ESA

The Sentinel-3B satellite blasting off atop a Rockot rocket (Photo ESA - S. Corvaja)

A few hours ago the Sentinel-3B satellite, part of the GMES / Copernicus program, was launched from the Russian Plesetsk Cosmodrome on a Rockot launch vehicle. After about an hour and a half it separated from the rocket’s last stage, called Breeze KM, it started communicating with the control center and to deploy its solar panels. Its final orbit is Sun-synchronous, which means it will pass over a certain area of ​​the Earth at the same local time, with an altitude of about 815 kilometers (about 506 miles).

Gaia's sky DR2 map (Image ESA/Gaia/DPAC)

ESA has published the second 3D map of the Milky Way and neighbouring galaxies obtained from the Gaia space probe, the most detailed of this type ever produced. This catalog, built thanks to what was called Data Release 2 (DR2), greatly expands the first map released by ESA in September 2016.

The Gaia space probe was launched on December 19, 2013 with the aim of creating a highly accurate 3D map of the Milky Way’s stars but also to catalog billions of other celestial objects, not only stars but also galaxies. Gaia began its scientific activity in July 2014, the first map included data collected until September 2015, the DR2 includes the following 8 months of observations.

The Lagoon Nebula at visible light (Image NASA, ESA, and STScI)

On April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched on the Space Shuttle Discovery and put into orbit the next day. To celebrate the 28th anniversary of that event, which represents a milestone in the history of astronomy, new breathtaking photos of the Lagoon Nebula have been published.

About 4,000 light years away from the Earth, the Lagoon Nebula was first cataloged by the astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna and later included in other catalogs, so much so that it’s known by various designations including Messier 8 or M8, NGC 6523, Sharpless 25, RCW 146, and Gum 72. In optimal conditions it’s visible even to the naked eye, so it’s the object of observations by amateur astronomers as well.

Ismenia Patera (Image ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

ESA has published new images of a crater called Ismenia Patera on the planet Mars captured by the Mars Express space probe. The red planet is full of craters but this is unique because generally those formations are the result of a meteorite impact while Ismenia Patera could be what remains of a supervolcano that was active when Mars was very young. A very violent volcanic activity may have caused the destruction of other traces of a supervolcano at the same time creating the strange, somewhat irregular formation we see today.