The Planetary Science Archive gets a new image browser

Users can now browse images and other data products in the archive via a visual gallery

By S. Besse
PSA Image Gallery

The latest version of the Planetary Science Archive (PSA v5.5.1), released in July 2018, features a long-awaited functionality: a visual and user-friendly image gallery mode that provides users with additional possibilities to delve into the large amounts of data images, spectra, and other data products with visual representation stored in the archive.
All data products in the archive can be browsed using this functionality, which can be selected using the ‘Image view’ button. However, an image preview (called a ‘browse product’) is currently available for selected data products, mostly imaging data but also spectra from the Alice instrument onboard Rosetta, radiograms from the MARSIS instrument on Mars Express, and data plots from the radio science and plasma instruments from the Rosetta, Mars Express and Venus Express missions. To exclude data products with no available previews, users can check the option “With browse images only”. All filtering and sorting functionalities from the table view mode are also available in the image gallery mode.

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Exciting times for Mars Express

This summer has witnessed the discovery of liquid water below the southern polar cap and other interesting results, while new mission data have been delivered to the PSA.

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Major release of the Cluster and Double Star Science Archive

By A. Masson

A major upgrade of the Cluster and Double Star science archive (CSA) web application was released beginning of August. This version, 2.0, supersedes the veteran CSA Java application archive, now offline. New features include the visualization of distribution functions and the capability of browsing pre-generated inventory plots.
More than 10 TB of data have been downloaded from the CSA in 2018, with more than 2100 users and counting.

The XSA features the 3XMM-DR7s catalogue

By N. Loiseau, E. Colomo & L. Ballo
XSA with 3XMM-DR7s

A new version of the XMM-Newton Science Archive (XSA v10.1) was released on July 25, 2018. Among other improvements, this version provides access to the 3XMM-DR7s catalogue, a new XMM-Newton EPIC Serendipitous Source Catalogue made from stacking individual observations. The catalogue, a joint effort of the XMM-Newton Survey Science Centre consortium, is fully described in a dedicated paper.
3XMM-DR7s is the first XMM-Newton catalogue made from overlapping observations. It complements the `normal' catalogue whose latest version, 3XMM-DR8, contains more than 700,000 source detections drawn from individual EPIC observations. 3XMM-DR7s covers a total sky area of about 150 square degrees, and it has been compiled from 1789 overlapping good-quality XMM-Newton observations performed between February 3, 2000 and December 15, 2016. It contains 71,951 unique sources with parameters such as fluxes in the XMM-Newton standard energy bands, hardness ratios, quality estimate, and information on inter-observation variability, and the parameters of the 216,393 detections contributing to the stacked sources. Auxiliary data products are also available for the stacked sources: a broad-band X-ray image, a colour-coded three-band X-ray image, an optical finding chart, and a long-term X-ray light curve.
The XSA v10.1 interface allows to search for 3XMM-DR7s sources and to display their fluxes and other parameters. It allows also to deploy simultaneously the information of the individual detections used for each stacked source. Links to the corresponding 3XMM-DR8 sources are provided, if the sources were already detected.

Exciting times for Mars Express

By B. López Martí & E. Grotheer
Mars South Polar Cap

With the Red Planet shining bright in our sky due to its current proximity to Earth, several exciting discoveries by Mars Express have been reported this summer. The most exciting of all being, of course, the announcement that liquid water had been detected below the Martian southern polar cap. In addition, an analysis involving data from several mission instruments concluded that the Martian atmosphere behaves as one. Last but not least, a dust storm has been monitored for several months. And all in the year when we celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the beginning of the mission: Fifteen years of successful operations that have remarkably improved our knowledge of the Red Planet, as we at the ESDC recently summarised in this Twitter moment.
At the same time, the Mars Express data holdings in the Planetary Science Archive have kept increasing thanks to the regular deliveries of data from the mission instrument teams. In the last months, new HRSC map-projected and radiometric data have added to the existing PSA datasets, which both now cover up to May 2017. New ASPERA-3 data through December 2017 have also been delivered. Time will tell which other discoveries await in those data!
Image: ESA

High-school students find a mysterious X-ray source hidden in the XSA

By B. López Martí

Probably our youngest users, a group of Italian high-school students have discovered a mysterious X-ray source as part of a data-mining project into the XMM-Newton Science Archive (XSA). The work, a collaboration with scientists from the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in Milan, was part of the Exploring the X-ray Transient and variable Sky project (EXTraS) aiming at studying variable sources from the first 15 years of XMM-Newton observations.
The six students analysed the light curves of about 200 X-ray sources in order to identify objects exhibiting interesting properties (such as a strong flare, for example) that had not been studied before. One source, located in the globular cluster NGC 6540, was especially intriguing: It displayed an increase of its X-ray brightness by up to 50 times its normal level in 2005, quickly returning to its normal brightness after just a few minutes. Too short to be an ordinary stellar flare, but too faint to be caused by a compact object in a binary system. The source could be a chromospherically active binary, although it does not closely match the properties of any known object of this type. To know more about this source, read the paper published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.
At the ESDC, we want to congratulate the INAF team and the students participating in the project for this success. This discovery is an example of the many hidden treasures in the scientific archives, and an encouragement for all the people at the ESDC and the whole European Space Astronomy Centre to continue working to offer our users the best data products from the ESA missions and the easiest possible access to them.
Image: INAF