ENVISAT, successfully launched this morning from the European spaceport at Kourou, French Guyana, by an Ariane 5 rocket, is the largest and most sophisticated Earth observation satellite ever built in Europe. From an altitude of 800 km, the 8.2-ton Environment Satellite – Europe’s new “eyes in space” – will deliver an unprecedented wealth of images and data that will help scientists better understand the Earth, and assist European Union decision-makers in reaching environmental and other policy goals.
Philippe Busquin, Commissioner for Research, also responsible for space policy, said: “I congratulate ESA, CNES, Arianespace, and all European scientists involved, on the successful launch of ENVISAT. Europe’s Environment Satellite is a good illustration of Europe’s first-class space science and technologies. A better and more intensive use of space technologies in monitoring our environment could help us meet the challenges linked to globalisation. More accurate and reliable information will help Europe better address problems such as global change, natural catastrophes or mass movements of refugees. ENVISAT is set to become a cornerstone in our policy of building an autonomous European capacity for global monitoring which the European Commission and the European Space Agency are jointly piloting.”
When ENVISAT spreads its solar wings, European researchers, private companies and public authorities will have access to the world’s most sophisticated tools to monitor climate change, track environmental pollution, react to natural disasters. Streams of data from its 10 scientific instruments will build the most detailed profile ever of the planet’s atmosphere, land, rivers and seas. Monitoring, 24 hours a day from its polar orbit, movements of the earth surface, glaciers, ice caps, and oceanic currents, ENVISAT will significantly improve our global observing capacity for global change research. It will also help optimise maritime traffic, monitor land use and respond to natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and forest fires. Most importantly, ENVISAT will foster a whole new generation of innovative, user-driven space applications and services for the environment and security.
Patrick Vittet-Philippe | alphagalileo
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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