ESA Science & Technology - Publication Archive
MIRI is the Mid InfraRed Instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and will provide imaging, coronography and integral field spectroscopy in the range between 4.9 and 28.6 micron. We summarise solar system observations which may be possible with this instrument, drawing on examples of observations made with previous space missions such as IRAS, ISO and Spitzer.
Presented at the conference "Future Ground Based Solar System Research, Isola d'Elba, 8-12 September 2008"
Published: 27 May 2009
Towards the end of their lives, stars like the Sun greatly expand to become red giant stars. Such evolved stars could provide stringent tests of stellar theory, as many uncertainties of the internal stellar structure accumulate with age. Important examples are convective overshooting and rotational mixing during the central hydrogen-burning phase, which determine the mass of the helium core, but which are not well understood. In principle, analysis of radial and non-radial stellar oscillations can be used to constrain the mass of the helium core. Although all giants are expected to oscillate, it has hitherto been unclear whether non-radial modes are observable at all in red giants, or whether the oscillation modes have a short or a long mode lifetime, which determines the observational precision of the frequencies. Here we report the presence of radial and non-radial oscillations in more than 300 giant stars. For at least some of the giants, the mode lifetimes are of the order of a month. We observe giant stars with equally spaced frequency peaks in the Fourier spectrum of the time series, as well as giants for which the spectrum seems to be more complex. No satisfactory theoretical explanation currently exists for our observations.
Published: 22 May 2009
The processes in the atmosphere, interior, surface, and near-space environment that together maintain the climate on Venus are examined from the specific point of view of the advances that are possible with new data from Venus Express and improved evolutionary climate models. Particular difficulties, opportunities, and prospects for the next generation of missions to Venus are also discussed.
Published: 21 May 2009
Ground-based instruments and a number of space missions have contributed to our knowledge of the plasmasphere since its discovery half a century ago, but it is fair to say that many questions have remained unanswered. Recently, NASA's Image and ESA's Cluster probes have introduced new observational concepts, thereby providing a non-local view of the plasmasphere. Image carried an extreme ultraviolet imager producing global pictures of the plasmasphere. Its instrumentation also included a radio sounder for remotely sensing the spacecraft environment. The Cluster mission provides observations at four nearby points as the four-spacecraft configuration crosses the outer plasmasphere on every perigee pass, thereby giving an idea of field and plasma gradients and of electric current density. This paper starts with a historical overview of classical single-spacecraft data interpretation, discusses the non-local nature of the Image and Cluster measurements, and emphasizes the importance of the new data interpretation tools that have been developed to extract non-local information from these observations. The paper reviews these innovative techniques and highlights some of them to give an idea of the flavor of these methods. In doing so, it is shown how the non-local perspective opens new avenues for plasmaspheric research.
Published: 16 May 2009
Cassini observations show that Saturn's moon Titan is slightly oblate. A fourth-order spherical harmonic expansion yields north polar, south polar, and mean equatorial radii of 2574.32 +- 0.05 kilometers (km), 2574.36 +- 0.03 km, and 2574.91 +- 0.11 km, respectively; its mean radius is 2574.73 +- 0.09 km. Titan's shape approximates a hydrostatic, synchronously rotating triaxial ellipsoid but is best fit by such a body orbiting closer to Saturn than Titan presently does. Titan's lack of high relief implies that most-but not all-of the surface features observed with the Cassini imaging subsystem and synthetic aperture radar are uncorrelated with topography and elevation. Titan's depressed polar radii suggest that a constant geopotential hydrocarbon table could explain the confinement of the hydrocarbon lakes to high latitudes.
Published: 16 May 2009
LISA Pathfinder (LPF) is a science and technology demonstrator planned by the European Space Agency in view of the LISA mission. As a scientific payload, the LISA Technology Package on board LPF will be the most precise geodesics explorer flown as of today, both in terms of displacement and acceleration sensitivity. The challenges embodied by LPF make it a unique mission, paving the way towards the space-borne detection of gravitational waves with LISA. This paper summarizes the basics of LPF, and the progress made in preparing its effective implementation in flight. We hereby give an overview of the experiment philosophy and assumptions to carry on the measurement. We report on the mission plan and hardware design advances and on the progress on detailing measurements and operations. Some light will be shed on the related data processing algorithms. In particular, we show how to single out the acceleration noise from the spacecraft motion perturbations, how to account for dynamical deformation parameters distorting the measurement reference and how to decouple the actuation noise via parabolic free flight.
Published: 08 May 2009
This paper presents a theoretical framework for understanding plasma turbulence in astrophysical plasmas. It is motivated by observations of electromagnetic and density fluctuations in the solar wind, interstellar medium and galaxy clusters, as well as by models of particle heating in accretion disks. All of these plasmas and many others have turbulent motions at weakly collisional and collisionless scales. The paper focuses on turbulence in a strong mean magnetic field. The key assumptions are that the turbulent fluctuations are small compared to the mean field, spatially anisotropic with respect to it and that their frequency is low compared to the ion cyclotron frequency. The turbulence is assumed to be forced at some system-specific outer scale. The energy injected at this scale has to be dissipated into heat, which ultimately cannot be accomplished without collisions. A kinetic cascade develops that brings the energy to collisional scales both in space and velocity. The nature of the kinetic cascade in various scale ranges depends on the physics of plasma fluctuations that exist there. There are four special scales that separate physically distinct regimes: the electron and ion gyroscales, the mean free path and the electron diffusion scale. -- Remainder of abstract is truncated --
Published: 07 May 2009
Hot flow anomalies (HFAs) are studied using observations of the magnetometer and the plasma instrument aboard the four Cluster spacecraft. We study several specific features of tangential discontinuities on the basis of Cluster measurements from the time periods of February-April 2003, December 2005-April 2006 and January-April 2007, when the separation distance of spacecraft was large. The previously discovered condition (Facskó et al., 2008) for forming HFAs is confirmed, i.e. that the solar wind speed and fast magnetosonic Mach number values are higher than average. Furthermore, this constraint is independent of the Schwartz et al. (2000)'s condition for HFA formation. The existence of this new condition is confirmed by simultaneous ACE magnetic field and solar wind plasma observations at the L1 point, at 1.4 million km distance from the Earth. The temperature, particle density and pressure parameters observed at the time of HFA formation are also studied and compared to average values of the solar wind plasma. The size of the region affected by the HFA was estimated by using two different methods. We found that the size is mainly influenced by the magnetic shear and the angle between the discontinuity normal and the Sun-Earth direction. The size grows with the shear and (up to a certain point) with the angle as well. After that point it starts decreasing. The results are compared with the outcome of recent hybrid simulations.
Published: 06 May 2009
We investigate a series of six TCRs (traveling compression regions), appearing in the course of a small substorm on 19 September 2001. Except for two of these TCRs, all Cluster spacecraft were located in the lobe and detected the typical signatures of TCRs, i.e., compressions in |B| and bipolar Bz variations. We use these perturbations in Bz for calculations on the magnetic energy inside the TCR and compare the amount of magnetic field energy with the kinetic energy inside the underlying plasma bulge. According to results obtained from theory, the amount of magnetic energy inside TCRs is about two times higher than the kinetic plasma energy inside the accompanied plasma bulge. We verify this theoretical result by first investigations of the magnetic field energy inside TCRs. The calculations lead to a magnetic energy in the order of 1010 Joule per RE for each of the TCRs.
Published: 05 May 2009
With the biggest mirror yet flown in space, Europe's new Herschel Space Observatory will peer through a new wavelength window at the cool regions of the universe. It will be launched together with Planck, a mission to map the cosmic microwave background radiation in unprecedented detail. In addition to studying the formation of galaxies and stars, astronomers hope to use Herschel to study comets, asteroids, and planetary atmospheres in our solar system and how debris disks around stars form into planets.
Published: 02 April 2009
The big bang: The universe bursts into existence, an infinitely dense and hot soup of subatomic particles and radiation. In a fraction of a nanosecond, it doubles its size again and again, in a faster-than-light growth spurt known as inflation. That bizarre, hypothetical stretching evens out the universe but also sets off ripples in space and time called gravitational waves, which 13.7 billion years later should have left traces in the afterglow of the big bang, the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The 400 researchers working with the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Planck satellite hope to spot those traces - subtle patterns in the polarization of the microwaves called "B modes" -before anyone else does.
Published: 02 April 2009
An overview of the LISA Pathfinder mission written by Paul McNamara (LISA Pathfinder Project Scientist).
Published: 30 April 2009
Overview of the key performance requirements for the IXO mission science objectives.
Published: 29 April 2009
The Cluster mission offers a unique opportunity to investigate the origin of the energy-dispersed ion structures frequently observed at 4.5-5 RE altitude in the auroral region. We present a detailed study of the 14 February 2001 northern pass, characterized by the successive observation by three spacecraft of a series of energy-dispersed structures at ~72-75° ILAT in a region of poleward convection. Equatorward, the satellites also observed a localized, steady, and intense source of outflowing energetic (3-10 keV) H+ and O+ ions. These substructures were modeled by launching millions of H+ ions from this ionospheric source and following them through time-dependent electric and magnetic fields obtained from a global MHD simulation of this event. Despite the complexity of ion orbits, the simulations showed that a large number of ions returned to the Cluster location, poleward of their source, in a number of adjacent or overlapping energy-latitude substructures with the correct dispersion. The first dispersed echo was unexpectedly generated by "half-bouncing" ions that interacted with the current sheet to return to the same hemisphere. The time-shifted observations made by two Cluster (SC1 and SC3) spacecrafts were correctly reproduced. Almost all the ions returning to the spacecraft underwent a ~2-5 keV nonadiabatic acceleration at each interaction with the current sheet in a very confined resonant region. This acceleration explains the overall energy increase from one structure to the next. This event confirms the importance of the ionospheric source in populating bouncing ion clusters within the magnetosphere, even at high latitudes.
Published: 29 April 2009
This is SRE-PA/2009.019 issue 6 revision1
The Payload Definition Document (PDD) has been compiled by ESA with major inputs from the various instrument teams, forming part of the IXO Instrument Working Group (IWG). This document is agreed by the IWG chairmen as well as the IWG Instrument contact persons and contributors and describes a reference payload that satisfies the measurement requirements given in the Mission Requirements Document [AD-1].
This reference payload is used to establish the overall system design and the corresponding cost envelope.
Published: 25 April 2009
This Science Requirements Document focuses on the SPICA Telescope Assembly, one of the contributions under study by ESA for its partner agency role in the JAXA led SPICA mission. This document will be the basis for the ESA Telescope Definition Document, and will be applicable to the SPICA Telescope Assembly Interface Control Document. The Science Requirements defined in this document address exclusively those aspects that have an impact on the SPICA Telescope Assembly specification. This document does not intend to cover all the Science Requirements of the SPICA mission, which are addressed in JAXA documents and are under the responsibility of JAXA. This document aims at showing clearly the links between Science Requirements, performance requirements and the Telescope scientific requirements, in order to help understand, trace and support the analysis of the relation between the telescope assembly specifications on the scientific objectives of the mission. [This is an abbreviated version of the original document abstract.]
Published: 15 January 2009
Using images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Telescope, we confirmed the disappearance of the progenitors of two type II supernovae (SNe) and evaluated the presence of other stars associated with them. We found that the progenitor of SN 2003gd, an M-supergiant star, is no longer observed at the SN location and determined its intrinsic brightness using image subtraction techniques. The progenitor of SN 1993J, a K-supergiant star, is also no longer present, but its B-supergiant binary companion is still observed. The disappearance of the progenitors confirms that these two supernovae were produced by red supergiants.
Published: 25 April 2009
The European Space Agency Venus Express Radio Science experiment (VeRa) obtained 118 radio occultation measurements of the Venusian atmosphere between July 2006 and June 2007. Southern latitudes are uniformly sampled; measurements in the northern hemisphere are concentrated near the pole. Radial profiles of neutral number density derived from the occultations cover the altitude range 40-90 km, which are converted to profiles of temperature (T) and pressure (p) versus height (h). Profiles of static stability are found to be latitude-dependent and nearly adiabatic in the middle cloud region. Below the clouds the stability decreases at high latitudes. At an altitude of 65 km, the VeRa T[p(h)] profiles generally lie between the Venus International Reference Atmosphere (VIRA) and VIRA-2 models; the retrieved temperatures at any given pressure level typically are within 5 K of those derived from the Pioneer Venus Orbiter Radio Occultation experiments. A large equator-to-pole temperature contrast of ~30 K is found at the 1-bar (1000 hPa) level. The VeRa observations reveal a distinct cold collar region in the southern hemisphere, complementing that in the north. At the latitudes of the cold collars, the tropopause altitude increases relative to higher and lower latitudes by ~7 km while the temperature drops roughly 60 K. The observations indicate the existence of a wave number 2 structure poleward of ±75° latitude at altitudes of 62 km.
Published: 24 April 2009
Our understanding of the evolution of massive stars before their final explosions as supernovae is incomplete, from both an observational and a theoretical standpoint. A key missing piece in the supernova puzzle is the difficulty of identifying and studying progenitor stars. In only a single case - that of supernova SN 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud - has a star been detected at the supernova location before the explosion, and been subsequently shown to have vanished after the supernova event. The progenitor of SN 1987A was a blue supergiant, which required a rethink of stellar evolution models. The progenitor of supernova SN 2005gl was proposed to be an extremely luminous object, but the association was not robustly established (it was not even clear that the putative progenitor was a single luminous star). Here we report that the previously proposed object was indeed the progenitor star of SN 2005gl. This very massive star was likely a luminous blue variable that standard stellar evolution predicts should not have exploded in that state.
Published: 17 April 2009
We report on the evolution of dipolarization and associated disturbances of the near-Earth current sheet during a substorm on 27 October 2007, based upon Cluster multi-point, multi-scale observations of the night-side plasma sheet at X~-10 RE. Three dipolarization events were observed accompanied by activations on ground magnetograms at 09:07, 09:14, and 09:22 UT. We found that all these events consist of two types of dipolarization signatures: (1) Earthward moving dipolarization pulse, which is accompanied by enhanced rapid Earthward flux transport and is followed by current sheet disturbances with decrease in BZ and enhanced local current density, and subsequent (2) increase in BZ toward a stable level, which is more prominent at Earthward side and evolving tailward. During the 09:07 event, when Cluster was located in a thin current sheet, the dipolarization and fast Earthward flows were also accompanied by further thinning of the current sheet down to a half-thickness of about 1000 km and oscillation in a kink-like mode with a period of ~15 s and propagating duskward. Probable cause of this "flapping current sheet" is shown to be the Earthward high-speed flow. The oscillation ceased as the flow decreased and the field configuration became more dipolar. The later rapid flux transport events at 09:14 and 09:22 UT took place when the field configuration was initially more dipolar and were also associated with BZ disturbance and local current density enhancement, but to a lesser degree. Hence, current sheet disturbances induced by initial dipolarization pulses could differ, depending on the configuration of the current sheet.
Published: 10 April 2009
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