ESA Science & Technology - Publication Archive
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
- 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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Aims. We provide a detailed morphological analysis of the Aswan site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P). We derive the size-frequency distribution of boulders ≥2 m and correlate this distribution with the gravitational slopes for the first time on a comet. We perform the spectral analysis of this region to understand if possible surface variegation is related to the different surface textures observable on the different units.
Methods. We used two OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) image data sets acquired on September 19 and 22, 2014, with a scale of 0.5 m/px. Gravitational slopes derived from the 3D shape model of 67P were used to identify and interpret the different units of the site. By means of the high-resolution NAC data sets, boulders ≥2.0 m can be unambiguously identified and extracted using the software ArcGIS. Coregistered and photometrically corrected color cubes were used to perform the spectral analyses, and we retrieved the spectral properties of the Aswan units.
Results. The high-resolution morphological map of the Aswan site (0.68 km²) shows that this site is characterized by four different units: fine-particle deposits located on layered terrains, gravitational accumulation deposits, taluses, and the outcropping layered terrain. Multiple lineaments are identified on the Aswan cliff, such as fractures, exposed layered outcrops, niches, and terraces. Close to the terrace margin, several arched features observed in plan view suggest that the margin progressively retreats as a result of erosion. The size-frequency of boulders ≥2 m in the entire study area has a power-law index of -3.9 +0.2/-0.3 (1499 boulders ≥2 m/km²), suggesting that the Aswan site is mainly dominated by gravitational events triggered by sublimation and/or thermal insolation weathering causing regressive erosion.
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Context. We investigate the formation and evolution of comet nuclei and other trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) in the solar nebula and primordial disk prior to the giant planet orbit instability foreseen by the Nice model.
Aims. Our goal is to determine whether most observed comet nuclei are primordial rubble-pile survivors that formed in the solar nebula and young primordial disk or collisional rubble piles formed later in the aftermath of catastrophic disruptions of larger parent bodies. We also propose a concurrent comet and TNO formation scenario that is consistent with observations.
Methods. We used observations of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by the ESA Rosetta spacecraft, particularly by the OSIRIS camera system, combined with data from the NASA Stardust sample-return mission to comet 81P/Wild 2 and from meteoritics; we also used existing observations from ground or from spacecraft of irregular satellites of the giant planets, Centaurs, and TNOs. We performed modeling of thermophysics, hydrostatics, orbit evolution, and collision physics.
Results. We find that thermal processing due to short-lived radionuclides, combined with collisional processing during accretion in the primordial disk, creates a population of medium-sized bodies that are comparably dense, compacted, strong, heavily depleted in supervolatiles like CO and CO2; they contain little to no amorphous water ice, and have experienced extensive metasomatism and aqueous alteration due to liquid water. Irregular satellites Phoebe and Himalia are potential representatives of this population. Collisional rubble piles inherit these properties from their parents. Contrarily, comet nuclei have low density, high porosity, weak strength, are rich in supervolatiles, may contain amorphous water ice, and do not display convincing evidence of in situ metasomatism or aqueous alteration.
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