz (European Space Agency LISA Assessment Study Report 2011). It uses laser interferometry to measure changes of order 10 pm per square root Hertz in the separation of inertial test masses housed in spacecraft separated by 1 million km. LISA Pathfinder (LPF) is a technology demonstrator mission that will test the key eLISA technologies of inertial test masses monitored by laser interferometry in a drag-free spacecraft. The optical bench that provides the interferometry for LPF must meet a number of stringent requirements: the optical path must be stable at the few per square root Hertz level; it must direct the optical beams onto the inertial masses with an accuracy of better than ±25 µm, and it must be robust enough not only to survive launch vibrations but to achieve full performance after launch. In this paper we describe the construction and testing of the flight optical bench for LISA Pathfinder that meets all the design requirements.
Published: 26 June 2013
We use a temperature map of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) obtained using the South Pole Telescope at 150 GHz to construct a map of the gravitational convergence to z ~ 1100, revealing the fluctuations in the projected mass density. This map shows individual features that are significant at the ~4 sigma level, providing the first image of CMB lensing convergence. We cross-correlate this map with Herschel/SPIRE maps covering 90 deg² at wavelengths of 500, 350, and 250 micron. We show that these submillimeter (submm) wavelength maps are strongly correlated with the lensing convergence map, with detection significances in each of the three submm bands ranging from 6.7 sigma to 8.8 sigma. We fit the measurement of the cross power spectrum assuming a simple constant bias model and infer bias factors of b = 1.3-1.8, with a statistical uncertainty of 15%, depending on the assumed model for the redshift distribution of the dusty galaxies that are contributing to the Herschel/SPIRE maps.
Published: 20 June 2013
We present an analysis of Planck satellite data on the Coma cluster observed via the Sunyaev-Zeldovich effect. Thanks to its great sensitivity, Planck is able, for the first time, to detect SZ emission up to r ≈ 3 × R500. We test previously proposed spherically symmetric models for the pressure distribution in clusters against the azimuthally averaged data. In particular, we find that the Arnaud et al. (2010, A&A, 517, A92) "universal" pressure profile does not fit Coma, and that their pressure profile for merging systems provides a reasonable fit to the data only at r < R500; by r = 2 × R500 it underestimates the observed y profile by a factor of ≃2. This may indicate that at these larger radii either: i) the cluster SZ emission is contaminated by unresolved SZ sources along the line of sight; or ii) the pressure profile of Coma is higher at r > R500 than the mean pressure profile predicted by the simulations used to constrain the models. The Planck image shows significant local steepening of the y profile in two regions about half a degree to the west and to the south-east of the cluster centre. These features are consistent with the presence of shock fronts at these radii, and indeed the western feature was previously noticed in the ROSAT PSPC mosaic as well as in the radio. Using Plancky profiles extracted from corresponding sectors we find pressure jumps of 4.9-0.2+0.4 and 5.0-0.1+1.3 in the west and south-east, respectively. Assuming Rankine-Hugoniot pressure jump conditions, we deduce that the shock waves should propagate with Mach number Mw = 2.03-0.04+0.09 and Mse = 2.05-0.02+0.25 in the west and south-east, respectively. Finally, we find that the y and radio-synchrotron signals are quasi-linearly correlated on Mpc scales, with small intrinsic scatter.
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Published: 19 June 2013
Using precise full-sky observations from Planck, and applying several methods of component separation, we identify and characterise the emission from the Galactic "haze" at microwave wavelengths. The haze is a distinct component of diffuse Galactic emission, roughly centered on the Galactic centre, and extends to | b | ~ 35−50° in Galactic latitude and | l | ~ 15−20° in longitude. By combining the Planck data with observations from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, we were able to determine the spectrum of this emission to high accuracy, unhindered by the strong systematic biases present in previous analyses. The derived spectrum is consistent with power-law emission with a spectral index of −2.56 ± 0.05, thus excluding free-free emission as the source and instead favouring hard-spectrum synchrotron radiation from an electron population with a spectrum (number density per energy) dN/dE ∝ E-2.1. At Galactic latitudes | b | < 30°, the microwave haze morphology is consistent with that of the Fermi gamma-ray "haze" or "bubbles", while at b ~ −50° we have identified an edge in the microwave haze that is spatially coincident with the edge in the gamma-ray bubbles. Taken together, this indicates that we have a multi-wavelength view of a distinct component of our Galaxy. Given both the very hard spectrum and the extended nature of the emission, it is highly unlikely that the haze electrons result from supernova shocks in the Galactic disk. Instead, a new astrophysical mechanism for cosmic-ray acceleration in the inner Galaxy is implied.
Published: 19 June 2013
Context. The [C II] 158 um line is an important tool for understanding the life cycle of interstellar matter. Ionized carbon is present in a variety of phases of the interstellar medium (ISM), including the diffuse ionized medium, warm and cold atomic clouds, clouds in transition from atomic to molecular, and dense and warm photon dominated regions (PDRs). Aims. Velocity-resolved observations of [C II] are the most powerful technique available to disentangle the emission produced by these components. These observations can also be used to trace CO-dark H2 gas and determine the total mass of the ISM. Methods. The Galactic Observations of Terahertz C+ (GOT C+) project surveys the [C II] 158 um line over the entire Galactic disk with velocity-resolved observations using the Herschel/HIFI instrument. We present the first longitude-velocity maps of the [C II] emission for Galactic latitudes b = 0°, ±0.5°, and ±1.0°. We combine these maps with those of HI, 12CO, and 13CO to separate the different phases of the ISM and study their properties and distribution in the Galactic plane. Results. [C II] emission is mostly associated with spiral arms, mainly emerging from Galactocentric distances between 4 and 10 kpc. It traces the envelopes of evolved clouds as well as clouds that are in the transition between atomic and molecular. We estimate that most of the observed [C II] emission is produced by dense photon dominated regions (~47%), with smaller contributions from CO- dark H2 gas (~28%), cold atomic gas (~21%), and ionized gas (~4%). Atomic gas inside the Solar radius is mostly in the form of cold neutral medium (CNM), while the warm neutral medium (WNM) gas dominates the outer galaxy. The average fraction of CNM relative to total atomic gas is ~43%.
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Published: 12 June 2013
In this paper, we analyze the strong unidentified emission near 3.28 micron in Titan's upper daytime atmosphere recently discovered by Dinelli et al. We have studied it by using the NASA Ames PAH IR Spectroscopic Database. The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), after absorbing UV solar radiation, are able to emit strongly near 3.3 micron. By using current models for the redistribution of the absorbed UV energy, we have explained the observed spectral feature and have derived the vertical distribution of PAHs abundances in Titan's upper atmosphere. PAHs have been found to be present in large concentrations, about 2-3×104 particles cm-3. The identified PAHs have 9-96 carbons, with a concentration-weighted average of 34 carbons. The mean mass is ~430 amu; the mean area is about 0.53 nm2; they are formed by 10-11 rings on average, and about one-third of them contain nitrogen atoms. Recently, benzene together with light aromatic species as well as small concentrations of heavy positive and negative ions have been detected in Titan's upper atmosphere. We suggest that the large concentrations of PAHs found here are the neutral counterpart of those positive and negative ions, which hence supports the theory that the origin of Titan main haze layer is located in the upper atmosphere.
Published: 06 June 2013
We have analyzed limb daytime observations of Titan's upper atmosphere at 3.3 micron, acquired by the visual-infrared mapping spectrometer (VIMS) on Cassini. They were previously studied by García-Comas et al. (2011) to derive CH4 densities. Here, we report an unidentified emission peaking around 3.28 micron, hidden under the methane R branch. This emission is very strong, with intensity comparable to the CH4 bands located in the same spectral region. It presents a maximum at about 950 km and extends from 600 km up to 1250 km. It is definitely pumped by solar radiation since it vanishes at night. Our analysis shows that neither methane nor the major hydrocarbon compounds already discovered in Titan's upper atmosphere are responsible for it. We have discarded many other potential candidates and suggest that the unidentified emission might be caused by aromatic compounds.
Published: 30 April 2013
In press; The accepted manuscript is available online as of 1 June 2013.
Published: 02 May 2013
We here reassess the global distribution of several key mineral species using the entire OMEGA/Mars Express VIS-NIR imaging spectrometer data set, acquired from orbit insertion in January 2004 to August 2010. Thirty-two pixels per degree global maps of ferric oxides, pyroxenes and olivines have been derived. A significant filtering process was applied in order to exclude data acquired with unfavorable observation geometries or partial surface coverage with water and CO2 frosts. Because of strong atmospheric variations over the 3.6 Martian years of observations primarily due to the interannual variability of the aerosol opacity, a new filter based on the atmospheric dust opacity calibrated by the Mars Exploration Rovers measurements has also been implemented. The Fe3+ absorption features are present everywhere on the surface, with a variety of intensities indicating distinct formation processes. The pyroxene-bearing regions are localized in low albedo regions, while the bright regions are spectrally comparable to anhydrous nanophase ferric oxides. The expanded data set increases by a factor of about 2, the number of olivine detections reported in previous OMEGA-based studies. Olivine is mainly detected in three types of areas over the Martian surface: discontinuous patches on the terraces of the three main basins; smooth inter-crater plains and smooth crater floors throughout the southern highlands; and crater sand dunes, crater ejectas and extended bedrock exposures in the northern plains. Olivine is also detected in the low albedo pyroxene-bearing dunes surrounding the northern polar cap.
Published: 21 September 2012
We present the distribution of olivine on Mars, derived from spectral parameters based on the 1 µm olivine absorption band. The olivine can be defined with respect to two spectral end-members: type 1 corresponds to olivine with low iron content and/or small grain size and/or small abundance, and type 2, which corresponds to olivine with higher iron content and/or larger grain size and/or larger abundance. The spatial and statistical analysis of the global olivine distribution points out five major geological settings where olivine is detected: (1) Early Hesperian olivine-bearing smooth crater floors and flat intercrater plains throughout the southern highlands; (2) olivine deposits around the three main basins Argyre, Hellas, and Isidis; (3) olivine in intercrater dunes, crater ejecta, or extended deposits in the northern plains; (4) olivine associated with outcrops and sand in the floor of Valles Marineris; and (5) olivine-bearing butte outcrops in the vicinity of Hellas. The geological context, the age, and the composition of the olivine detections associated with these five major geological settings are detailed. Their origin and the implication of their occurrence on the composition of the Martian mantle and crust, as well as on the evolution of Mars volcanism are discussed.
Published: 20 February 2013
The surface of Mars has preserved the record of early environments in which its basaltic crust was altered by liquid water. These aqueous environments have survived in the form of hydrological morphologies and alteration minerals, including clays and hydrated salts. Because these minerals probe on Earth aqueous environments compatible with biotic activity, understanding their formation processes on Mars is of great exobiological relevance and also offers insight into Earth's now erased ancient water environments. Using remote sensing, we conducted a large-scale investigation of the distribution, composition, age, and geomorphic settings of hydrous minerals on Mars, providing a sharpened global view of the early aqueous environments and their evolution with time. Aqueous alteration seems to have produced clays on a planetary scale but these are found to be restricted to the oldest observable terrains on Mars (~4 Gyr). However, very diverse aqueous environments have also been found which suggest widespread, complex aqueous settings from the surface to kilometric depths, and spanning over 1 Gyr. By building a robust statistical sample of detections, the global trends inferred here attempt to provide a broad view of our current understanding of hydrous minerals on Mars and provide context for more localized, in-depth analyses. Collectively, these trends suggest that at least transient conditions have existed on Mars which may have been favorable for pre-biotic to biotic activity.
Published: 25 April 2013
The International Rosetta Mission is set for a rendezvous with Comet 67 P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. On its 10 year journey to the comet, the spacecraft will also perform a fly-by of the two asteroids Stein and Lutetia in 2008 and 2010, respectively. The mission goal is to study the origin of comets, the relationship between cometary and interstellar material and its implications with regard to the origin of the Solar System. Measurements will be performed that shed light into the development of cometary activity and the processes in the surface layer of the nucleus and the inner coma. The Micro-Imaging Dust Analysis System (MIDAS) instrument is an essential element of Rosetta's scientific payload. It will provide 3D images and statistical parameters of pristine cometary particles in the nm-µm range from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. According to cometary dust models and experience gained from the Giotto and Vega missions to 1P/Halley, there appears to be an abundance of particles in this size range, which also covers the building blocks of pristine interplanetary dust particles. The dust collector of MIDAS will point at the comet and collect particles drifting outwards from the nucleus surface. MIDAS is based on an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM), a type of scanning microprobe able to image small structures in 3D. AFM images provide morphological and statistical information on the dust population, including texture, shape, size and flux. Although the AFM uses proven laboratory technology, MIDAS is its first such application in space. This paper describes the scientific objectives and background, the technical implementation and the capabilities of MIDAS as they stand after the commissioning of the flight instrument, and the implications for cometary measurements.
Published: 01 February 2007
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