What does space exploration do for people
Space exploration for the home: ideas for children and adults
These days, many people around the world are staying home. We have put together a selection of activities for you to pass the time and learn more about space exploration at the same time.
Astronomy from your armchair
You could start with ESASky, a science portal that gives full access to all of heaven. With this open science application, computer, tablet and cell phone users can visualize cosmic objects in the near and far electromagnetic spectrum - from gamma rays to radio wavelengths - as observed by many space missions of ESA and other agencies as well as telescopes on the ground.
Users can experience ESASky either through the Explorer mode by visualizing random objects with the dice key, entering the name of their favorite object and navigating around and changing the wavelength and / or observatory, or through the Science mode, which also allows users to download relevant data, and much more.
The ESA Planetary Science Archives website, the go-to place for scientists using data from ESA planetary missions for their research, also provides a gallery interface that users can use to browse images and other data products.
Team up with scientists and support their research from home? That works as a citizen scientist. Anyone can participate in real cutting-edge research in many areas of science. There are many citizen science projects available online, most notably on The Zooniverse, the world's largest and most popular platform for citizen-led research.
One of the most famous projects is Galaxy Zoo, which was launched in 2007 to invite volunteers to help astronomers visually inspect and classify the shapes of galaxies in astronomical images. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers join in, resulting in dozens of publications based on the collaborative work of community scientists.
Last year, a team of astronomers, planetary scientists and software engineers from ESA and other research institutes launched the Hubble Asteroid Hunter, a citizen science project using a collection of archive images from the NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope, where calculations suggest that an asteroid is coming Time of observation could have crossed the field of view.
By identifying the asteroids that may be present in these images and accurately marking their tracks, the volunteers of this Zooniverse-powered project can help scientists improve the determination of the asteroid's orbit and better characterize these objects. This means that they can determine the orbits and future orbits of known and previously unknown asteroids with greater precision than before.
Exploring the stars in the Milky Way
Access the video
Another way to find out more about our place in the cosmos is through ESA's Star Mapper, an interactive visualization for exploring the sky as mapped by the Hipparcos mission. Hipparcos was active from 1989 to 1993 and was the first space astrometry mission to carry out precise measurements of the positions, movements and distances of more than 100,000 stars and to have a major impact on many areas of astronomical research.
The successor to Hipparcos, ESA's Gaia mission, was launched in 2013 and measured more than a billion stars with unprecedented precision. The first and second Gaia data releases revolutionized many areas of astronomy, and more new discoveries are to be made.
Users can explore some of the data from the mission's second data release through another interactive visualization, Gaia's Stellar Family Portrait, and learn more about the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, a fundamental tool in astronomy for studying stellar evolution.
In addition, it is also possible to deepen the Gaia data with Gaia Sky, a 3D real-time visualization software developed at the Astronomical Computing Institute (Center for Astronomy, University of Heidelberg). Gaia Sky includes a simulation of our solar system, a view of the data from the second Gaia data release, and additional astronomical and cosmological data to visualize star clusters, nearby galaxies, distant galaxies and quasars, and the cosmic microwave background.
Space travel for children
The ESA Kids (DE) website, run by the ESA Education Office, has plenty of materials and activities to keep children entertained at home while schools are closed and to learn about science and space in the meantime. There is also a monthly painting competition.
For those with access to paper and a printer, there is also the option to build paper models:
- Rosetta and Philae
- Cheops exoplanet mission
- A stellar globe based on data from the Hipparcos mission
- BepiColombo Memory
- More space research satellites
- The Earth observation satellite Aeolus
- One of the satellites of the Galileo global navigation system
- Ariane 5 launcher
- The Columbus laboratory on board the International Space Station
Also, below is a selection of animated videos showing some of ESA's space science missions to explore planets and other celestial bodies in our solar system and beyond (these videos are available in multiple languages).
This article was published on 20 March 2020.
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