Publication archive

Publication archive

The new Rosetta mission baseline to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko includes two asteroid fly-bys. To help in target selection we studied all the candidates of all the possible scenarios. Observations have been carried out at ESO-NTT (La Silla, Chile), TNG (Canaries), and NASA-IRTF (Hawaii) telescopes, in order to determine the taxonomy of all the candidates. The asteroid targets were chosen after the spacecraft interplanetary orbit insertion manoeuvre, when the available total amount of $\Delta V$ was known. On the basis of our analysis and the available of $\Delta V$, we recommended to the ESA Science Working Group the asteroids 21 Lutetia and 2867 Steins as targets for the Rosetta mission. The nature of Lutetia is still controversial. Lutetia's spectral properties may be consistent with a composition similar to carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. The spectral properties of Steins suggest a more extensive thermal history. Steins may have a composition similar to relatively rare enstatite chondrite/achondrite meteorites.
Published: 01 January 2005
Coronagraphs are powerful instruments to reduce diffraction from a bright source in order to detect planets. Four coronagraphs will be installed in MIRI, the Mid-InfraRed Instrument of the James Webb Space Telescope. To further reduce the diffraction in addition to the coronagraph, a calibration of the residual speckle pattern can be obtained, for instance, with a reference star (or alternatively on the target star at a different roll angle). For this calibration to be accurate, the diffraction pattern of the two coronagraphic images must be as similar as possible. We study the accuracy of the star image positioning onto the coronagraph to reach acceptable performance: we proved that pointing reproducibility must be better than 5 mas rms per axis while the absolute pointing can be relaxed to 10 mas rms. The choice of algorithm is driven by the level of accuracy to be reached in the presence of a nonlinear system like the coronagraph. We first study their bias, and then we estimate their sensitivity to different sources of noises in the context of MIRI. And finally, for practical matter, we derive the necessary exposure time to obtain the centroid on an actual star.
Published: 05 September 2008
Aims. In the distant universe X-ray luminous clusters of galaxies are rare objects. Large area surveys are therefore needed to probe the high luminosity end of the cluster population at redshifts z>~1.
Methods. We correlated extended X-ray sources from the second XMM-Newton source catalogue (2XMM) with the SDSS in order to identify new clusters of galaxies. Distant cluster candidates in empty SDSS fields were imaged in the r- and z-bands with the Large Binocular Telescope. We extracted the X-ray spectra of the cluster candidates and fitted thermal plasma models to the data.
Results. We determined the redshift 0.99 ± 0.03 for 2XMM J083026.2+524133 from its X-ray spectrum. With a bolometric luminosity of 1.8 × 1045 erg s-1 this is the most X-ray luminous cluster at redshifts z>1. We measured a gas temperature of 8.2 ± 0.9 keV and estimate a cluster mass M500 = 5.6 × 1014 MSun. The optical imaging revealed a rich cluster of galaxies.
Published: 26 August 2008
Low-frequency wave properties inside two hot flow anomalies (HFAs) at different stages of evolution are, for the first time, studied applying the k-filtering technique on multipoint measurements from the Cluster satellites. The observed wave activity in an HFA cavity in an early stage of its evolution was interpreted as the combination of inherent fluctuation in the solar wind and those of a plasma component specularly reflected at the Earth's bow shock, where the amplitude of the fluctuations had been enhanced by a plasma beam instability. The wave field of a more evolved HFA was found to be less complex but contained a periodicity in the wave number distribution with a period that is suggested to come from the geometry of the HFA cavity.
Published: 24 August 2008
We present a new set of observations of Martian aurorae obtained by Spectroscopy for the Investigation of the Characteristics of the Atmosphere of Mars (SPICAM) on board Mars Express (MEX). Using nadir viewing, several auroral events have been identified on the Martian nightside, all near regions of crustal magnetic fields. For most of these events, two to three consecutive events with variable intensities and separated by a few seconds to several tens of seconds have been observed, whereas simultaneous observations with Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) and Analyzer of Space Plasma and Energetic Atoms (ASPERA-3) have been possible. In this paper, we present the data set for these events and discuss the possible correlation between the measured UV emission by SPICAM, the measured downward and/or upward flux of electrons by ASPERA-3 and the total electron content recorded by MARSIS. Despite the limited coverage of SPICAM ultraviolet spectrograph (UVS) on the Martian nightside (essentially in regions of high crustal magnetic fields), there is however a very good correlation between the regions with the locally smallest probability to be on closed crustal magnetic field lines, as derived from Mars Global Surveyor/Electron Reflectometer (MGS/MAG-ER), and the position of an aurora event. This suggests that the crustal magnetic fields, when organized into cusp-like structure, can trigger the few aurorae identified by SPICAM UVS. It confirms also the good probability, in the cases where SPICAM UVS measured UV emissions, that the increase in the measured total electron content by MARSIS and the simultaneous measured precipitating electron flux by the ASPERA-3/Electron Spectrometer may be related to each other.
Published: 23 August 2008
The giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1275, at the centre of the Perseus cluster, is surrounded by a well-known giant nebulosity of emission-line filaments, which are plausibly in excess of 108 years old. The filaments are dragged out from the centre of the galaxy by radio-emitting 'bubbles' rising buoyantly in the hot intracluster gas, before later falling back. They act as markers of the feedback process by which energy is transferred from the central massive black hole to the surrounding gas. The mechanism by which the filaments are stabilized against tidal shear and dissipation into the surrounding extremely hot (4x107 K) gas has been unclear. Here we report observations that resolve thread-like structures in the filaments. Some threads extend over 6 kpc, yet are only 70 pc wide. We conclude that magnetic fields in the threads, in pressure balance with the surrounding gas, stabilize the filaments, so allowing a large mass of cold gas to accumulate and delay star formation.
Published: 22 August 2008
The spectral reflectivity of asteroid surfaces over the wavelength range of 0.3 to 1.1 micron can be used to classify these objects into several broad groups with similar spectral characteristics. The three most recently developed taxonomies group the asteroids into 9, 11, or 14 different clases, depending on the technique used to perform the analysis. The distribution of the taxonomic classes shows that darker and redder objects become more dominant at larger heliocentric distances, while the rare asteroid types are found more frequently among the small objects of the planet-crossing population.
Published: 01 January 1989

Beyond their intrinsic interest, ground-based observations have proven their usefulness in supporting spacecraft observations of Solar System bodies. Probably the most spectacular illustration ever was provided during the descent of the Huygens Probe on Titan, when the radio astronomy segment detected the "channel A" carrier signal from Huygens and allowed the recovery of the Doppler Wind Experiment that had been compromised by the failure of the corresponding Cassini channel (Lebreton et al., 2005). Furthermore, ground-based science observations performed during or around the Huygens mission provided new, complementary information on Titan's atmosphere and surface, helping to put the Huygens observations into context (Witasse et al., 2006). Another example of a successful ground-based campaign is the Deep Impact event, when numerous Earth-based and Earth-orbiting observatories monitored comet 9P/Tempel 1 when it was hit by the impactor (Meech et al., 2005).

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Published: 16 August 2008
This Cross-Scale summary report provides a summary of the system design study carried out by industry (Deimos Space S.L. as prime, Thales Alenia Space and ONERA as sub-contractors) under ESA contract between May 2006 and June 2007. The first phase of the system design study consisted of a mission architecture trade. Key trades on the mission architecture included orbits, number of spacecraft, payload suites, deployment strategy, and orbit optimization. The second phase consisted of an assessment of the spacecraft design, ground segment requirements and programmatics.
Published: 06 December 2007
An important problem in space physics still not understood well is how the solar wind enters the Earth's magnetosphere. Evidence is presented that transient solar wind particles produced by solar disturbances can appear in the Earth's mid-altitude (~5 RE geocentric) cusps with densities nearly equal to those in the magnetosheath. That these are magnetosheath particles is established by showing they have the same "flattop" electron distributions as magnetosheath electrons behind the bow shock. The transient ions are moving parallel to the magnetic field (B) toward Earth and often coexist with ionospheric particles that are flowing out. The accompanying waves include electromagnetic and broadband electrostatic noise emissions and Bernstein mode waves. Phase-space distributions show a mixture of hot and cold electrons and multiple ion species including field-aligned ionospheric O+ beams.
Published: 12 August 2008
This paper reports for the first time the identification of a magnetic structure around a magnetic null in a magnetic reconnection region in the magnetotail. Magnetic reconnection is one of the fundamental processes in astrophysical and solar-terrestrial plasmas. Though the concept of reconnection has been studied for many years, the process that really occurs has not been fully revealed by direct measurements. In particular, the lack of a description of three-dimensional (3-D) reconnecting magnetic field from observations makes the task more difficult. The Cluster spacecraft array provide an opportunity to reconstruct the 3-D magnetic reconnection structure based on magnetic field vectors simultaneously measured at four positions. The identification of this structure comes from a new method of analysis of in situ measurements proposed here. Applying a fitting model of 10 spherical harmonic functions and a Harris current sheet function, plus a constant field, we reconstruct a 3-D magnetic field configuration around the magnetic null in an reconnection event observed by Cluster in the geo-magnetotail.
Published: 09 August 2008
Magnetic reconnection is an important process in astrophysical, space and laboratory plasmas. The magnetic null pair structure is theoretically suggested to be a crucial feature of the three-dimensional magnetic reconnection. The physics around the null pair, however, has not been explored in combination with the magnetic field configuration deduced from in situ observations. Here, we report the identification of the configuration around a null pair and simultaneous electron dynamics near one null of the pair, observed by four Cluster spacecraft in the geo-magnetotail. Further, we propose a new scenario of electron dynamics in the null region, suggesting that electrons are temporarily trapped in the central reconnection region including electron diffusion region resulting in an electron density peak, accelerated possibly by parallel electric field and electron pressure gradient, and reflected from the magnetic cusp mirrors leading to the bi-directional energetic electron beams, which excite the observed high frequency electrostatic waves.
Published: 30 July 2008
Plasmaspheric plumes have been routinely observed by the four Cluster spacecraft. This paper presents a statistical analysis of plumes observed during five years (from 1 February 2001 to 1 February 2006) based on four-point measurements of the plasmasphere (outside 4 Earth radii) as it is sampled by the spacecraft in a narrow local time sector before and after perigee. Plasmaspheric plumes can be identified from electron density profiles derived from the electron plasma frequency determined by the WHISPER wave sounder onboard Cluster. As the WHISPER instrument has a limited frequency range (2-80 kHz) only plumes with densities below 80 cm-3 can be identified in this way. Their occurrence is studied as a function of several geomagnetic indices (Kp, am and Dst). Their transverse equatorial size, magnetic local time distribution, L position and density variation are discussed. Plasmaspheric plumes are observed mostly for moderate Kp and never for small Dst. They are found mainly in the afternoon and pre-midnight MLT sectors. Comparisons are also made between the density profiles of the plumes as they are crossed on the in- and outbound legs of the orbit, before and after perigee crossing, respectively.
Published: 07 August 2008
The fraction of stellar mass contained in globular clusters (GCs), also measured by number as the specific frequency, is a fundamental quantity that reflects both a galaxy's early star formation and its entire merging history. We present specific frequencies, luminosities, and mass fractions for the globular cluster systems of 100 early-type galaxies in the ACS Virgo Cluster Survey, the largest homogeneous catalog of its kind.

[This is an extract of the original abstract.]
Published: 02 June 2008
Intermittency is usually identified in turbulent flows as non-Gaussian tails of the probability density functions (PDFs) of the turbulent field derivatives. Here we investigate the role of phase coherence among the Fourier modes in creating intermittency in magnetized space plasmas using the technique of surrogate data. We apply the technique to two examples: (i) synthetic data and (ii) magnetic field fluctuations recorded in the terrestrial magnetosheath by the Cluster spacecraft. We use a set of four series of data, one observed and three surrogate, and their PDFs and moments (q<=4) as discriminating statistics. We show that the technique allows for detecting coherent structures and estimating their scales. We show furthermore that the phases, but not the amplitudes, create the non-Gaussian tails of the PDFs. We show also that the surrogate data used cannot account for asymmetries of the PDFs of the observed data. This enables us to confirm a scenario of turbulent cascade of mirror structures proposed in previous publications, by showing the existence of an approximately constant energy flux in the inertial range.
Published: 06 August 2008
We present detailed measurements of ion scale vortices of drift type coupled to Alfvén waves in an inhomogeneous and collisionless space magnetoplasma. The two free parameters of a dipolar vortex, intensity and spatial radius, are measured. The vortices are driven by a strong density gradient on a boundary layer with scale size of the same order as the vortex diameter. Observations of vortices off the gradient show that symmetry-breaking conditions in a real inhomogeneous plasma can lead not only to cross-field but also to cross-boundary anomalous transport of particles and energy.
Published: 05 August 2008
From June 1, 2004 to October 31, 2006, a total 465 high-speed flow events are observed by the TC-1 satellite in the near-Earth region (-13 RE < x < -9 RE, |Y|<10 RE, |Z|<5 RE). Based on the angle between the flow and the magnetic field, the high-speed flow events are further divided into two types, that is, field-aligned high-speed flow (FAHF) in the plasma sheet boundary and convective bursty bulk flow (BBF) in the center plasma sheet. Among the total 465 high-speed flow events, there are 371 FAHFs, and 94 BBFs. The CHF are mainly concentrated in the plasma sheet, the intersection angle between the flow and the magnetic field is larger, the magnetic field intensity is relatively weak. The FHF are mainly distributed near the boundary layer of the plasma sheet, the intersection angle between the flow and magnetic field is smaller, and the magnetic field intensity is relatively strong. The convective BBFs have an important effect on the substorm.
Published: 03 August 2008
ESA's report to the 37th COSPAR meeting (13-20 July 2008) covers the missions of the Science Programme of ESA. This section contains the report on the LISA Pathfinder mission.
Published: 02 July 2008
The present issue of Spatium is devoted to solar magnetism. Baffled by the thought that a hot gaseous Sun should have a magnetic field, such ideas came up only very late. It was George Ellery Hale who suggested solar magnetism in 1908. This edition of Spatium is a written version of the fascinating public lecture that was held by Professor Eugene Parker at the University of Bern on 23 January 2008, as part of the ISSI workshop on solar magnetism.
Published: 02 July 2008
Titan was once thought to have global oceans of light hydrocarbons on its surface, but after 40 close flybys of Titan by the Cassini spacecraft, it has become clear that no such oceans exist. There are, however, features similar to terrestrial lakes and seas, and widespread evidence for fluvial erosion, presumably driven by precipitation of liquid methane from Titan's dense, nitrogen-dominated atmosphere. Here we report infrared spectroscopic data, obtained by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) on board the Cassini spacecraft, that strongly indicate that ethane, probably in liquid solution with methane, nitrogen and other low-molecular-mass hydrocarbons, is contained within Titan's Ontario Lacus.
Published: 01 August 2008
24-Apr-2024 13:14 UT

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