Publication archive

Publication archive

Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is the only Solar System planetary body other than Earth with a thick nitrogen atmosphere. The Voyager spacecraft confirmed that methane was the second-most abundant atmospheric constituent in Titan's atmosphere, and revealed a rich organic chemistry, but its cameras could not see through the thick organic haze. After a seven-year interplanetary journey on board the Cassini orbiter, the Huygens probe was released on 25 December 2004. It reached the upper layer of Titan's atmosphere on 14 January and landed softly after a parachute descent of almost 2.5 hours. Here we report an overview of the Huygens mission, which enabled studies of the atmosphere and surface, including in situ sampling of the organic chemistry, and revealed an Earth-like landscape. The probe descended over the boundary between a bright icy terrain eroded by fluvial activity – probably due to methane – and a darker area that looked like a river- or lake-bed. Post-landing images showed centimetre-sized surface details.
Published: 08 December 2005
Aerosols in Titan's atmosphere play an important role in determining its thermal structure. They also serve as sinks for organic vapours and can act as condensation nuclei for the formation of clouds, where the condensation efficiency will depend on the chemical composition of the aerosols. So far, however, no direct information has been available on the chemical composition of these particles. Here we report an in situ chemical analysis of Titan's aerosols by pyrolysis at 600 °C. Ammonia (NH3) and hydrogen cyanide (HCN) have been identified as the main pyrolysis products. This clearly shows that the aerosol particles include a solid organic refractory core. NH3 and HCN are gaseous chemical fingerprints of the complex organics that constitute this core, and their presence demonstrates that carbon and nitrogen are in the aerosols.
Published: 08 December 2005
The surface of Saturn's largest satellite – Titan – is largely obscured by an optically thick atmospheric haze, and so its nature has been the subject of considerable speculation and discussion. The Huygens probe entered Titan's atmosphere on 14 January 2005 and descended to the surface using a parachute system. Here we report measurements made just above and on the surface of Titan by the Huygens Surface Science Package. Acoustic sounding over the last 90 m above the surface reveals a relatively smooth, but not completely flat, surface surrounding the landing site. Penetrometry and accelerometry measurements during the probe impact event reveal that the surface was neither hard (like solid ice) nor very compressible (like a blanket of fluffy aerosol); rather, the Huygens probe landed on a relatively soft solid surface whose properties are analogous to wet clay, lightly packed snow and wet or dry sand. The probe settled gradually by a few millimetres after landing.
Published: 08 December 2005
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, remains an enigma, explored only by remote sensing from Earth, and by the Voyager and Cassini spacecraft. The most puzzling aspects include the origin of the molecular nitrogen and methane in its atmosphere, and the mechanism(s) by which methane is maintained in the face of rapid destruction by photolysis. The Huygens probe, launched from the Cassini spacecraft, has made the first direct observations of the satellite's surface and lower atmosphere. Here we report direct atmospheric measurements from the Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GCMS), including altitude profiles of the constituents, isotopic ratios and trace species (including organic compounds). The primary constituents were confirmed to be nitrogen and methane. Noble gases other than argon were not detected. The argon includes primordial 36Ar, and the radiogenic isotope 40Ar, providing an important constraint on the outgassing history of Titan. Trace organic species, including cyanogen and ethane, were found in surface measurements.
Published: 08 December 2005
One of Titan's most intriguing attributes is its copious but featureless atmosphere. The Voyager 1 fly-by and occultation in 1980 provided the first radial survey of Titan's atmospheric pressure and temperature and evidence for the presence of strong zonal winds. It was realized that the motion of an atmospheric probe could be used to study the winds, which led to the inclusion of the Doppler Wind Experiment on the Huygens probe. Here we report a high resolution vertical profile of Titan's winds, with an estimated accuracy of better than 1 m s-1. The zonal winds were prograde during most of the atmospheric descent, providing in situ confirmation of superrotation on Titan. A layer with surprisingly slow wind, where the velocity decreased to near zero, was detected at altitudes between 60 and 100 km. Generally weak winds (~1 m s-1) were seen in the lowest 5 km of descent.
Published: 08 December 2005
The irreversible conversion of methane into higher hydrocarbons in Titan's stratosphere implies a surface or subsurface methane reservoir. Recent measurements from the cameras aboard the Cassini orbiter fail to see a global reservoir, but the methane and smog in Titan's atmosphere impedes the search for hydrocarbons on the surface. Here we report spectra and high-resolution images obtained by the Huygens Probe Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer instrument in Titan's atmosphere. Although these images do not show liquid hydrocarbon pools on the surface, they do reveal the traces of once flowing liquid. Surprisingly like Earth, the brighter highland regions show complex systems draining into flat, dark lowlands. Images taken after landing are of a dry riverbed. The infrared reflectance spectrum measured for the surface is unlike any other in the Solar System; there is a red slope in the optical range that is consistent with an organic material such as tholins, and absorption from water ice is seen. However, a blue slope in the near-infrared suggests another, unknown constituent. The number density of haze particles increases by a factor of just a few from an altitude of 150 km to the surface, with no clear space below the tropopause. The methane relative humidity near the surface is 50 per cent.
Published: 08 December 2005
The recent identification of large deposits of sulphates by remote sensing and in situ observations has been considered evidence of the past presence of liquid water on Mars. Here we report the unambiguous detection of diverse phyllosilicates, a family of aqueous alteration products, on the basis of observations by the OMEGA imaging spectrometer on board the Mars Express spacecraft. These minerals are mainly associated with Noachian outcrops, which is consistent with an early active hydrological system, sustaining the long-term contact of igneous minerals with liquid water. We infer that the two main families of hydrated alteration products detected - phyllosilicates and sulphates - result from different formation processes. These occurred during two distinct climatic episodes: an early Noachian Mars, resulting in the formation of hydrated silicates, followed by a more acidic environment, in which sulphates formed.
Published: 01 December 2005
On March 31, 2001 at ~0635 UT when the CLUSTER constellation was near local midnight and at ~4 RE geocentric distance, sensors observed an energetic electron injection event associated with a strong (AE ~ 1200 nT) magnetospheric substorm. Geostationary spacecraft 1991-080 located at ~20 LT also saw an abrupt electron injection event at ~0630 UT and FAST spacecraft instruments (~19 LT) detected a powerful set of magnetic field, electric field, and energetic plasma signatures at ~0637 UT. The energetic neutral atom imaging experiments onboard the IMAGE spacecraft detected an injection of substorm-produced ions in the pre-midnight sector commencing at ~0630 UT. Electron injection signatures at the four separate CLUSTER locations allow us to infer the location, speed, and direction of the substorm injection boundary. Hence, the CLUSTER (and IMAGE) telescope-microscope combination is a long-sought realization of a major magnetospheric research objective and shows the power of localized multi-point measurements from CLUSTER.
Published: 20 September 2002
In this paper we report Cluster observation of a fast flow event in the plasma sheet associated with a small auroral substorm intensification at 1838 UT on August 12, 2001. Cluster, located in the plasma sheet, experienced significant thinning of the current sheet associated with a high-speed Earthward flow of 900 km s-1. By using the four spacecraft magnetic field data and a Harris-type current sheet model, it was estimated that the thickness of the current sheet changes from about 1 RE before the flow observation down to 400 km, i.e., close to the ion inertia length. In the vicinity of this thin current sheet there were also signatures of enhanced current density off the center of the neutral sheet, consistent with recent Geotail results.
Published: 14 December 2002
During the interval 0947-0951 UT on 1 October 2001, when Cluster was located at XGSM = -16.4 RE near ZGSM = 0 in the pre-midnight magnetotail, the Cluster barycenter crosses the neutral sheet four times. High speed proton flow, with reversal from tailward to Earthward, was detected during the crossings. Using a linear gradient/curl estimator technique we estimate current density and magnetic field curvature within the crossings. These observations exhibit the tailward passage of an X-line over the Cluster tetrahedron. These current sheet has a bifurcated structure in the regions of tailward and earthward flows and a flat and/or slightly bifurcated thin current sheet in between. A distinct quadrupolar Hall magnetic field component was observed.
Published: 11 June 2003
The daytime martian ionosphere has been observed as a two-layer structure with electron densities that peak at altitudes between about 110 and 130 kilometers. The Mars Express Orbiter Radio Science Experiment on the European Mars Express spacecraft observed, in 10 out of 120 electron density profiles, a third ionospheric layer at altitude ranges of 65 to 110 kilometers, where electron densities, on average, peaked at 0.8 x 1010 per cubic meter. Such a layer has been predicted to be permanent and continuous. Its origin has been attributed to ablation of meteors and charge exchange of magnesium and iron. Our observations imply that this layer is present sporadically and locally.
Published: 04 November 2005
Editors: C. P. Escoubet, Z.-X. Liu, and Z. Pu

This special issue of Annales Geophysicae presents the mission, the instruments and the first results of the Double Star programme. Double Star is the first mission in collaboration between China and ESA. Double Star has been a great opportunity for the European and Chinese scientists to enhance the knowledge of the Sun-Earth connection. Double Star, together with Cluster, brings six coordinated spacecraft to study small-, medium- and large-scale plasma processes in geospace. This is the first time that European instruments have been flown on a Chinese spacecraft as part of the payload.

Published: 08 November 2005
In this review, we report on some new aspects of magnetotail dynamics found in the data of the first traversal of the magnetotail by the Cluster quartet in summer and autumn 2001: (1) The electron drift instrument made the first direct measurements of tail lobe convection. The statistical data shows convection toward the center of the plasma sheet, with a clear dependence on the sign of the interplanetary magnetic field BZ component. Moreover, a dawn-dusk shear (if one compares convection in opposite lobes) for BY-dominated interplanetary field hints to an interconnection of open lobe field lines with the interplanetary medium. (2) At times the tail current sheet resembles a one-dimensional Harris sheet, which might get as thin as 500 km and may carry current densities as high as 20-40 nA m-2. (3) At other times, the current sheet may exhibit rapid kink-type flapping motion with vertical velocities of 50-100 km s-1. During these intervals the current sheet clearly exhibits a bifurcated structure, with two current density maxima around a region of much reduced current in the center of the plasma sheet.
Published: 30 November 2005
This paper presents the results of a statistical investigation into the nature of oblique wave propagation in the foreshock. Observations have shown that foreshock ULF waves tend to propagate obliquely to the background magnetic field. This is in contrast to theoretical work, which predicts that the growth rate of the mechanism responsible for the waves is maximized for parallel propagation, at least in the linear regime in homogenous plasma. Here we use data from the Cluster mission to study in detail the oblique propagation of a particular class of foreshock ULF wave, the 30 s quasi-monochromatic wave. We find that these waves persistently propagate at oblique angles to the magnetic field. Over the whole data set, the average value of thetakB was found to be 21 ± 14°. Oblique propagation is observed even when the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) cone angle is small, such that the convective component of the solar wind velocity, vExB, is comparable to the wave speed. In this subset of the data, the mean value of thetakB was 12.9 ± 7.1°. In the subset of data for which the IMF cone angle exceeded 45°, the mean value of thetakB was 19.5 ± 10.7°. When the angle between the IMF and the x geocentric solar ecliptic (GSE) direction (i.e., the solar wind vector) is large, the wave k vectors tend to be confined in the plane defined by the x GSE direction and the magnetic field and a systematic deflection is observed. The dependence of thetakB on vExB is also studied.
Published: 26 November 2005
We present initial results from a statistical study of Cluster multispacecraft flux transfer event (FTE) observations at the high-latitude magnetopause and low-latitude flanks from February 2001 to June 2003. Cluster FTEs are observed at both the high-latitude magnetopause and low-latitude flanks for both southward and northward IMF. Among the 1222 FTEs, 36%, 20%, 14%, and 30% are seen by one, two, three, and four Cluster satellites, respectively. There are 73% (27%) of the FTEs observed outside (inside) the magnetopause, which might be caused by the motion of FTEs toward the magnetosheath when they propagate from subsolar magnetopause to the midlatitude and high-latitude magnetopause and low-latitude flanks. We obtain an average FTE separation time of 7.09 min, which is at the lower end of the previous results. The mean BN peak-peak magnitude of Cluster FTEs is significantly larger than that from low-latitude FTE studies. FTE BN peak-peak magnitude clearly increases with increasing absolute magnetic latitude (MLAT), it has a weaker dependence on magnetic local time (MLT) with a peak near the magnetic local noon, and it has a complex dependence on Earth dipole tilt with a peak at around zero. FTE periodic behavior is found to be controlled by MLT, with a general increase of FTE separation time with increasing MLT, and by Earth dipole tilt, with a peak FTE separation time at around zero Earth dipole tilt. There is no clear dependence of FTE separation time on MLAT. There is a weak increase of FTE BN peak-peak magnitude with increasing FTE separation time, and we see no clear dependence of it on FTE BN peak-peak time. When no FTE identification thresholds are used, more accurate calculations of some FTE statistical parameters, including the mean BN peak-peak time, can be obtained. Further, comparing results with different thresholds can help obtain useful information about FTEs.
Published: 26 November 2005
We report the results of two XMM-Newton observations of the ultra-compact low-mass X-ray binary 4U 1850-087 located in the galactic globular cluster NGC6712. A broad emission feature at 0.7 keV was detected in an earlier ASCA observation and explained as the result of an unusual Ne/O abundance ratio in the absorbing material local to the source. We find no evidence for this feature and derive Ne/O ratios in the range 0.14-0.21, consistent with that of the interstellar medium. During the second observation, when the source was ~10% more luminous, there is some evidence for a slightly higher Ne/O ratio and additional absorption. Changes in the Ne/O abundance ratio have been detected from another ultra-compact binary, 4U 1543-624. We propose that these changes result from an X-ay induced wind which is evaporated from an O and Ne rich degenerate donor. As the source X-ray intensity increases so does the amount of evaporation and hence the column densities and abundance ratio of Ne and O.
Published: 21 November 2005
...Looking back over the events of the past year, 2004 was another great year for space science. The success of the Huygens probe and its exploration of the atmosphere and surface of Saturn's largest moon Titan is a mangnificent achievement for Europea science and technology. The Rosetta spacecraft launched on 2 March by an Ariane-5 from Kourou is now well into its 10-year flight to the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Smart-1, Europea's first lunar mission arraived in orbit around the Moon after its thirteen-month journey. Mars Express, which has been in polar orbit around mars since 2003, delivered stunning pictures of the planet's surface. Europe, the Agency and all of its Member States can be proud of these great schievements...
Per Tegnér, Chairman of Council
Published: 01 October 2005
  • Foreword
    - 4th Announcement of Opportunity (AO-4)
    - The INTEGRAL Users Group
  • INTEGRAL Mission Status
  • Science Highlights
  • Galactic Bulge Monitoring Program
  • Science Operations - Highlights
  • The ISOC Science Data Archive
  • The 6th INTEGRAL workshop
  • Outreach
  • ISOC now at ESAC
  • Contact INTEGRAL science operations
Published: 15 November 2005
This issue of the ESA Bulletin takes an in-depth look at the Venus Express mission. The successful launch, the mission, the spacecraft, the science return, as well as the ground segment and mission operations are featured.
Published: 15 November 2005

The Venus Entry Probe study is one of the European Space Agency's (ESA) technology reference studies. It aims to identify; the technologies required to develop a low-cost, science-driven mission for in-situ exploration of the atmosphere of Venus, and the philosophy that can be adopted. The mission includes a science gathering spacecraft in an elliptical polar Venus orbit, a relay satellite in highly elliptical Venus orbit, and an atmospheric entry probe delivering a long duration aerobot (aerial robot) which will drop several microprobes during its operational phase.

The atmospheric entry sequence is initiated at 120 km altitude and an entry velocity of 9.8 kms-1. Once the velocity has reduced to 15 ms-1 the aerobot is deployed. This consists of a gondola and balloon and has a floating mass of 32 kg (which includes 8 kg of science instruments and microprobes). To avoid Venus' crushing surface pressure and high temperature an equilibrium float altitude of around 55 km has been baselined. The aerobot will circumnavigate Venus several times over a 15-22 lifetime analysing the Venusian middle cloud layer. Science data will be returned at 2.5 kbps over the mission duration. At scientifically interesting locations 15 drop-sondes will be released.

This paper focuses on the final mission design with particular emphasis on system level trade-offs including the balloon and pressurisation system, communications architecture, power system, design for mission lifetime in a hostile and acidic environment. It discusses the system design, design drivers and presents an overview of the innovative mission-enabling and mission-enhancing technologies.

Published: 22 October 2005
23-May-2024 22:37 UT

ShortUrl Portlet

Shortcut URL