Physics and Astronomy

This area deals with the fundamental laws and building blocks of nature and how they interact, the properties and the behavior of matter, and research into space and time and their structures.

innovations-report provides in-depth reports and articles on subjects such as astrophysics, laser technologies, nuclear, quantum, particle and solid-state physics, nanotechnologies, planetary research and findings (Mars, Venus) and developments related to the Hubble Telescope.

Spacecraft rendezvous at Jupiter

Two space probes lift the lid on Jupiter’s magnetosphere.
Even Stanley Kubrick couldn’t have directed it better. In the first days of 2001, two spacecraft, Cassini and Galileo, met at Jupiter 400 million kilometres from Earth, to study the mysterious forces emanating from the giant planet.

The first analysis of the data they sent back has now been unveiled 1-7 . It paints a dramatic picture of the planet’s invisible magnetosphere – looping magnetic fields, crackling radi

COLD safer than HOT

New theory shows that high performance needn’t mean high risk.

For man-made systems such as machines and markets, catastrophe lurks somewhere between high risk and high performance. US physicists may have found a way to strike the optimal balance 1 .

This trade-off is familiar to the financial world. Brokers develop investment portfolios to provide the best returns within a specified level of risk. Mark Newman and co-workers at the Santa Fe Institute in New M

Top class images help ESA’s Rosetta prepare to ride on a cosmic bullet

Chase a fast-moving comet, land on it and ’ride’ it while it speeds up towards the Sun: not the script of a science-fiction movie, but the very real task of ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft.

New observations with the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) provide vital information about Comet Wirtanen – Rosetta’s target – to help ESA reduce uncertainties in the mission, one of the most difficult ever to be performed.

Every 5.5 years Comet Wirtanen completes an o

Is the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy a debris of the Large Magellanic Cloud?

The Sagittarius dwarf galaxy is our nearest neighbor. Yet it has been discovered only recently, in 1994, being hidden by the stars and dust in our own Galaxy, the Milky Way. It is however possible today to better know this companion galaxy, thanks to variable stars, the RR Lyrae, in which Sgr-dw is particularly rich. In a recent paper, Patrick Cseresnjes, from Paris Observatory, shows for the first time that Sgr-dw is not typical of other satellites of the Milky Way, but reveals instead striking simi

ESA’s Envisat satellite ready for lift-off

During the night of 28 February/1 March, Envisat, ESA’s most powerful and sophisticated Earth observation satellite, will be launched by an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou at 22:07 hrs Kourou time (02:07 hrs CET).

Built by a consortium of 50 companies led by Astrium, Envisat is the successor to ESA’s ERS satellites. With an array of ten instruments to monitor land, oceans, atmosphere and ice caps, it will provide the most complete set of observations ever achieved, to hel

Fusion conditions – Particle simulation studies of divertor plasmas

“Nuclear fusion” is the melting of light nuclei into heavier ones, a process that according to the laws of physics releases enormous amounts of energy. For the past 50 years many scientists have sought ways of harnessing this fusion reaction under controlled reactor conditions as a safe, clean and practically inexhaustible source of energy. Siegbert Kuhn and his team at the Institute of Theoretical Physics at Innsbruck University are making a major contribution to these efforts and positioning Austri

Artemis starts its journey to final orbit

Thanks to ion propulsion, the Artemis mission is turning near-defeat into a success story. Nominal operations could start this summer, with ESA’s satellite, manufactured by Alenia Spazio as prime contractor (I), playing a significant role in the pursuit of high technology and advanced telecommunications.

On 12 July 2001, 30 minutes after lift-off from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, it became apparent that the Ariane 5 launcher had propelled the Artemis satellite into a transf

The mystery of Huygens clocks explained

Proceedings of the Royal Society Series A Vol. 458, No. 2019 Cover Date 8 March 2002

Christiaan Huygens` observations in 1665 of anti-phase synchronisation in two pendulum clocks were the subject of some of the earliest deliberations of The Royal Society but have remained a scientific puzzle. Huygens` acute observations are often quoted but have never been adequately explained – until today. The forthcoming issue of Proceedings A, a Royal Society journal, offers a simple and compelli

New superconducting transformer is light and compact

Researchers from the Technology Foundation STW and the University of Twente, in cooperation with Smit Transformatoren and Smit Draad, have developed a prototype coil for a superconducting transformer which is not only light and compact but also energy-efficient. A keen interest has already been expressed by several companies.

The coil is made from superconducting wires, insulated using a newly patented method. Furthermore, together with Smit Transformatoren the researchers have developed a m

Scientists detect first afterglow of short gamma-ray bursts

In the powerful, fast-fading realm of gamma-ray bursts, scientists say they have detected for the first time a lingering afterglow of the shortest types of bursts, which themselves disappear within a second.

This afterglow, radiating in X rays, may provide crucial insight into what triggers the mysterious bursts, the most energetic explosions in the Universe, second only to the big bang in total power. Previously, scientists had only detected the afterglow of longer bursts, which can last fr

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