Publication archive

Publication archive

Context. Gaia Data Release 1 (DR1) contains astrometric results for more than 1 billion stars brighter than magnitude 20.7 based on observations collected by the Gaia satellite during the first 14 months of its operational phase.

Aims. We give a brief overview of the astrometric content of the data release and of the model assumptions, data processing, and validation of the results.

Methods. For stars in common with the Hipparcos and Tycho-2 catalogues, complete astrometric single-star solutions are obtained by incorporating positional information from the earlier catalogues. For other stars only their positions are obtained, essentially by neglecting their proper motions and parallaxes. The results are validated by an analysis of the residuals, through special validation runs, and by comparison with external data.

Results. For about two million of the brighter stars (down to magnitude ~11.5) we obtain positions, parallaxes, and proper motions to Hipparcos-type precision or better. For these stars, systematic errors depending for example on position and colour are at a level of ± 0.3 milliarcsecond (mas). For the remaining stars we obtain positions at epoch J2015.0 accurate to ~10 mas. Positions and proper motions are given in a reference frame that is aligned with the International Celestial Reference Frame (ICRF) to better than 0.1 mas at epoch J2015.0, and non-rotating with respect to ICRF to within 0.03 mas yr-1. The Hipparcos reference frame is found to rotate with respect to the Gaia DR1 frame at a rate of 0.24 mas yr-1.

[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]
Published: 24 November 2016

Context. The first data release from the Gaia mission contains accurate positions and magnitudes for more than a billion sources, and proper motions and parallaxes for the majority of the 2.5 million Hipparcos and Tycho-2 stars.

Aims. We describe three essential elements of the initial data treatment leading to this catalogue: the image analysis, the construction of a source list, and the near real-time monitoring of the payload health. We also discuss some weak points that set limitations for the attainable precision at the present stage of the mission.

Methods. Image parameters for point sources are derived from one-dimensional scans, using a maximum likelihood method, under the assumption of a line spread function constant in time, and a complete modelling of bias and background. These conditions are, however, not completely fulfilled. The Gaia source list is built starting from a large ground-based catalogue, but even so a significant number of new entries have been added, and a large number have been removed. The autonomous onboard star image detection will pick up many spurious images, especially around bright sources, and such unwanted detections must be identified. Another key step of the source list creation consists in arranging the more than 1010 individual detections in spatially isolated groups that can be analysed individually.

Results. Complete software systems have been built for the Gaia initial data treatment, that manage approximately 50 million focal plane transits daily, giving transit times and fluxes for 500 million individual CCD images to the astrometric and photometric processing chains. The software also carries out a successful and detailed daily monitoring of Gaia health.

Published: 24 November 2016

Context. At about 1000 days after the launch of Gaia we present the first Gaia data release, Gaia DR1, consisting of astrometry and photometry for over 1 billion sources brighter than magnitude 20.7.

Aims. A summary of Gaia DR1 is presented along with illustrations of the scientific quality of the data, followed by a discussion of the limitations due to the preliminary nature of this release.

Methods. The raw data collected by Gaia during the first 14 months of the mission have been processed by the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) and turned into an astrometric and photometric catalogue.

Results. Gaia DR1 consists of three components: a primary astrometric data set which contains the positions, parallaxes, and mean proper motions for about 2 million of the brightest stars in common with the Hipparcos and Tycho-2 catalogues – a realisation of the Tycho-Gaia Astrometric Solution (TGAS) – and a secondary astrometric data set containing the positions for an additional 1.1 billion sources. The second component is the photometric data set, consisting of mean G-band magnitudes for all sources. The G-band light curves and the characteristics of ~3000 Cepheid and RR Lyrae stars, observed at high cadence around the south ecliptic pole, form the third component. For the primary astrometric data set the typical uncertainty is about 0.3 mas for the positions and parallaxes, and about 1 mas yr-1 for the proper motions. A systematic component of ~0.3 mas should be added to the parallax uncertainties. For the subset of ~94 000 Hipparcos stars in the primary data set, the proper motions are much more precise at about 0.06 mas yr-1.
[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]

Published: 24 November 2016

Gaia is a cornerstone mission in the science programme of the European Space Agency (ESA). The spacecraft construction was approved in 2006, following a study in which the original interferometric concept was changed to a direct-imaging approach. Both the spacecraft and the payload were built by European industry. The involvement of the scientific community focusses on data processing for which the international Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC) was selected in 2007. Gaia was launched on 19 December 2013 and arrived at its operating point, the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth-Moon system, a few weeks later. The commissioning of the spacecraft and payload was completed on 19 July 2014. The nominal five-year mission started with four weeks of special, ecliptic-pole scanning and subsequently transferred into full-sky scanning mode. We recall the scientific goals of Gaia and give a description of the as-built spacecraft that is currently (mid-2016) being operated to achieve these goals. We pay special attention to the payload module, the performance of which is closely related to the scientific performance of the mission. We provide a summary of the commissioning activities and findings, followed by a description of the routine operational mode. We summarise scientific performance estimates on the basis of in-orbit operations. Several intermediate Gaia data releases are planned and the data can be retrieved from the Gaia Archive, which is available through the Gaia home page.

Published: 24 November 2016

The Martian bow shock distance has previously been shown to be anticorrelated with solar wind dynamic pressure but correlated with solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) irradiance. Since both of these solar parameters reduce with the square of the distance from the Sun, and Mars' orbit about the Sun increases by ~0.3 AU from perihelion to aphelion, it is not clear how the bow shock location will respond to variations in these solar parameters, if at all, throughout its orbit. In order to characterize such a response, we use more than 5 Martian years of Mars Express Analyser of Space Plasma and EneRgetic Atoms (ASPERA-3) Electron Spectrometer measurements to automatically identify 11,861 bow shock crossings. We have discovered that the bow shock distance as a function of solar longitude has a minimum of 2.39RM around aphelion and proceeds to a maximum of 2.65RM around perihelion, presenting an overall variation of ~11% throughout the Martian orbit. We have verified previous findings that the bow shock in southern hemisphere is on average located farther away from Mars than in the northern hemisphere. However, this hemispherical asymmetry is small (total distance variation of ~2.4%), and the same annual variations occur irrespective of the hemisphere. We have identified that the bow shock location is more sensitive to variations in the solar EUV irradiance than to solar wind dynamic pressure variations. We have proposed possible interaction mechanisms between the solar EUV flux and Martian plasma environment that could explain this annual variation in bow shock location.

Published: 21 November 2016

Published online 17 November 2016

Carbon dioxide is one of the most abundant species in cometary nuclei, but due to its high volatility CO2 ice is generally only found beneath the surface. We report the infrared spectroscopic identification of a CO2 ice-rich surface area, located in the Anhur region of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Spectral modeling shows that about 0.1% of the 80×60 m area is CO2 ice. This exposed ice was observed a short time after exiting from local winter; following the increased illumination, the CO2 ice completely disappeared over about three weeks. We estimate the mass of the sublimated CO2 ice and the depth of the surface eroded layer. The presence of CO2 ice is interpreted as the result of the extreme seasonal changes induced by the rotation and orbit of the comet.

Published: 17 November 2016
The Rosetta spacecraft has investigated comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from large heliocentric distances to its perihelion passage and beyond. We trace the seasonal and diurnal evolution of the colors of the 67P nucleus, finding changes driven by sublimation and recondensation of water ice. The whole nucleus became relatively bluer near perihelion, as increasing activity removed the surface dust, implying that water ice is widespread underneath the surface. We identified large (1500 m2) ice-rich patches appearing and then vanishing in about 10 days, indicating small-scale heterogeneities on the nucleus. Thin frosts sublimating in a few minutes are observed close to receding shadows, and rapid variations in color seen on extended areas close to the terminator. These cyclic processes are widespread and lead to continuously, slightly varying surface properties.
Published: 17 November 2016

Context. First results based on Gaia data show that the well-known star Gliese 710 will be the closest flyby star in the next several Myrs and its minimum distance from the Sun will be almost five times smaller than that suggested by pre-Gaia solution.

Aims. The aim of this work is to investigate the proximity parameters and the influence of the close approach of Gliese 710 on the basis of Gaia DR1. Furthermore, we compare new results with previous works based on HIP2 and Tycho 2 catalogues to demonstrate how Gaia improves the accuracy of determination of such phenomena.

Methods. Using a numerical integration in an axisymmetric Galactic model, we determine new parameters of the close encounter for Gliese 710. Adding ten thousand clones drawn with the use of a covariance matrix, we estimate the most probable position and velocity of this star at the minimum distance from the Sun.

Results. Our calculations show that Gliese 710 will pass 13365 AU from the Sun in 1.35 Myr from now. At this proximity it will have the brightness of -2.7 mag and a total proper motion of 52.28 arcsec per year. After the passage of Gliese 710 we will observe a large flux of new long-period comets. Thanks to the Gaia mission, the uncertainties of the minimum distance and time of the close approach are several times smaller than suggested by previous works based on data from earlier observations.

Published: 15 November 2016
Understanding the origin (volcanic or sedimentary) and timing of intercrater plains is crucial for deciphering the geological evolution of Mars. We have produced a detailed geological map of the intercrater plains north of the Hellas basin, based on images from the Mars Express High-Resolution Stereo Camera, the Mars Reconnaissance High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, and Context. Erosional windows and fresh impact craters provide a way of studying the lithology of intercrater plain units. They are composed predominantly of light-toned sedimentary rocks with subhorizontal bedding over a broad extent (greater than tens of kilometers), showing cross-bedding stratifications locally. The broad extent, geometry, and flat topography of these sediments favor a formation by aqueous processes (alluvial and lacustrine) rather than airfall (eolian and volcaniclastic). The Late Noachian (~3.7 Ga) sedimentary plains are locally covered by dark-toned, rough-textured lava flows of Late Hesperian age (~3.3 Ga). Fe/Mg phyllosilicates were detected within sedimentary rocks, whereas volcanic rocks contain pyroxene and lack signatures of alteration, in agreement with interpretations made from texture and morphology. In erosional windows, the superimposition of sedimentary rocks by younger volcanic flows enables the estimation of an erosion rate of ~1000 nm yr-1 during the Hesperian period (3.3–3.7 Ga). Thus, our study shows that an intense sedimentary cycle occurred on the northern rim of the Hellas basin before and during the Late Noachian, leading to the formation of widespread sedimentary plains, which were then eroded, in agreement with a gradual change in the climatic conditions in this period, and later covered by volcanic flows.
Published: 14 November 2016

This issue of the ISSI-BJ Magazine 'TAIKONG' provides an overview of the scientific objectives and the overall design of the SMILE project, including spacecraft and instrumentation, as discussed during the two-day forum "The Link between Solar Wind, Magnetosphere, Ionosphere", which was held on 6-7 July 2016 in Beijing, China.


  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Global measurements and the solar wind-magnetosphere interaction
  • A novel method to image the magnetosphere
  • Aurora and substorm
  • Cusp dynamics
  • Modeling solar wind-magnetosphere interaction and field of view
  • SMILE scientific objectives and mission overview
  • Summary and recommendations

Published: 02 September 2016
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko currently spins with a period of about 12.4 hours, but its spin period used to be about 12.8 hours in 2002. It has been suggested that the difference is due to a period decrease caused by the comet's activity during its last close approach to the Sun in 2009. However, rather than the expected decrease in the spin period, recent navigation data from the Rosetta spacecraft has shown that the period has increased by 80.5 s as of Apr 13, 2015, as the comet approaches perihelion. Keller et al. estimate the water sublimation rate on each facet of a 3D model of the comet to calculate the global torque acting on the comet and infer changes in rotation rate. They show that the model qualitatively explains the modest increase in period observed in the first half of 2015 and predict that the rotation period should then decrease rapidly by about 13 minutes after perihelion. This will be directly tested by measurements in the next months.
Published: 30 September 2016

This press kit contains background information about the Rosetta mission. It has been prepared to accompany Rosetta's grand finale: the end of mission on 30 September 2016.

Rosetta at a glance
Fast Facts
Landing Rosetta on the comet
Collecting science until the very end
Rosetta's final resting place
Highlights from the Rosetta mission thus far
No ordinary spacecraft: the challenges of flying Rosetta
Meet Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Comets - an introduction
Missions to comets - Rosetta in context
Appendices: Mission milestones; Distance, dates, and times for mission milestones; Selected images and videos; Online resources; Media contacts

To download the pdf file click on the image or on the link to publication below.

Published: 26 September 2016
During its two years mission around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, ESA's Rosetta spacecraft had the unique opportunity to follow closely a comet in the most active part of its orbit. Many studies have presented the typical features associated to the activity of the nucleus, such as localized dust and gas jets. Here we report on series of more energetic transient events observed during the three months surrounding the comet's perihelion passage in August 2015. We detected and characterized 34 outbursts with the Rosetta cameras, one every 2.4 nucleus rotation. We identified 3 main dust plume morphologies associated to these events: a narrow jet, a broad fan, and more complex plumes featuring both previous types together. These plumes are comparable in scale and temporal variation to what has been observed on other comets. We present a map of the outbursts source locations, and discuss the associated topography. We find that the spatial distribution sources on the nucleus correlates well with morphological region boundaries, especially in areas marked by steep scarps or cliffs. Outbursts occur either in the early morning or shortly after the local noon, indicating two potential processes: Morning outbursts may be triggered by thermal stresses linked to the rapid change of temperature; afternoon events are most likely related to the diurnal or seasonal heat wave reaching volatiles buried under the first surface layer. In addition, we propose that some events can be the result of a completely different mechanism, in which most of the dust is released upon the collapse of a cliff.
Published: 23 September 2016

This media kit contains background information about the Gaia mission. It has been prepared to accompany Gaia Data Release 1.

Gaia - the Billion Star Surveyor
Fast Facts
Mapping the Galaxy with Gaia
Gaia's first data release - the Galactic Census begins
Towards the final Gaia catalogue
Making sense of it all - the role of the Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium
Where is Gaia and why do we need to know?
From ancient star maps to precision astrometry
Appendices: Resources, Speakers at the press event, Media contacts

To download the pdf file click on the image or on the link to publication below.

Published: 09 September 2016
Published online 7 September 2016

The presence of solid carbonaceous matter in cometary dust was established by the detection of elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen in particles from comet 1P/Halley. Such matter is generally thought to have originated in the interstellar medium, but it might have formed in the solar nebula – the cloud of gas and dust that was left over after the Sun formed. This solid carbonaceous material cannot be observed from Earth, so it has eluded unambiguous characterization. Many gaseous organic molecules, however, have been observed; they come mostly from the sublimation of ices at the surface or in the subsurface of cometary nuclei. These ices could have been formed from material inherited from the interstellar medium that suffered little processing in the solar nebula. Here we report the in situ detection of solid organic matter in the dust particles emitted by comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko; the carbon in this organic material is bound in very large macromolecular compounds, analogous to the insoluble organic matter found in the carbonaceous chondrite meteorites. The organic matter in meteorites might have formed in the interstellar medium and/or the solar nebula, but was almost certainly modified in the meteorites' parent bodies. We conclude that the observed cometary carbonaceous solid matter could have the same origin as the meteoritic insoluble organic matter, but suffered less modification before and/or after being incorporated into the comet.

Published: 08 September 2016
Comets are thought to preserve almost pristine dust particles, thus providing a unique sample of the properties of the early solar nebula. The microscopic properties of this dust played a key part in particle aggregation during the formation of the Solar System. Cometary dust was previously considered to comprise irregular, fluffy agglomerates on the basis of interpretations of remote observations in the visible and infrared and the study of chondritic porous interplanetary dust particles that were thought, but not proved, to originate in comets. Although the dust returned by an earlier mission has provided detailed mineralogy of particles from comet 81P/Wild, the fine-grained aggregate component was strongly modified during collection. Here we report in situ measurements of dust particles at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The particles are aggregates of smaller, elongated grains, with structures at distinct sizes indicating hierarchical aggregation. Topographic images of selected dust particles with sizes of one micrometre to a few tens of micrometres show a variety of morphologies, including compact single grains and large porous aggregate particles, similar to chondritic porous interplanetary dust particles. The measured grain elongations are similar to the value inferred for interstellar dust and support the idea that such grains could represent a fraction of the building blocks of comets. In the subsequent growth phase, hierarchical agglomeration could be a dominant process and would produce aggregates that stick more easily at higher masses and velocities than homogeneous dust particles. The presence of hierarchical dust aggregates in the near-surface of the nucleus of comet 67P also provides a mechanism for lowering the tensile strength of the dust layer and aiding dust release.
Published: 02 August 2016
Published online 19 April 2016

SPICAV VIS-IR spectrometer on-board the Venus Express mission measured the H2O abundance above Venus' clouds in the 1.38 µm band, and provided an estimation of the cloud top altitude based on CO2 bands in the range of 1.4–1.6 µm. The H2O content and the cloud top altitude have been retrieved for the complete Venus Express dataset from 2006 to 2014 taking into account multiple scattering in the cloudy atmosphere. The cloud top altitude, corresponding to unit nadir aerosol optical depth at 1.48 µm, varies from 68 to 73 km at latitudes from 40°S to 40°N with an average of 70.2 ± 0.8 km assuming the aerosol scale height of 4 km. In high northern latitudes, the cloud top decreases to 62–68 km. The altitude of formation of water lines ranges from 59 to 66 km. The H2O mixing ratio at low latitudes (20°S-20°N) is equal to 6.1 ± 1.2 ppm with variations from 4 to 11 ppm and the effective altitude of 61.9 ± 0.5 km. Between 30° and 50° of latitude in both hemispheres, a local minimum was observed with a value of 5.4 ± 1 ppm corresponding to the effective altitude of 62.1 ± 0.6 km and variations from 3 to 8 ppm. At high latitudes in both hemispheres, the water content varies from 4 to 12 ppm with an average of 7.2 ± 1.4 ppm which corresponds to 60.6 ± 0.5 km. Observed variations of water vapor within a factor of 2-3 on the short timescale appreciably exceed individual measurement errors and could be explained as a real variation of the mixing ratio or/and possible variations of the cloud opacity within the clouds. The maximum of water at lower latitudes supports a possible convection and injection of water from lower atmospheric layers.
[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]

Published: 02 August 2016
A&A, Forthcoming article

This paper describes the identification, modelling, and removal of previously unexplained systematic effects in the polarization data of the Planck High Frequency Instrument (HFI) on large angular scales, including new mapmaking and calibration procedures, new and more complete end-to-end simulations, and a set of robust internal consistency checks on the resulting maps. These maps, at 100, 143, 217, and 353 GHz, are early versions of those that will be released in final form later in 2016. The improvements allow us to determine the cosmic reionization optical depth τ using, for the first time, the low-multipole EE data from HFI, reducing significantly the central value and uncertainty, and hence the upper limit. Two different likelihood procedures are used to constrain τ from two estimators of the CMB E- and B-mode angular power spectra at 100 and 143 GHz, after debiasing the spectra from a small remaining systematic contamination. These all give fully consistent results. A further consistency test is performed using cross-correlations derived from the Low Frequency Instrument maps of the Planck 2015 data release and the new HFI data. For this purpose, end-to-end analyses of systematic effects from the two instruments are used to demonstrate the near independence of their dominant systematic error residuals. The tightest result comes from the HFI-based τ posterior distribution using the maximum likelihood power spectrum estimator from EE data only, giving a value 0.055 ± 0.009. In a companion paper these results are discussed in the context of the best-fit Planck ΛCDM cosmological model and recent models of reionization.

Published: 01 September 2016
A&A, Forthcoming article.

We investigate constraints on cosmic reionization extracted from the Planck cosmic microwave background (CMB) data. We combine the Planck CMB anisotropy data in temperature with the low-multipole polarization data to fit ΛCDM models with various parameterizations of the reionization history. We obtain a Thomson optical depth τ = 0.058 ± 0.012 for the commonly adopted instantaneous reionization model. This confirms, with data solely from CMB anisotropies, the low value suggested by combining Planck 2015 results with other data sets, and also reduces the uncertainties. We reconstruct the history of the ionization fraction using either a symmetric or an asymmetric model for the transition between the neutral and ionized phases. To determine better constraints on the duration of the reionization process, we also make use of measurements of the amplitude of the kinetic Sunyaev-Zeldovich (kSZ) effect using additional information from the high-resolution Atacama Cosmology Telescope and South Pole Telescope experiments. The average redshift at which reionization occurs is found to lie between z = 7.8 and 8.8, depending on the model of reionization adopted. Using kSZ constraints and a redshift-symmetric reionization model, we find an upper limit to the width of the reionization period of ∆z < 2.8. In all cases, we find that the Universe is ionized at less than the 10 % level at redshifts above z ~ 10. This suggests that an early onset of reionization is strongly disfavoured by the Planck data. We show that this result also reduces the tension between CMB-based analyses and constraints from other astrophysical sources.

Published: 01 September 2016
Published online 25 August 2016

On 19 Feb. 2016 nine Rosetta instruments serendipitously observed an outburst of gas and dust from the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Among these instruments were cameras and spectrometers ranging from UV over visible to microwave wavelengths, in-situ gas, dust and plasma instruments, and one dust collector. At 9:40 a dust cloud developed at the edge of an image in the shadowed region of the nucleus. Over the next two hours the instruments recorded a signature of the outburst that significantly exceeded the background. The enhancement ranged from 50% of the neutral gas density at Rosetta to factors >100 of the brightness of the coma near the nucleus. Dust related phenomena (dust counts or brightness due to illuminated dust) showed the strongest enhancements (factors >10). However, even the electron density at Rosetta increased by a factor 3 and consequently the spacecraft potential changed from ~-16 V to -20 V during the outburst. A clear sequence of events was observed at the distance of Rosetta (34 km from the nucleus): within 15 minutes the Star Tracker camera detected fast particles (~25 m s−1) while 100 μm radius particles were detected by the GIADA dust instrument ∼1 hour later at a speed of ~6 m s−1. The slowest were individual mm to cm sized grains observed by the OSIRIS cameras. Although the outburst originated just outside the FOV of the instruments, the source region and the magnitude of the outburst could be determined.

Published: 26 August 2016
17-Jun-2024 07:27 UT

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