Science Results

Science Results

15 years after ESA's Giotto spacecraft achieved an historic close range reconnaissance of Comet Halley, another probe from Earth has successfully followed in its footsteps.
Published: 26 September 2001
This is such an unusual view of the impressive M16 nebula, also known as 'The Eagle', that even the most devoted sky-lovers will be surprised. It shows exactly what in the best known pictures of this famous nebula remains invisible: huge amounts of the cold dust that enshrouds newborn stars.
Published: 7 September 2001
ESA's four Cluster spacecraft continue to provide ground-breaking new information about the interaction between our nearest star - the Sun - and planet Earth. As they sail through the sea of plasma (electrons and protons) that fills near-Earth space, the identical instruments on the Cluster quartet are helping scientists to create the first three-dimensional views of this turbulent region.
Published: 30 August 2001
The vacuum of space is hardly a suitable habitat for birds, but someone tuning in to the signals detected by the Wide Band Data (WBD) experiment on ESA's Cluster spacecraft might be forgiven for thinking that this was not the case.
Published: 9 August 2001
An astronaut who exits a spacecraft without a spacesuit will die very quickly because there is no air to breathe. However, although space is often regarded as an airless vacuum, it is by no means empty. Spacecraft such as Cluster are built to detect and study the sparse 'soup' of electrified plasma - mostly electrons and protons - that populates near-Earth space.
Published: 25 June 2001
On 10 May, most of the instruments on board Ulysses recorded their highest readings during the ten and a half years that the spacecraft has been in orbit. The cause was a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME) which had left the Sun three days previously, heading towards the position in space that Ulysses was occupying at the time.
Published: 19 June 2001
Radio galaxies and quasars look different and have been traditionally classified as different objects. But for quite some time now, many astronomers have suspected that those differences are not real but are only apparent, a 'visual illusion' which arises because of our special observation point from the Earth.
Published: 22 May 2001
The search for water in space goes on. Using ESA's Infrared Space Observatory (ISO), Spanish and Italian astronomers have for the first time measured the total amount of water in cold regions of our galaxy. This is especially interesting because these regions are the birthplace of stars like the Sun, and Solar Systems like our own. These new measurements show that water is more abundant than expected - in fact it is the third most abundant molecule in the regions which were studied.
Published: 11 April 2001
An object that fell to Earth more than 136 years ago has revealed new clues about the origin of meteorites in space and new information about how life may have risen on the early Earth. The new study by astrobiologist Pascale Ehrenfreund and collaborators shows that the Orgueil meteorite, which fell in France in 1864, may be the first meteorite traced to a comet, rather than to an asteroid, the source widely believed to produce meteorites. The contents within Orgueil, the study says, may have been just the type of fundamental ingredients necessary to help generate life on Earth. Scientists have generally believed that a wide variety of amino acids were required for the origin of life on Earth. "Recent research suggests, however, that only a few types of simple amino acids may have been required, and that is exactly what was found to be present in Orgueil" .
Published: 1 March 2001
In the summer of 1999, millions of people across Europe peered upwards at the sky in an effort to see one of Nature's wonders - a total eclipse of the Sun. On 25 January, European engineers and scientists witnessed an eclipse of a different kind - the passage of four Cluster spacecraft through the outer part of the Moon's shadow.
Published: 11 February 2001
Luminous starburst galaxies are where a lot of young stars are currently forming. They come in two different varieties: starbursts where the star creation is spread evenly throughout the galaxy and those where it is concentrated at its nucleus. Sometimes activity at the centre is so intense that fantastic 'bubbles' are created giving rise to streams of hot gas, or 'superwinds'. XMM-Newton has recently gained new insights into one such starburst galaxy, NGC 253.
Published: 29 January 2001
The first issue this year of the European scientific journal "Astronomy and Astrophysics" has just been published. It is a 352-page bumper edition devoted entirely to ESA's XMM-Newton mission with no less than 56 papers describing the spacecraft, its instruments and particularly the scientific results that have been obtained since the X-ray observatory was launched just over a year ago.
Published: 25 January 2001
During solar maximum, when the Sun's activity is at a peak in its 11 year cycle, the polarity of its magnetic field changes: the north pole takes on the polarity of the south pole and vice versa. Now, for the first time ever, a spacecraft has witnessed this process from a front-row seat high above the Sun's south pole.
Published: 25 January 2001
The first 'ringed molecule' found around starsLife as we know it is based on the ability of the carbon atom to form ring-shaped molecules. But rings of carbon are not exclusive to Earth, as experts in space chemistry now know. A Spanish team of astronomers that observed with ESA's Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) report this week the first detection in interstellar space of benzene, the ring molecule par excellence. They think benzene is produced by stars at a specific stage of evolution, and that it is an essential chemical step towards the synthesis of more complex organic molecules whose true nature is still unclear -although their fingerprints are very conspicuous in the Universe. In industry, benzene is obtained from petroleum and has many uses.
Published: 21 January 2001
Studies of near-Earth space will never be the same again. For the first time in the history of space exploration, identical instruments on four spacecraft have begun to return simultaneous measurements of a region of space known as the bow shock.
Published: 14 January 2001
Astronomers have so far detected about 50 planets orbiting other stars. They are all giant, Jupiter-like planets, made mostly of gas, and their formation process is still unclear. ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, now sheds some light on this problem. Observing with ISO, a Dutch-US team of astronomers has detected a key ingredient for planet making in the faint disks of matter that surround three nearby stars: the gas molecular hydrogen. The discovery, published in the January 4th issue of Nature, is relevant because current theories about the formation of giant planets were built on the assumption that the gas was 'not' present in the kind of disks observed by ISO. These models will now have to be reviewed. They said, for instance, that Jupiter-like planets had to form in just a few million years, but the ISO result implies that the process can take up to 20 million years.
Published: 3 January 2001
Some 70 representatives of the international Cluster scientific communitycame together last week for the 35th Cluster Science Working Team at theEuropean Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.
Published: 3 December 2000
Ulysses has helped to set another record. On 31 January this year, the intrepid spacecraft detected the most distant gamma-ray burst ever recorded.Other spacecraft also picked up the burst, enabling astronomers to estimate its position in the sky using triangulation methods. A message was sent to ground-based telescopes and shortly afterwards the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile identified the optical counterpart - a rapidly-fading source of visible light in the southern constellation of Carina.
Published: 19 October 2000
Many new and tantalising results were discussed yesterday, during the third day of the 34th ESLAB symposium on the 3D heliosphere at solar maximum. Here is a selection:
Published: 5 October 2000
Its really exciting how different the solar wind is this time compared with the first orbit, David McComas from the Los Alamos National Laboratory told the 34th ESLAB symposium on the heliosphere yesterday morning. His observation was repeated by many of the speakers: however you look at the solar wind or corona, theres evidence of far more solar activity now than during Ulysses first south polar passage in 1994.
Published: 5 October 2000
28-Nov-2022 12:25 UT

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