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miércoles, 16 de abril de 2014

ESA : First radar vision for Copernicus

Brussels as the first image from Sentinel-1A
16 April 2014
Launched on 3 April, ESA’s Sentinel-1A satellite has already delivered its first radar images of Earth. They offer a tantalising glimpse of the kind of operational imagery that this new mission will provide for Europe’s ambitious Copernicus environmental monitoring programme.
Rather aptly, the first image shows Brussels in Belgium, the seat of the European Commission.
The European Commission leads the Copernicus programme and coordinates the broad range of services to improve the management of the environment and to safeguard everyday lives. ESA is responsible for developing the family of Sentinel satellites and for ensuring that the stream of data are available for these services.
This first image of Belgium was captured on 12 April, just one day after the satellite was put into its operational attitude, and demonstrates the potential of Sentinel-1A’s radar vision.
Since it was launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, Sentinel-1A has undertaken a complicated routine to deploy its 12-m long radar and two 10-m long solar wings, as well as passing a series of initial instrument checks.
The satellite is not yet in its operational orbit, nor is it calibrated for supplying true data. These tasks will be carried out during the commissioning phase, which will take about three months to complete. This preliminary set of images simply offer a taster of what’s to come.
Flooding in Namibia
However, they are an extremely pleasing taster as ESA’s Director of ESA’s Earth Observation Programmes, Volker Liebig, commented, “We are exceptionally happy with this first set of images.”
He continued, “We are in very early days of the satellite’s life in orbit and ground segment operations, but these images certainly demonstrate the calibre of data this advanced radar mission will bring from its different imaging modes, and how it will provide essential data for Copernicus services to benefit us all.”
The first image, which was acquired in the satellite’s ‘strip map’ mode with a swath width of 80 km, clearly captures the dense urban environment of Brussels shown in white in the middle of the picture. Antwerp can be seen in the top left in red –blue colours and the greens depict vegetation in the surrounding areas. Waterways and low-reflective areas such as airport runways appear black.
Among other applications, images such as this will be used for urban planning, for monitoring agriculture, for mapping deforestation and for managing water resources.
This first set of acquisitions also included an area in Namibia that is currently flooded by the Zambezi river (shown above right).
Although commissioning has only just begun, the team tasked the satellite to image the flood as would be routine in the case of an emergency when the mission is fully operational.
The images were then available in less than an hour once they had been received by the ground station.
Sentinel-1A’s ability to ‘see’ through cloud and rain and in pitch darkness make it particularly useful for monitoring floods and for offering images for emergency response. In fact, this area of the Caprivi
Pine Island and Thwaites Glaciers
 plain was shrouded in thick cloud when the satellite acquired the image on 13 April.
One of the images acquired on the same day focuses on Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica. This glacier is in a state of ‘irreversible retreat’ so it is important to keep a very close eye on glaciers such as these as they lose ice to the ocean.
Antarctica Peninsula
Another shows a transect over the northern part of the Antarctica Peninsula.
As well as monitoring glaciers, Sentinel-1A is poised to generate timely maps of sea-ice conditions, particularly for the increasingly busy Arctic waters. Images from its advanced radar can be used to distinguish clearly between the thinner more navigable first-year ice and the hazardous, much thicker multiyear ice to help assure safe year-round navigation in polar waters.
As these first images show, Sentinel-1A is already demonstrating the vital role it will play in the largest civil Earth observation programme ever conceived.
Guillermo Gonzalo Sánchez Achutegui
Inscríbete en el Foro del blog y participa : A Vuelo De Un Quinde - El Foro!

ESA : From red Mars to green Earth

Jolyon Tidmarsh with the sensor
14 April 2014
How can a sensor for analysing the atmosphere of Mars help us to cut greenhouse emissions on Earth? By going where no human or machine has been before.
Parts of our planet are so hostile they are unreachable. But if we are to understand Earth’s atmosphere it is vital we monitor factors such as gases around industrial chimneys and erupting volcanoes.
A new portable device created by the young space scientist Hugh Mortimer promises a greener future by readily analysing the composition of gases, solids and liquids using the light they emit.
Hugh and his partner Jolyon Tidmarsh are now hosted at ESA’s Business Incubation Centre in Harwell, UK, while they turn the invention into a commercial business.
More VMC images via ESA's Mars Webcam blog http://blogs.esa.int/vmc
Originally designed to fly on future Mars probes, this little device is so sturdy it can withstand some of the harshest conditions on Earth, making it ideal for measuring air quality and roadside vehicle emissions, detecting gas leaks and monitoring industrial chemical processes. Its size makes it especially suited to fly on aerial drones for mapping theground below or monitoring colour variations in crops for more efficient use of pesticides and fertilisers.
Over the rainbow
Such ‘spectroscopes’ split up incoming light into its individual colours, with the unique pattern revealing the composition of the source. On Earth, they are already commonplace in food production and industry to determine the composition and purity of substances, as well as in the medical world to ‘sniff’ a patient and help diagnose illness.
The problem is that they are bulky. In space, where weight equals money, this makes them expensive. Add their complex system of mirrors and moving parts and they are vulnerable to damage during launch, with plenty to go wrong in the hostile environment of space.
It was this need for a smaller, lighter device with fewer moving parts that drove a team at the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory to find a new design for analysing planetary atmospheres. In a lightbulb moment, PhD graduate Hugh came up with a ground-breaking approach.
Sketch of spectrometer
“I had been working with a spectrometer design that used a very complex optical arrangement and I really wanted to create something simpler,” he recalled. “I was sitting at the back of a meeting doodling when the idea came to me. I quickly sketched the new device and took it to colleagues in the Innovation Team of the Science and Technology Facilities Council.”
They could immediately see the potential of the design with only three static parts: two mirrors and an optical element that splits the light beam in two.
It was this lightweight and simple approach that made Hugh’s device unique, says Kate Ronayne, head of the Innovation Team. “Most Earth-based instruments are fixed in place because they’re large and fragile – you have to take your sample to the lab for analysis. This one, on the other hand, comes to you.
“You can take it anywhere and as long as it can ‘see’ its target, it can analyse it even from a distance.”
It can measure all kinds of light from ultraviolet to infrared. It is particularly sensitive because it was built to detect tiny traces of many different gases in the martian atmosphere in one sweep.
The team then began researching which businesses might benefit, with the support of STFC Innovation, the commer
Calibrating spectrometer
cial arm of STFC and the UK broker for ESA’s Technology Transfer Programme. In 2013 the KEIT company was created to investigate the commercial potential further.
KEIT development
KEIT is now hosted in ESA’s Harwell incubator, part of its Technology Transfer Programme. This support was instrumental in inspiringothers to invest and the company has now receivedearly funding from Longwall Ventures and the UK Rainbow Seed Fund to support the transition towards full commercialisation. Working in the incubator also meant thestart-up company hasaccess to STFCand ESA technical expertise.
The first unit is likely to be commercially available by July, promising a growing list ofapplications.
Apart from their environmental role in monitoring gas emissions from chimneys and helping industries adhere to environmental regulations, the devices could be instrumental in analysing water quality, or assisting industrial or laboratory-based research and development.
Food companies already use spectrometers but the versatility, stability and simplicity of the new design mean they could sit on any food or pharmaceutical production line to check, for example, the fat content of milk, or the origin and quality of whisky.
With its long list of applications here on Earth, there’s no question that the future of the sturdy little interferometer look s rosy.
Hugh Mortimer and Jolyon Tidmars
s rosy.
For a young scientist with a sketchpad, this is journey is just beginning. Although the focus right now is on the terrestrial applications, Hugh still reflects, “It’s my ambition to see this instrument used in space. Maybe on a future ESA or NASA mission to Mars. That would be great”
Guillermo Gonzalo Sánchez Achutegui
Inscríbete en el Foro del blog y participa : A Vuelo De Un Quinde - El Foro!

ESA: A tadpole's tale

The Tadpole and the Wriggler

The Tadpole and the Wriggler

A bright blue tadpole appears to swim through the inky blackness of space. Known as IRAS 20324+4057 but dubbed “the Tadpole”, this clump of gas and dust has given birth to a bright protostar, one of the earliest steps in building a star.
There are actually multiple protostars within this tadpole’s ‘head’, but the glowing yellow one in this image is the most luminous and massive. When this protostar has gathered together enough mass from its surroundings, it will eventually emerge as a fully-fledged young star.
The intense blue glow is caused by nearby stars firing ultraviolet radiation at IRAS 20324+4057, which also sculpts its tail into a long, wiggly shape. In total, this clump spans roughly a light-year from head to tail-tip, and contains gas weighing almost four times the mass of the Sun.
Framed against a background of distant stars, IRAS 20324+4057 is making its way through the Cygnus OB2 association, a loose cluster of stars some 4700 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus. This association is one of the largest clusters known, and is famed for its heavyweight members. It contains some of the hottest, most massive and most luminous stars known, some of which are some two million times more luminous than the Sun.
The Tadpole is not alone in this interstellar pond. Just out of view to the bottom right of this image lies another curious object dubbed “the Goldfish” by astronomers. The Goldfish is about half the length of IRAS 20324+4057, and is also thought to be a globule of gas that is being both lit up and sculpted by radiation from cluster stars.
Completing this trio is a small clump of blue gas, informally nicknamed “the Wriggler” by some astronomers, visible in the bottom left of this Hubble image. All three objects have the same orientation in the sky and appear to be brighter on their northern sides, leading astronomers to believe they are being shaped by aggressive winds and radiation flowing from hot Cygnus OB2 stars towards the top right of the frame.
This image was originally released in August 2013 at the Hubble Heritage website.

Versión en español:

The Tadpole and the Wriggler
The Tadpole and the Wriggler

La oruga y la larva

14 abril 2014
Esta imagen del Telescopio Espacial Hubble parece una oruga azul brillante moviéndose sobre la oscuridad del espacio. En el interior de este cúmulo de polvo y gas, conocido como IRAS 20324+4057 pero apodado “la Oruga”, ha nacido una brillante protoestrella.
En realidad hay varias protoestrellas en la ‘cabeza’ de la Oruga, pero la amarilla es la más luminosa y masiva. Cuando esta protoestrella haya acumulado una masa suficiente, emergerá como una joven estrella hecha y derecha.
El intenso brillo de color azul del cúmulo está provocado por la radiación ultravioleta emitida por las estrellas en los alrededores de IRAS 20324+4057, que también es la responsable de la forma larga y ondulada de su ‘cola’. Este cúmulo abarca aproximadamente un año luz de cabeza a cola, y contiene una masa de gas equivalente a cuatro veces la de nuestro Sol.
IRAS 20324+4057 parece estar abriéndose camino a través de la asociación estelar Cygnus OB2, un cúmulo difuso situado a unos 4.700 años luz de la Tierra, en la constelación del Cisne. Esta asociación es uno de los cúmulos más grandes del Universo conocido, y es famoso por las grandes estrellas que habitan en su interior. Cygnus OB2 alberga a algunas de las estrellas más calientes, masivas y luminosas que se conocen, algunas de las cuales presentan una luminosidad dos millones de veces superior a la del Sol.
La Oruga no está sola en este jardín interestelar. Fuera del marco de esta imagen, hacia la esquina inferior derecha, se encuentra otro curioso objeto bautizado por los astrónomos como “la Carpa”. La extensión de este segundo cúmulo es aproximadamente la mitad de la de IRAS 20324+4057, y se piensa que también está siendo iluminado y esculpido por la radiación emitida por las estrellas de la región.
Completando el trío se encuentra otro pequeño cúmulo de color azul, conocido coloquialmente como “la Larva”, que se puede distinguir en la esquina inferior izquierda de esta imagen. Los tres objetos tienen la misma orientación en el firmamento y parecen ser más brillantes en su cara norte, lo que sugiere que están siendo moldeados por la radiación y los fuertes vientos emitidos por las estrellas más calientes de Cygnus OB2, situadas en la esquina superior derecha de la imagen.
Guillermo Gonzalo Sánchez Achutegui
Inscríbete en el Foro del blog y participa : A Vuelo De Un Quinde - El Foro!