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Many children dream of becoming an astronaut, yet only a few ever see that dream realised. That may soon change, thanks to the European Union (EU)-funded project, Future High-Altitude High-Speed Transport 20XX (FAST20XX). Run by a European consortium, which was led by the European Space Agency (ESA), the project investigated and developed technologies to conquer the grey zone between aeronautics and space in Europe.
Published: 2 May 2014
Peering into the very depths of the universe gives scientists a better understanding of its origins. Since the speed of light is finite, the objects we are seeing are from the distant past. A recently completed EU-funded project developed not only a new means of measuring these cosmic distances, but also discovered galaxies at the point of their creation.
Published: 2 April 2014
The phenomenon of collisions in the history of our solar system is very fundamental, having played the major role in forming the planets we observe today. Asteroids and comets may have contributed to the delivery of water and organic materials to the early Earth necessary for the development of life, but later impacts probably played a role in mass extinctions and they currently pose a small but significant threat to the future of our civilization. Collisions of objects with the Earth have taken place frequently over geological history and it is an undeniable fact that major collisions of asteroids and comets with the Earth will continue to occur at irregular, unpredictable intervals in the future.
Published: 24 February 2014
The discoveries of pioneers such as Columbus, da Gama, and Cook led to transportation across oceans and this paved the way for large scale human settlements on new continents. Similar to the trans-Atlantic boats of the past, advanced space transportation systems will take todays pioneer missions into space further and allow for enhanced mobility of humans and cargo between Earth and space. The project AEROFAST supports these developments, refining aerocapture technology.
Published: 11 February 2014
Researchers worked to improve on the robotic vision-processing tools available to explore planet surfaces. When unmanned space missions explore planets they have a limited time frame within which to collect data from surface or aerial vehicles. Improvements to their imaging capabilities can therefore maximise the information that researchers are able to collect from planetary surfaces.
Published: 3 February 2014
In 2004 Stephen Hawking famously changed his mind about black holes a place in space where gravity pulls so much that not even light can escape from it. Now astronomers have made a new discovery that may well once again change the way science sees black holes, or more precisely the company they keep. A team of international astronomers have discovered two black holes, bucking theorists who suggested that there could only be one. The discovery is making scientists rethink their understanding of the environment in globular star clusters, tight-knit collections containing hundreds of thousands of stars.
Published: 30 October 2012
An international team of astronomers has found evidence that a planet was destroyed by its ageing star. Led by Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in the United States, the team showed that the missing planet was 'consumed' as the star expanded into a 'red giant', what experts refer to as the advanced age of stars. Presented in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, the study was funded in part by the PLANES ('Unfolding the evolution of planetary systems') project, which has received a Marie Curie Action Reintegration grant worth EUR 100 000 under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
Published: 20 September 2012
An 18-member international team of researchers has found exciting new evidence that supports the theory of an extraterrestrial impact that occurred nearly 13 000 years ago. Their evidence lies in material found in a thin layer of sedimentary rock in Pennsylvania and South Carolina in the United States and in Syria. This material stands out because at the time it was created it could only have been formed at 1 700 to 2 200 degrees Celsius and as a result of a cosmic body impacting Earth. All together this points to evidence that could strongly support the controversial Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) hypothesis. The finding was published in the journal PNAS.
Published: 11 July 2012
A European team of researchers led by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland has developed a prototype of a new, ultra-compact motor that will enable small satellites to journey beyond Earth's orbit. The objective of this new motor is to make space exploration less expensive. The result is an outcome of the MICROTHRUST ('Microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based electric micropropulsion for small spacecraft to enable robotic space exploration and space science') project, which is supported under the Space Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), to the tune of EUR 1.9 million.
Published: 19 April 2012
Scientists at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have discovered how a rare vast cloud of glowing gas in the early Universe got its power. Presented in the journal Nature, the findings show that galaxies found within this giant 'Lyman-alpha blob', what astronomers describe as being one of the largest single objects known to man, provide the energy.
Published: 13 September 2011