March 7, 2017

Previous news

2013 events

26/11/2013: CLUSTER takes a tilt at radio wave sources

A new study using ESA's Cluster mission has shown improved precision in determining the source of a radio emission produced by Earth. The experiment involved tilting one of the four identical Cluster spacecraft to measure the electric field of this emission in three dimensions for the first time.

Read the full item on ESA's website

01/08/2013: Cluster discovers that wobbly magnetic reconnection speeds up electrons

Scientists have discovered a missing piece in the puzzle of where high-energy particles in Earth's magnetosphere come from. Using data from ESA's Cluster mission, they found that magnetic reconnection can accelerate electrons to very high energies - as long as reconnection happens at a variable pace rather than steadily. This result will improve predictions of space weather, studies of fusion plasma, and the understanding of astrophysical environments affected by magnetic fields.

Read the full item on ESA's website

02/07/2013: Cluster discovers steady leak in Earth's plasmasphere

A steady wind, discovered by ESA's Cluster mission, is slowly escaping from Earth's plasmasphere - the torus of plasma that surrounds our planet's atmosphere. The outflow amounts to almost 90 tonnes a day. Predicted by theory two decades ago, this is one of the main mechanisms that replenishes Earth's magnetosphere with fresh plasma.

Read the full item on ESA's website

10/04/2013: Cluster finds source of Aurora energy boost

A new study based on data from ESA's Cluster mission has revealed the importance of bursty bulk flows (BBFs) - fast streams of plasma that are launched towards Earth during the magnetic substorms that give rise to bright aurorae. By modelling these fast plasma streams using a kinetic approach, scientists have discovered that earlier studies based on magnetohydrodynamics tended to underestimate their role in the energy transfer during magnetic substorms. The new, more-accurate description suggests that BBFs can carry up to one third of the total energy transferred during a substorm; in such cases, BBFs represent a major contributor to the brightening of aurorae.

Read the full item on ESA's website

2012 events

08/03/2012: Earth's magnetic field provides vital protection

A chance alignment of planets during a passing gust of the solar wind has allowed scientists to compare the protective effects of Earth's magnetic field with that of Mars' naked atmosphere. The result is clear: Earth's magnetic field is vital for keeping our atmosphere in place.

Read the full item on ESA's website

2011 events

30/06/2011: 'Dirty hack' restores Cluster mission from near loss

Using ingenuity and an unorthodox 'dirty hack', ESA has recovered the four-satellite Cluster mission from near loss. The drama began in March, when a crucial science package stopped responding to commands - one of a mission controller's worst fears.

Read the full item on ESA's website

2010 events

16/07/2010: ESA's pioneering Cluster mission is celebrating its 10th anniversary

During the past decade, Cluster's four satellites have provided extraordinary insights into the largely invisible interaction between the Sun and Earth.

More on ESA's website and CNES' website (in French)

2002 events

14/02/2002: Complete data reception coverage begun according to the SSWG recommendation

The limited data return from Cluster (50%) has led during the nominal mission to a significant loss of data from important boundary layers of the magnetosphere, such as the bow shock, cusp and magnetopause. Some of the mission's science goals have therefore not been fully achieved. The proposed extension of data coverage, with 100% of the orbit covered in normal mode, will lead to a quantifiable enhancement of Cluster science, full observation of key unpredictable transient events and full achievement of the mission goals. The SSWG unanimously recommends that the data coverage be enhanced to 100 % using the Maspalomas ground station as soon as possible.

In recognition of these potential achievements, the SSWG also unanimously recommends that the Cluster mission be extended for 35 months.

2001 events

11/12/2001: Cluster quartet probes the secrets of the black aurora.

Anyone living near the Arctic Circle will be familiar with aurorae, the legendary red and green curtains that illuminate the long winter nights. Much less familiar is the mysterious 'black aurora', a strange electrical phenomenon that produces dark, empty regions within the visible Northern and Southern Lights.

09/10/2001: Cluster captures a double cusp.

Like ships on a never-ending expedition around the world, ESA's four Cluster spacecraft continue to explore the mysterious magnetic environment that surrounds the Earth - a stormy sea filled with electrified particles instead of water. As the quartet surveys the planet's poles, they are discovering the secrets of the northern cusp, a funnel-shaped opening in the magnetic field.

16/07/2001: Surfing and diving in Earth's magnetosphere, Cluster celebrates one year of science excellence in orbit.

Space scientists around the world are today celebrating the first anniversary of the European Space Agency's revolutionary Cluster mission to explore near-Earth space and study the interaction between the Sun and Earth.

07/02/2001: Cluster commences operations: first exciting results to be announced at media event in Paris.

Six months after four Cluster spacecraft congregated in Earth orbit, scientists are beginning to gather the first results from ESA’s unique mission to explore the magnetosphere, the magnetic shield that surrounds our planet.