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New high-res images of fiery La Palma volcanic eruption
Thursday, October 15, 2021: New high-resolution satellite images reveal lava rivers spilling from the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma as the devastating eruption shows no signs of stopping nearly a month after it started.
The images, captured by a satellite of the U.S. Earth observation company Maxar Technologies on Thursday (Oct. 14), show the thick plume of smoke rising from the crater, forming a dark heavy cloud above the island. Glowing streams of lava flow down the flank of the mountain range towards the coast.
The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute (Involcan) shared terrifying footage from the ground on Friday (Oct. 15), showing a fast moving stream of scorching lava running past abandoned buildings.
"One of our crews was able to film a real lava "tsunami" today," Involcan tweeted. " Impressive speed and overflow of the lava channel."
But the infernal spectacle is far from entertaining for locals. According to the European Union's Copernicus Emergency Monitoring Service, 1,548 buildings have perished in the boiling lava since the beginning of the eruption on Sept. 19. More than 2.6 square miles (6.7 square kilometers) of land have been submerged while the volcano keeps spewing more lava without a pause.
The cloud of sulfur dioxide emitted by the volcano is spreading over Europe, reaching altitudes of up to 3.1 miles (5 kilometers), according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). It is expected to cross Europe from west to east over the coming days, CAMS senior scientist Mark Parrington said on Twitter. -- Tereza Pultarova
Captain Kirk in awe of planet Earth
Thursday, October 14, 2021: Hollywood actor William Shatner who portrayed Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series in the 1960s enjoys the view from the Blue Shepard capsule during his suborbital space trip in this image released by Blue Origin on Thursday (Oct. 14).
Shatner, who became the oldest person ever to fly to space at age 90, was reduced to tears by the experience.
"What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine," Shatner told Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin, which flew the actor to space on their second crewed flight on Wednesday (Oct. 13) "I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened ... it's extraordinary."
Shatner was accompanied for his space ride by Glen de Vries, vice chair for life sciences and healthcare at the French software company Dassault Systèmes and Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of the Earth-observation company Planet. Also with them was Audrey Powers, Blue Origin's vice president of mission and flight operations. -- Tereza Pultarova
Brain of spacecraft that will return humans to moon heads to U.S.
Wednesday, October 13, 2021: The Europe-built service module for the Orion spacecraft that will take humans to the moon in 2023 has departed Germany for Kennedy Space Center to commence integration with the crew capsule.
The European Service Module for the Artemis II mission, the first with human crew on board, was built by a consortium of European companies led by aerospace giant Airbus. The module, which has been assembled in the city of Bremen in the north of Germany, was loaded into an Antonov aircraft on Wednesday (Oct. 13) and dispatched to the U.S. for integration with the Orion crew capsule at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Once the two components are mated together, the spacecraft will undergo extensive testing ahead of its launch to the historical trip to the moon, which is now scheduled for September 2023.
The European Service Module provides propulsion and power for the spacecraft but also handles life support and thermal control for the four astronauts inside the capsule. The first Europe-built Orion service module is currently waiting for its debut trip without a crew, which is expected to take place later this year or in early 2022. -- Tereza Pultarova
James Webb Telescope arrives at launch site
Tuesday, October 12, 2021: The James Webb Telescope has arrived in French Guiana today aboard the MN Colibri cargo ship after a 1,500-mile (2,400 kilometers) voyage from California.
James Webb, the largest and most complex space science observatory ever built, survived 16 days at sea sealed inside a custom-built, environmentally controlled container.
The telescope will now be transported to the European Spaceport in Kourou to begin preparations for its Dec. 18 launch atop an Ariane 5 rocket.
The telescope's journey started on Sept. 24 when it departed the facilities of aerospace company Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, accompanied by a police escort. It was driven through the streets of Los Angeles to Naval Weapons Sea Beach where it was loaded onto the MN Colibri.
The ship then sailed down the Pacific coast of central America to Panama, where it slipped through the Panama Canal into the Caribbean Sea and down the coast of Venezuela to its destination.
The telescope, a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, was conceived in the early 1990s as a successor of the legendary Hubble Space Telescope. Once operational, Webb will look into the most distant universe and reveal unprecedented information about the earliest phases of its evolution. It will also search for habitable worlds around other stars and attempt to answer some of the longstanding questions about the physics governing the universe, such as proving the existence of dark matter.
"The James Webb Space Telescope is a colossal achievement, built to transform our view of the universe and deliver amazing science," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. "Webb will look back over 13 billion years to the light created just after the big bang, with the power to show humanity the farthest reaches of space that we have ever seen. We are now very close to unlocking mysteries of the cosmos, thanks to the skills and expertise of our phenomenal team.! -- Tereza Pultarova
Giant dust devil whirls across Martian plains
Monday, October 11, 2021: A dust devil whirling across the surface of Mars' Amazonis Planitia can be seen in this image taken by the European/Russian ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter in May this year.
The false-color composite photo, taken by the satellite's CaSSIS camera, shows the wind vortex in blue and its trail.
Dust devils frequently form in late spring and summer in Amazonis Planitia, one of the smoothest areas of Mars, which is located north of the planet's northern tropic. The mechanism behind the dust devil formation on Mars is the same as on Earth, except that those on Mars can grow into sizes much greater than the most damaging tornadoes on Earth. In some cases, they can reach up to 5 miles (8 kilometers) high.
The Amazonis Planitia can give rise to several dust devils every afternoon during the warm season. As the sun's rays warm the ground, the hotter air starts to rise from the surface creating an updraft. The cooler air from above sinks down to fill the place of the hot air, triggering a vertical vortex. When this vortex interacts with a horizontal gust of wind, a travelling dust devil forms. When the speed of the vertical vortex accelerates enough, the rising air starts lifting up dust from the surface, creating a visible trail, or a dust track, in its wake.
This image, taken on May 19 this year, which is the middle of spring on the northern hemisphere of Mars, was released by the European Space Agency (ESA) on Monday (Oct. 11) -- Tereza Pultarova
New images reveal scale of La Palma eruption
Friday, October 8, 2021: New satellite images of the Spanish island of La Palma reveal a broad swath of lava flowing down the flank of the erupting Cumbre Vieja volcano into the Atlantic Ocean where a new peninsula has formed since the lava reached the coast last week.
The images, taken on Thursday (Oct. 7) by satellites of U.S. Earth observation company Maxar Technologies, provide a natural-color view of the scene.
The eruption, which started on Sept. 19, has already destroyed more than a thousand buildings. The European Copernicus Earth observation program reports that the sulfur dioxide plume from the volcano has already spread to the U.K. and is about to reach the Caribbean. -- Tereza Pultarova
Ship tracks in the Pacific Ocean from space
Thursday, October 7, 2021: A Weather forecasting satellite captures the formation of ship tracks in the atmosphere above the northern Pacific Ocean.
The false-color imagery, captured by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) West satellite operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Oct 5 and 6, reveals moving streaks above the ocean surface, which are caused by aerosol particles from the ship exhaust. These aerosol particles act as cloud condensation nuclei around which moisture from the atmosphere can condense.
First observed in 1965, ship tracks help scientists study how human-made emissions affect the climate, which is difficult to study in polluted urban areas. -- Tereza Pultarova
Cyclone dumps year's worth of rain in Arabian desert
Wednesday, October 6, 2021: Coastal desert areas along the Gulf of Oman can be seen submerged in water after Cyclone Shaheen dumped a year's worth of rain on the area earlier this week.
The two images taken by the European Copernicus Sentinel-2A and Sentinel-2B satellites on Sept. 30 and Oct. 5 show the coast of Oman in the north-eastern parts of the Arabian Peninsula before and after the deluge.
Shaheen, the first cyclone in history to hit Oman originally formed above the Bay of Bengal as Cyclone Gulab and brought heavy rain to northeast India. It then disintegrated while crossing the Indian sub-continent only to reform again above the warm Arabian Sea. The revitalized tropical storm, renamed as Shaheen, then made landfall on Sunday (Oct. 3) near the town of al-Khaburah, west of Oman's capital Muscat, accompanied by 150 km/h winds.
According to Yale Climate Connection, Shaheen dumped more than one year's worth of rain on the area, causing widespread flooding along the coast. The city of Al-Marat, where the average annual rainfall amounts to some 3.5 inches (90 millimeters) per year, reported 14.5 inches (369 millimeters) of rain.
At least 13 people have died in the floods and ensuing landslides. Shaheen is moving further to the west and disintegrating. It is still expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds to the United Arab Emirates where residents in several areas have been advised to stay indoors. -- Tereza Pultarova
Russian actress headed to International Space Station
Tuesday, October 5, 2021: Russian actress Yulia Peresild strapped inside the Soyuz capsule shortly before the launch to the International Space Station on Tuesday at 4:55 a.m. EDT (0855 GMT).
Peresild and movie director Klim Shipenko are the first professional film makers to visit the orbital outpost. During their two-week stay, they will film a movie called The Challenge. The film's plot involves an astronaut getting a heart attack during a space walk and a surgeon being sent to the space station to perform emergency surgery before the stricken space farer could be returned to Earth.
The two artists launched to the space station with veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket that was specially decorated for the movie.
Peresild and Shipenko will return to Earth with cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky on Oct. 17. To accommodate the film, the stays of Russian cosmonaut Peter Dubrov and NASA astronaut Vande Hei stays were extended for another six months. They will land with Shkaplerov in March, after 365 days in space. Vande Hei will have completed the single longest spaceflight by an astronaut in U.S. history. -- Tereza Pultarova
Satellite watches first ever cyclone bring flash floods to Arabian desert
Monday, October 4, 2021: The first cyclone in history bringing flash floods to the desert-covered Arabian Peninsula is seen in this video captured by a European weather forecasting satellite.
The cyclone, called Shaheen, originally formed above the Bay of Bengal as Cyclone Gulab and brought heavy rain to northeast India. It then disintegrated while crossing the sub-continent only to reform again above the warm Arabian Sea as Cyclone Shaheen.
The cyclone, captured in this video by the European Meteosat satellite, made landfall yesterday in North West Oman, bringing torrential rain and up to 93 mph (150 km/h) winds to the country's capital Muscat, where it killed at least four people. The storm brought about 500 mm of rain in a few hours where usual annual rain averages amount to less than 100 mm per year.
The cyclone now began to disintegrate again but is still expected to cause disruption as it moves westward through the Gulf of Oman toward the United Arab Emirates.
According to meteorologists, only four tropical storms since 1950, made landfall in Oman but none has made it this far into the Gulf of Oman while maintaining such an intensity. -- Tereza Pultarova
Typhoon Mindulle looks pretty from space but is actually wreaking havoc in Japan
Friday, October 1, 2021: The creamy swirl of Typhoon Mindulle can be seen in this image taken by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide from the International Space Station.
Mindulle, also called Typhoon No. 16, brought strong winds and heavy rain to the Pacific coast of eastern Japan on Friday (Oct.1), causing disruption to airlines and train services, according to local media.
"Typhoon No. 16 approaches Japan. Everyone, please be careful," Hoshide tweeted early in the morning on Friday.
With sustained winds of nearly 75 mph (120 km/h) and gusts of up to 95 mph (150 km/h), Mindulle will move further to the north over the weekend and will continue affecting weather in the northeast of Japan in the upcoming days. -- Tereza Pultarova
Asteroid explorer Lucy prepared for launch
Thursday, September 30, 2021: NASA's asteroid explorer Lucy is being encapsulated into a rocket fairing ahead of its launch on Oct. 16.
Lucy is the first spacecraft ever to explore the so-called Trojan asteroids, space rocks orbiting the sun in the orbit of Jupiter. The spacecraft, named after a fossilized australopithecus skeleton and a Beatles song, will embark on its 12-year journey from Cape Canaveral atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
During its landmark mission, Lucy will study up close eight different asteroids. Before it reaches its destination, it will take a close-up look at a space rock named Donaldjohanson, after the anthropologist that discovered the famous Lucy skeleton. Lucy will zoom past Donaldjohanason, located in the main asteroid belt between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter, in 2025.
In 2027, it will finally reach the orbit of Jupiter and commence its tour of the Trojan asteroids. -- Tereza Pultarova
First images of International Space Station with Nauka module released by Roscosmos
Wednesday, September 29, 2021: The first images of the International Space Station with the Nauka module attached, taken during a relocation of the Russian Soyuz capsule on Tuesday (Sept. 28), have been released by the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos.
Cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who piloted the Soyuz capsule during the relocation, shared the images on Twitter on Wednesday (Sept. 29).
"Yesterday, we re-docked the Soyuz MS-18 manned spacecraft from the Rassvet module to the new Nauka module," Novitsky said. "All according to plan! We managed to take unique images of the ISS in the new configuration."
Cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov took the images and a short video during the 40-minute relocation maneuver designed to free room on the Rassvet module for the Soyuz MS-19 capsule that will bring a Russian actress and a film director to the orbital outpost next week. The cosmonauts had to make a brief detour that took them 380 feet (120 meters) above the U.S. segment of the station to take the overview shots. -- Tereza Pultarova
Weather satellite captures launch of NASA's new Earth-watching spacecraft
Tuesday, September 28, 2021: The Goes 17 weather-forecasting satellite captured the moment when an Atlas V rocket with NASA's new Earth observation spacecraft Landsat 9 aboard lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Monday (Sept. 27).
Perched 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth's surface with a stable view of the American continent, Goes 17, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, detected the streak created by the rocket as it sped through Earth's atmosphere in its water vapor channel.
Landsat 9 will be the ninth and most advanced satellite to study Earth from above for the Landsat program, a joint effort by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that has provided constant imagery of our planet for nearly 50 years. It carries a high-resolution camera and a sensitive infrared sensor that together can image the Earth across 11 spectral bands and resolve objects down to about 50 feet (15 meters) wide. The satellite should orbit the Earth at an altitude of about 438 miles (705 kilometers) over the planet's poles. -- Tereza Pultarova
Space tourists planting trees before trip to space station
Monday, September 24, 2021: Russian actress Yulia Peresild and movie director Klim Shippenko plant trees at Russia's Cosmodrome Baikonur in Kazakhstan as part of a preflight ritual in an image shared by Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov on Twitter today (Sept.27).
Peresild and Schippenko will spend three weeks at the International Space Station filming a movie called The Challenge. They are scheduled to launch on Oct. 5 together with Shkaplerov on board Russia's Soyuz MS-19. They are expected to return to Earth on Oct. 17 with the current ISS commander Oleg Novitskiy.
"Eight days before launch: all crews strictly follow preflight traditions," Shkaplerov said in the Tweet. "One of them is related to the Alley of Cosmonauts, which is located next to Site 17 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. First-timers plant a tree, and today was the turn of Yulia Peresild and Klim Shippenko."
Shkaplerov will remain on the orbital outpost until March next year. -- Tereza Pultarova
ExoMars orbiter provides glimpse into Mars' geological history
Friday, September 24, 2021: Layers of deposits inside a Martian crater can be seen in this image captured by the European Space Agency's (ESA) ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, providing a glimpse into the geological history of the planet and the erosion processes on its surface.
The image, captured on April 21 this year and released on Sept. 24, shows sediments inside the 30-mile-wide (50 km) crater located near the planet's equator which was likely created by an asteroid impact.
The lower layers of dark sand contrast with the brighter wind-eroded sedimentary rocks on top. In places faults created in past surface fractures cut through the layers creating gaps.
The ExoMars Trace Gas orbiter arrived at Mars in 2016 together with the Schiaparelli lander, which crashed during an unsuccessful landing attempt due to a computer glitch. In addition to imaging the planet's surface with its CaSSIS camera, the orbiter also samples Mars' atmosphere with unprecedented accuracy. The orbiter will also serve as a communication node connecting the ESA/Roscosmos Rosalind Franklin rover with Earth. The rover, which has been delayed several times, is now scheduled for launch next September. -- Tereza Pultarova
Day and night on Earth on autumnal equinox 2021
Thursday, September 23, 2021: The planet Earth seen on the Autumnal Equinox on Wednesday (Sept. 22) from 22,000 miles away by a European weather forecasting satellite.
The image, taken at 18:00 UTC, shows the planet split in equal halves along its north-south axis. While the eastern half, including most of Africa and Europe, is already submerged in the dark, the Atlantic Ocean and Americas are bathed in sunlight.
On the equinox, which happens twice a year, the Earth's axis, tilted by 23.5 degrees with respect to the plane in which the planet orbits, appears perpendicular with respect to the sun. As a result of that, the Southern and Northern hemispheres receive the exact same amount of sunlight. The day is a perfect 12-hours long all over the globe on these two days. The Autumnal Equinox marks the beginning of the fall and winter seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. The day will continue to shrink and with it, colder weather will arrive. In the Southern Hemisphere, the situation is exactly opposite. The next annual astronomical milestone, the Winter Solstice, will take place on Dec. 21. From that day on, the length of the day in the Northern Hemisphere will start to creep up again. It will match the length of the night on Spring Equinox on March 21 and continue to increase up to the Summer Solstice on June 21. -- Tereza Pultarova
Astronaut captures La Palma volcano glowing in the blackness of the night
Wednesday, September 22, 2021: European astronaut Thomas Pesquet captured this image of the erupting Cumbre Vieja volcano on the La Palma island from the International Space Station.
The image, shared on Pesquet's Twitter account on Wednesday (Sept. 22), shows glowing lava streaming from the crater surrounded by the dark Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa.
"The #LaPalma volcano in eruption. Set against the blackness of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean, the bright orange glow is even more impressive," Pesquet said in the Tweet.
Cumbre Vieja erupted on Sunday (Sept.19) for the first time since 1971. The eruption was preceded by more than 22,000 mild earthquakes, which alerted scientists to the magma bubbling up inside the volcano.
The slow-moving but unstoppable rivers of boiling lava have since destroyed over 300 houses and forced the evacuation of more than 6,000 people. Geologists worry the scorching lava might cause explosions and release toxic gas once it reaches the coast and mixes with the cool sea water. -- Tereza Pultarova
Satellite watches as holiday island volcano erupts after half a century
Tuesday, September 21, 2021: The Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Canary island of La Palma, west off the coast of Morocco, erupted for the first time since 1971 on Sunday (Sept.19). The European Sentinel-2 satellite captured the plume of smoke and streams of lava spilling from the volcano towards the western flank of the island on Monday (Sept.20) .
Sentinel-2 is part of the European Earth observation program Copernicus. Scientists working with the data have revealed this morning that the eruption has already destroyed 166 buildings in the Los Llanos de Aridane region as it spread towards the coast. The lava, according to this morning's estimates, now covers an area of about 103 hectares. Some 6,000 people have been evacuated and further evacuations are under consideration as geologists fear the more than 1,000 degrees C (1,800 degrees F) lava might trigger dangerous explosions and release toxic gas once it reaches the coast and mixes with the sea water, according to The Independent.
Scientists also monitor the spread of the volcanic ash and sulfur dioxide released by the eruption into the atmosphere. According to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), the plume will spread northwards over the coming days and reach central France by the end of this week. -- Tereza Pultarova
Inspiration4 mission shares orbital family portrait with the view from above
Monday, September 20, 2021: Inspiration4 crew members posed for this group selfie in front of the dome window of their Dragon Crew capsule during their historic three-day all-civilian space trip.
At first glance, the image might seem rather ordinary. The clouds against the blue in this image, however, are seen from above, and the blue is not the blue of the sky but that of the ocean.
Inspiration4, the first ever all-civilian space mission successfully landed on Saturday (Sept. 18) evening. All crew members appeared in good spirits, despite reported problems with the spacecraft's toilet. -- Tereza Pultarova
Cancer survivor relishes space views from Dragon's cupola
Friday, September 17, 2021: Cancer survivor and civilian astronaut Hayley Arceneaux can be seen floating inside Dragon Crew's dome window, enjoying spectacular views of Earth during the first-ever all-civilian space mission Inspiration4.
Hayley is one of the four amateur astronauts on the historic three-day space trip. A physician assistant at the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, where she herself used to be a patient, 29-year-old Hayley is the youngest American ever to fly in space. She is also the first ever space traveller with prosthetic body parts.
The St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is the benefactor of charitable proceeds from the mission, including a ticket raffle and an in-orbit fundraising performance by Hayley's colleague Chris Sembroski.
Inspiration4 launched from the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday (Sept. 15) at 8:02 p.m. EDT (0002 GMT). The crew is expected to splash down off the coast of Florida or in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday (Sept. 18) -- Tereza Pultarova
Falcon 9 shooting up the sky with Inspiration4 crew members atop
Thursday, September 16, 2021: The plume of fumes generated by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying four civilian astronauts of the Inspiration4 mission on their historic orbital trip was captured by photographer John Kraus shortly after the mission's lift-off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The plume, backlit by the setting sun, was visible to observers from dozens of miles away as the rocket with entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, geoscientist Sian Proctor, physician assistant Hayley Arcenaux, and data engineer Chris Sembroski hurtled towards the sky.
The crew, which is expected to conduct scientific experiments and even sing and play ukulele to raise money for charity, is expected to splash down in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday (Sept. 18). No update about the mission's progress has been shared since the launch at 8 pm EDT on Wednesday (Sept. 15). -- Tereza Pultarova
New Earth-observation satellite trains its eyes on the moon
Wednesday, September 15, 2021: This stunning image of the moon's surface has been captured by the recently launched Earth-observing satellite Pleiades Neo.
The satellite's operators used the Earth's natural companion to calibrate its sensors so that it can subsequently obtain perfect images of our home planet. Moon is apparently a great object for such checks because its surface looks almost smooth and reflects sunlight in a rather consistent way. Both Pleiades Neo satellites that are currently in orbit can look at the moon at about the same time, which enables the operators to ensure their images are of the same quality.
The image was released by the European Aerospace firm Airbus, which built and operates the two Pleiades Neo satellites, last week. The satellites, launched in April and August this year, image the surface of Earth with a resolution of 12 inches (30 centimeters). This level of resolution enables, for example, counting the number of people in the images.
Orbiting at the altitude of 385 miles (620 kilometers) above the planet's surface, the satellites cover an 8.6-mile-wide (14 km) swath of land in one sweep. The remaining two satellites are expected to launch next year, at which point the constellation will be able to cover the entire globe several times a day. -- Tereza Pultarova
Satellite captures record low ice extent in Arctic sea
Tuesday, September 14, 2021: The Laptev Sea in the Arctic can be seen completely free of ice in this image captured by the European Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite on Monday, Sep 13.
The Laptev Sea, in the Russian northeast, is one of the coldest regions of the Arctic Ocean. With temperatures below 0 °С (32 °F) for the majority of the year, the Laptev Sea is one of the major ice-forming areas in the world's oceans. August 2021, however, saw the lowest sea ice coverage in the region since measurements began in 1980, according to the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).
According to climate researchers, the Arctic region is on average experiencing faster warming than the rest of the planet, an effect that contributes to the fast melting of ice sheets and the rise of sea levels.
However, in other parts of the Arctic Ocean, scientists have reported a more optimistic situation this year. The U.S. National Snow and Ice Center said earlier this month that the overall Arctic sea ice extent has declined more slowly this summer than in previous years. The center expects that this year's minimum will be among the highest since 2007. In the Antarctic, where sea ice is currently at its maximum, the situation also seems optimistic, with monthly mean extent for August the fifth highest since satellite measurements began. -- Tereza Pultarova
ExoMars orbiter captures tectonic fissures on Mars
Monday, September 13, 2021: Europe's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter captured this image of a young volcanic region in the Elysium Planitia on Mars showing two parallel fissures that in the past had given rise to a frozen sea near the planet's equator.
The image, taken on April 14, shows the two 1.2-mile (2 kilometer) wide Cerberus Fossae trenches, crossing the volcanic region at about 10 degrees north. The floor of the nearly 620-mile-long (1,000 km) trenches is covered with coarse-grained sand that appears blue in the false-colored image, captured by the orbiter's CaSSIS camera. Geologists expect the sand inside the fissures, which are several hundred meters deep, to be made of basalt, a common volcanic rock that can also be seen in small impact craters that punctuate the plain.
Elysium Planitia is the second largest volcanic region on Mars. In 2005, another European orbiter, ExoMars, found what appeared to be a 500-mile-wide (800 km) ice sheet covered with ash in this region. Holding about as much water as the North Sea, the ice is believed to have come from underground water that had flooded the region through the two fissures captured in this image several million years ago. -- Tereza Pultarova
Italy at night - from space
Friday, Sept. 10, 2021: NASA Astronaut, Meghan McArthur has taken this photo of Italy at night from space. The photo was uploaded to her Twitter account and viewers can see the contrast between the darkness of the seas at night and the brightness of Italy and some of mainland Europe, in particular the cities of Rome and Naples.
McArthur took the photo on board the International Space Station and in the same tweet wrote that she is: "starting to learn night photography from our local ISS experts, Thomas Pesquet and Shane Kimbrough." -- Alexander Cox
A sparkly cluster
Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021: The dazzling globular cluster NGC 6717 sparkles in the constellation Sagittarius in this view from the Hubble Space Telescope released on Sept. 6. NGC 6717 is located more than 20,000 light-years from Earth an is roughly the shape of a sphere. Such globular clusters are packed in a way that they contain more stars in their centers than along their outer regions, according to the European Space Agency. Some of the extremely bright objects in the cluster are actually stars that are closer to Earth than NGC 6717, and happened to be in the view of Hubble They have clear X-shaped cross-hatching effects caused by interactions of their starlight and structures in Hubble's secondary mirror. -- Tariq Malik
Eclipsed moon shines over South American observatory
Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021: Although May 2021's total lunar eclipse was visible to few skywatchers, plenty of people were able to admire the partially eclipsed moon. Astrophotographer Yuri Beletsky snagged a particularly stunning image of the eclipsed moon in early twilight as seen over Chile's Paranal Observatory, operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO). Capturing the image required staking out a location about 5.6 miles (9 kilometers) east of the observatory, according to an ESO statement. -- Meghan Bartels
Virtual reality apps help astronauts service space station
Friday, September 3, 2021: NASA astronauts Megan McArthur is testing a virtual reality headset during experiments at the International Space Station.
The technology will help astronauts perform complex tasks autonomously without guidance from Earth, which will be critical for missions deeper into space, such as a trip to the moon and Mars, NASA said in a statement.
McArthur is wearing Microsoft's HoloLens headset, which has been delivered to the space station in April as part of the T2AR (T2 Augmented Reality) experiment. The headset runs custom-built AR software that helps astronauts inspect and fix pieces of hardware without having to call the ground control or look up instructions on a computer or a tablet.
Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi managed to repair a treadmill just with the help of the headset in April this year. -- Tereza Pultarova
Perseverance drills a hole to take a sample
Thursday, September 2, 2021: NASA's Mars rover Perseverance drilled this hole into a piece of rock dubbed Rochette on Wednesday (Sep 1), as it prepares to collect a precious sample to return to Earth in the future.
Scientists selected Rochette for Perserverance's second attempt to collect a sample after a failure on Aug 6. The first targeted rock eventually turned out to be too crumbly and fell apart before making it into the sampling tube.
This new image, showing a neat hole freshly drilled in the rock, was shared by the NASA Mars Perseverance Rover team on Twitter on Thursday (Sep 2).
"#SamplingMars is underway," the team said in the Tweet. "I’ve drilled into my rock target, and my team will be looking at more data and images to confirm if we were able to get and retain an intact core."
Perseverance landed on the floor of Mars' 28-mile-wide (45 kilometers) Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, tasked with hunting for signs of ancient Mars life and collecting dozens of samples for future return to Earth. -- Tereza Pultarova
Satellites capture Syrian oil spill approaching coast of Cyprus
Wednesday, September 1, 2021: A massive oil spill from a large refinery on the coast of Syria has spread into the Mediterranean Sea and is now threatening Cyprus, satellite images reveal.
The European Sentinel 2 satellite, part of the Copernicus Earth observation program, first imaged the spill on August 24. Since then, the oil slick, which originated at the town of Baniyas, has drifted northwards along the coast of Syria before being carried into the open sea and towards Cyprus.
This image, acquired by Sentinel-2 on Tuesday, August 31, shows a large amount of oil drifting less than 18 miles (30 kilometers) off the northern coast of the island.
Citing satellite image analysis company Orbital EOS, CNN reported that the oil slick was covering an area of 309 square miles (800 square kilometers), about the size of New York City. Local authorities on Cyprus reportedly predicted that the spill will reach the northern coast of Cyprus on Wednesday.
About 15,000 tons of fuel are believed to have leaked from the Baniyas refinery since Wednesday, August 23. The spill will likely decimate marine life in the region where many depend on fishing for their livelihood. -- Tereza Pultarova