ESA Science & Technology - Publication Archive
In the high-latitude regions of Earth, aurorae are the often-spectacular visual manifestation of the interaction between electrically charged particles (electrons, protons or ions) with the neutral upper atmosphere, as they precipitate along magnetic field lines. More generally, auroral emissions in planetary atmospheres "are those that result from the impact of particles other than photoelectrons". Auroral activity has been found on all four giant planets possessing a magnetic field (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune), as well as on Venus, which has no magnetic field. On the nightside of Venus, atomic O emissions at 130.4nm and 135.6nm appear in bright patches of varying sizes and intensities, which are believed to be produced by electrons with energy <300eV. Here we report the discovery of an aurora in the martian atmosphere, using the ultraviolet spectrometer SPICAM on board Mars Express. It corresponds to a distinct type of aurora not seen before in the Solar System: it is unlike aurorae at Earth and the giant planets, which lie at the foot of the intrinsic magnetic field lines near the magnetic poles, and unlike venusian auroras, which are diffuse, sometimes spreading over the entire disk. Instead, the martian aurora is a highly concentrated and localized emission controlled by magnetic field anomalies in the martian crust.
Published: 10 June 2005
The European Space Agency has a strong track record and plenty of ambition to propel it into its next 30 years, says Giovanni Bignami. But key decisions must be made in the context of a new Europe.
Published: 03 June 2005
The cold dark matter model has become the leading theoretical picture for the formation of structure in the Universe. This model, together with the theory of cosmic inflation, makes a clear prediction for the initial conditions for structure formation and predicts that structures grow hierarchically through gravitational instability. Testing this model requires that the precise measurements delivered by galaxy surveys can be compared to robust and equally precise theoretical calculations. Here we present a simulation of the growth of dark matter structure using 2160³ particles, following them from redshift z = 127 to the present in a cube-shaped region 2230 billion lightyears on a side. In postprocessing, we also follow the formation and evolution of the galaxies and quasars. We show that baryon-induced features in the initial conditions of the Universe are reflected in distorted form in the low-redshift galaxy distribution, an effect that can be used to constrain the nature of dark energy with future generations of observational surveys of galaxies.
Published: 03 June 2005
The generation of anomalous collision rate and resistivity by lower-hybrid drift waves is investigated. A general expression involving particle density and current perturbations and electromagnetic field fluctuations is used to estimate the effective collision frequency. Results of Vlasov-code simulations and Cluster spacecraft measurements suggest that electrostatic and electromagnetic fluctuations provide approximately equal contributions to the electron collision rate, which is of the order of the lower-hybrid frequency. The anomalous resistivity based on such collision rate could be significant for the large-scale plasma dynamics in Earth's magnetosphere, such as magnetic reconnection.
Published: 03 June 2005
The main goals and present status of the Solar Orbiter mission are briefly described. Solar Orbiter will determin in-situ the properties of fields and particles in the unexplored near-Sun heliosphere in three dimensions, investigate remotely the fine-scale structures and events in the magnetically coupled layers of the Sun's atmosphere, identify througfh near corotation the links between activity on the solar surface and the resulting evolution of the inner heliosphere, and observe from relatively high latitudes the polar regions and equatorial corona. Some results from recent activities, such as industrial studies, payload working group meetings, science definition team meetings and ESA internal studies are briefly reviewed. Solar Orbiter is currently planned for launch in October 2013.
Published: 02 May 2005
The two Reflection Grating Spectrometers on board ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray satellite are designed to perform high resolution X-ray spectroscopy in the range [0.3-2.1] keV. The most-commonly used operation mode for scientific observations with the RGS is the Spectroscopy Mode. It includes on-board thresholds, hot pixel and column rejection using look-up tables and rejection of cosmic events. In Diagnostic Mode, this on-board data processing is completely by-passed and full images of the CCDs are transferred to ground. These data are then used for dark current, system noise level calibration and hot pixel / column detection. Diagnostic images are also normally obtained during Spectroscopy observations interleaved at a low frequency. We have developed IDL based interactive tools for Diagnostic data analysis, with the main aims of establishing system noise calibration and hot pixel and columns detection, as well as for instrument health monitoring purposes. The RGS Diagnostic Tools can be run individually on single diagnostic images, but are mostly used in batch mode per revolution for populating a database. Interactive analysis and batch tools then interact with the database for parameter extraction and temporal analysis. The Tools produce also several graphical and numerical outputs, which are used on a web-based integrated system for fast diagnostic and trend monitoring. In addition IDL tools are available for the monitoring of the quality of the science data in spectroscopy mode. Data from the onboard calibration source is extracted and used to monitor the gain and contamination of the instrument. These tools build also a database to monitor long term changes in the instrument response.
Published: 02 May 2005
A light echo around SN 1993J was observed 8.2 yr after explosion by a Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 observation, adding to the small family of supernovae with light echoes. The light echo was formed by supernova light scattered from a dust sheet that lies 220 pc away from the supernova, 50 pc thick along the line of sight, as inferred from the radius and width of the light echo. The dust inferred from the light echo surface brightness is 1000 times denser than the intercloud dust. The graphite-to-silicate fraction cannot be determined by our BVI photometric measurements. However, a pure graphite model can be excluded on the basis of comparison with the data. With future observations, it will be possible to measure the expansion rate of the light echo, from which an independent distance to M81 can be obtained.
Published: 15 January 2003
Brown dwarfs and giant gas planets are substellar objects whose spectral appearance is determined by the chemical composition of the gas and the solids/liquids in the atmosphere. Atmospheres of substellar objects possess two major scale regimes: large-scale convective motions + gravitational settling and small-scale turbulence + dust formation. Turbulence initiates dust formation spot-like on small scale, while the dust feeds back into the turbulent fluid field by its strong radiative cooling. Small, imploding dust containing areas result which eventually become isothermal. Multi-dimensional simulations show that these small-scale dust structures gather into large-scale structures, suggesting the formation of clouds made of dirty dust grains. The chemical composition of the grains, and thereby the chemical evolution of the gas phase, is a function of temperature and depends on the grains history.
Published: 02 May 2005
We present a relation between EUV flux and strength of the He I 10830 A line in active cool stars. The metastable lower level of the Helium 10830 line is believed to be populated by recombination following photoionization of neutral Helium present in the upper chromosphere. The EUV flux radiated in the corona (the ionization edge of He I is at 24.58 eV, or 504.27 A) is responsible for the photoionization. For the first time, we have measured the EUV flux in active stars directly using the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer (EUVE) to verify a relation to the strength of the He I absorption, measured with the SOFIN echelle spectrograph (R~170000) on the Nordic Optical Telescope. The He I absorption increases with the EUV flux, displaying two different relations, one for subgiants and dwarfs, and another one for giants, which has stronger absorption. The presence of emission and chromospheric acceleration observed in the He 10830 line profiles will be also discussed.
Published: 02 September 2005
A free format discussion session was held following the presentations by Lee Hartmann, Karen Bjorkman, Georges Meynet and Keith MacGregor. Several subjects were discussed and debated during this session: a) The origin of the mass in the disks of Be stars that needs to be replenished on time scales of one to a few decades. b) The nature and cause of the hot plasmas and associated X-rays that arise from disks. c) The origin of magnetic fields that may play a role in providing angular momentum and mass to disks. d) The dissipation of primordial fields. e) The processes and time scales on which disks can be lost. The discussion then turns to specific properties of the disks around emission line Be stars: the fraction of B stars that may have emission line phases and the rotation rate relative to the maximal Keplerian rate of the Be stars.
Published: 02 May 2005
The massive star that underwent a collapse of its core to produce supernova (SN)1993J was subsequently identified as a non-variable red supergiant star in images of the galaxy M81 taken before explosion. It showed an excess in ultraviolet and B-band colours, suggesting either the presence of a hot, massive companion star or that it was embedded in an unresolved young stellar association. The spectra of SN1993J underwent a remarkable transformation from the signature of a hydrogen-rich type II supernova to one of a helium-rich (hydrogen-deficient) type Ib. The spectral and photometric peculiarities were best explained by models in which the 13-20 solar mass supergiant had lost almost its entire hydrogen envelope to a close binary companion, producing a 'type IIb' supernova, but the hypothetical massive companion stars for this class of supernovae have so far eluded discovery. Here we report photometric and spectroscopic observations of SN1993J ten years after the explosion. At the position of the fading supernova we detect the unambiguous signature of a massive star: the binary companion to the progenitor.
Published: 08 January 2004
We show that one can obtain a good fit to the measured main sequence mass function (MF) of a large sample of Galactic clusters (young and old) with a tapered Salpeter power law distribution function with an exponential truncation. The average value of the power law index is very close to Salpeter (~2.3), whereas the characteristic mass is in the range 0.1 - 0.5 Msolar and does not seem to vary in a systematic way with the present cluster parameters such as metal abundance and central concentration. However, a remarkable correlation with age is seen, in that the peak mass of young clusters increases with it. This trend does not extend to globular clusters, whose peak mass is firmly at ~0.35 Msolar. This correlation is due to the onset of mass segregation following early dynamical interactions in the loose cluster cores. Differences between globular and younger clusters may depend on the initial environment of star formation, which in turn affects their total mass.
Published: 02 May 2005
This article is based on a talk given by Professor Martin Huber to the Pro ISSI.
Published: 02 May 2005
I have developed an automated slitless-spectrum extraction software package that allows for the simultaneous obtention of hundreds of point-source spectra within a field. MULTISPEC is an spectroscopic analog to crowded-field PSF-fitting photometry packages such as DAOPHOT or HSTPHOT in the sense that it fits spatial profiles to the spectrum of each star simultaneously. The code has been written in IDL, and implemented and tested for the STIS NUV-MAMA objective-prism. It could be rather easily adapted to observations with other spectral elements with slitless capabilities (objective prisms, grisms, and gratings) in HST or in other telescopes. I discuss the techniques employed and I show the first results obtained with MULTISPEC.
Published: 02 May 2005
We report the results of a series of synchrotron characterizations of two epitaxial GaAs detectors of active areas 2.22 mm² and thicknesses 40 and 400 microns. In spite of an order of magnitude difference in depletion depths, the detectors were found to have comparable performances at ~ -40 °C, with energy resolutions of ~1 keV fwhm at 7 keV rising to ~2 keV fwhm at 200 keV and noise floors in the range 1-1.5 keV. At the lower energies, the energy resolution was dominated by leakage current and electromagnetic pick-up. At the highest energies, however, the measured resolutions appear to approach the expected Fano limit; e.g., ~950 eV at 200 keV. Both detectors were remarkably linear, with average rms non-linearities of 0.2% over the energy range 10-60 keV. By raster scanning the active areas with 20 x 20 micron² monoenergetic photon beams, it was found that the non-uniformity in the spatial response of both detectors was less than 1% and independent of energy. The material used to fabricate the detector is extremely pure. For example, low temperature photoluminescence measurements indicate that the density of the As anti-site defect (EL2) is of the order of 1012 cm-3, which is ~ 2-3 orders of magnitude lower than that generally reported. This indirect measurement of material purity is confirmed by Monte-Carlo simulations of the detector X-ray response, which show that in order to reproduce the observed energy-loss spectra, electron and hole trapping cross-section/density products must be <<1 cm-1.
Published: 16 October 1999
Using the Long Wavelength Spectrometer on board the Infrared Space Observatory, we have observed thermal water vapor emission from a roughly circular field of view approximately 750 in diameter centered on the Orion BN-KL region. The Fabry-Perot line strengths, line widths, and spectral line shifts observed in eight transitions between 71 and 125 mm show good agreement with models of thermal emission arising from a molecular cloud subjected to a magnetohydrodynamic C-type shock. Both the breadth and the relative strengths of the observed lines argue for emission from a shock rather than from warm quiescent gas in the Orion core. Although one of the eight transitions appears anomalously strong and may be subject to the effects of radiative pumping, the other seven indicate an H2O/H2 abundance ratio on the order of and a 5x10-4 corresponding gas-phase oxygen-to-hydrogen abundance ratio on the order of 4x10-4. Given current estimates of the interstellar, gas-phase, oxygen and carbon abundances in the solar vicinity, this value is consistent with theoretical shock models that predict the conversion into water of all the gas-phase oxygen that is not bound as CO. The overall cooling provided by rotational transitions of H2O in this region appears to be comparable to the cooling through rotational lines of CO but is an order of magnitude lower than cooling through H2 emission. However, the model that best fits our observations shows cooling by H2O and CO dominant in that portion of the postshock region where temperatures are below ~800 K and neither vibrational nor rotational radiative cooling by H is appreciable.
Published: 21 April 1998
We present the analysis of serendipitous sources in a deep, 500 ks, hard X-ray observation of the Coma Cluster region with the IBIS instrument on board INTEGRAL. In addition to the Coma Cluster, the final 20-50 keV image contains 12 serendipitous sources with statistical significance >4 sigma. We use these data (after correcting for expected number of false detections) to extend the extragalactic source counts in the 20-50 keV energy band down to a limiting flux of 1.0x10-11 ergs s-1 cm-2 (~=1 mcrab). This is a more than a factor of 10 improvement in sensitivity compared to the previous results in this energy band obtained with the HEAO 1 A-4 instrument. The derived source counts are consistent with the Euclidean relation N(>f)~f-3/2. A large fraction of identified serendipitous sources are low-redshift, z<0.02, active galactic nuclei (AGNs), mostly of Seyfert 1 type. The surface density of hard X-ray sources is (1.4+/-0.5)x10-2 deg-2 above a flux threshold of 10-11 ergs s-1 cm-2. These sources directly account for ~3% of the cosmic X-ray background in the 20-50 keV energy band. Given the low redshift depth of our sample, we expect that similar sources at higher redshifts account for a significant fraction of the hard X-ray background. Our field covers only 3% of the sky; a systematic analysis of other extragalactic INTEGRAL observations can produce much larger source samples and is, therefore, critically important.
Published: 21 May 2005
Photographs of the martian surface are undeniably beautiful, but uncovering the truth behind the sinuous river beds and suggestive gullies is not easy. Spacecraft and rover missions have turned up plenty of evidence that water once flowed on Mars, but today the planet's surface is bone dry. There is water ice at the poles and hints of a frozen sea near the equator - but any large reservoirs of water are likely to be kilometres down where conditions are warmer. So the hunt for liquid water, which might provide a habitat for martian life, has gone underground.
Published: 20 May 2005
On 10 December 2004, it was five years since ESA's XMM-Newton observatory was successfully put into orbit. It is therefore time to stand back and ask where we stand with the scientific results and what new perspectives the mission has brought us. The answers are to be found in more than 700 publications in the refereed literature and the manifold oversubscription for every observing Announcement of Opportunity for the mission.
Published: 16 May 2005
Through coupled thermal and orbital calculations including a full description of tidal dissipation, heat transfer and the H2ONH3 phase diagram, we propose a model for the internal structure and composition of Titan testable with Cassini Huygens measurements. The high value of Titan's orbital eccentricity provides a strong constraint on the amount of the tidal energy dissipation on its surface and within its interior since its formation. We show that only models with a few percent of ammonia (and not zero) in the primordial liquid water shell can limit the damping of the eccentricity over the age of the Solar System. The present models predict that a liquid ammonia-rich water layer should still be present within Titan under an ice I layer, a few tens of kilometers thick. Furthermore, we predict that any event linked to convective processes in the ice Ih layer (like the degassing of methane) could have occurred very late in Titan's history.
Published: 16 June 2005
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