Hubble Asteroid Hunter: Citizen science to better characterise asteroids using HST images

By S. Kruk, M. Mahlke & B. Merín
Crab Nebula

In the last week of June 2019, in anticipation of International Asteroid Day on June 30, we launched a citizen science project, Hubble Asteroid Hunter, asking volunteers online for their help in identifying asteroids in images from the Hubble Space Telescope. The project was developed by a team of researchers and software engineers at the ESDC, ESTEC and the Spanish Centro de Astrobiología (CAB, INTA-CSIC), in collaboration with Zooniverse, the world's largest and most popular citizen science platform.
We ask volunteers to mark asteroid trails in HST images from the ESA Hubble Science Archive (HST), where calculations from the ESASky Solar System Objects pipeline predict that there should be an asteroid present. The predicted positions, nevertheless, have some associated uncertainties as the ephemerides are not always known to great precision. Identifying the asteroids in the images and marking the exact positions of their trails allows us to update the ephemerides in the IAU Minor Planet Centre and helps us follow them up and better characterise them. The project also allows for serendipitous discoveries of new asteroids made by the volunteers.
Hubble Asteroid Hunter was advertised by ESA and is highly successful, attracting more than 1,400 volunteers providing 150,000 classifications in just two weeks. Citizen scientists are also tagging gravitational lenses (for example ‘The Great Cosmic Snake’ and strong gravitational lenses in clusters), galaxies, nebulae or quasar jets. Some volunteers identified the rare and spectacular sight of an asteroid, 2001 SE101, in front of the Crab Nebula, and they even created a colour image of it, which is accompanying this text.
Participants are also learning about asteroids on our forum, Talk. They find the links to ESASky and ESA archives valuable in searching for asteroids and other objects.
Given the high and steady participation rate of volunteers, we have extended the project, adding HST images from the ecliptic plane to search for unknown asteroids in regions where we expect to find them. In the following months we will analyse the classifications and markings, and report on the results.
This project demonstrates the benefit of exploring the ESA Science Archives using citizen science. We are planning for more projects in the future. If you have suggestions for new citizen science projects, please let us know on the ESASky user forum.
Image: NASA/ESA/M. Thévenot

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ESA and the ESDC at EWASS 2019

ESA had an important presence at the largest conference of European Astronomy, including a lunch session on the ESA archives and a plenary talk by ESA’s Director of Science, among other activities.

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New Highly Processed Data Products available in the Herschel Science Archive

By P. García Lario, I. Valtchanov & E. Verdugo
Herschel HPDPs

Four new Highly Processed Data Products (HPDPs) generated by experts have been ingested in the Herschel Science Archive (HSA), representing products of higher quality than those generated by the standard instrument pipelines, or complementary to them:

  • HIFI Expert Reduced Maps: HIFI spectral maps interactively reduced with improved spectral baselines, cleaned for standing waves and corrected for possible off-position contamination, starting with Level 2 products, minimising data artifacts and maximising signal-to-noise ratios. More details on the data products and on the special data processing performed can be found in the Release Note.
  • SPIRE Improved Photometry Maps: A collection of 47 improved SPIRE photometry maps, most of them corresponding to large deep fields, suffering from low-level residual striping and identified through visual inspection by instrument specialists. The associated Release Note provides additional information on the special data processing applied to these maps.
  • PACS Point Source Spectra Corrected for Pointing Offsets: This HPDP has been processed with pointing-offset correction tasks not included in the pipeline that provide more accurate flux calibration of point sources affected by small pointing offsets. See the accompanying Release Note for details.
  • PACS Blue Edge Uncalibrated Spectra: A collection of 1114 PACS spectra in the blue edge (50 to 55 μm) of the spectral range covered by the instrument. Despite their limited use for science, as the flux calibration is not reliable, they are provided for completeness and to allow at least a quick visual inspection of potential strong features that may be detectable in this spectral range for further follow-up with other facilities. A full description of the data and their caveats can be found in the corresponding Release Note.
Image: ESA/Herschel SOC

Latest data deliveries to the Planetary Science Archive

By E. Grotheer & B. López Martí
Solar wind on Mars

Since mid-May 2019, the following datasets have been delivered to the Planetary Science Archive (PSA):

  • A Venus Express ASPERA-4 dataset in a single table, containing solar wind moments from July 12, 2006 to November 27, 2014.
  • A Mars Express ASPERA-3 dataset in a single table, containing solar wind moments from April 14, 2004 to November 8, 2018.

In both cases, these data list the solar wind's density, velocity, and temperature in scientific units (as opposed to instrument counts) for different points in time in a table.  These data should be of interest both to heliophysicists (as it was measured outside of Mars' magnetosphere/bow shock) and planetary scientists (who may want to study the interaction of the solar wind with Mars).
In addition to the above datasets, Mars Express ASPERA-3/IMA raw data up to July 2018 have also been delivered.
Image: NASA

New meeting of the PSA Users Group

By G. de Marchi & S. Besse
Planetary science

On July 3 and 4, 2019, the Planetary Science Archive (PSA) Users Group held their meeting at ESAC. Besides presentations on the ongoing updates to the archive, Users Group members were given a preview of a new Geographical Information System interface that will soon become part of the tools to explore the assets present in the PSA.
Group members also discussed about how to most effectively host data products based on ESA Space Science missions that are generated by the community and that are not in a format suitable for automatic inclusion in the PSA. A Guest Storage Facility now exists that offers this opportunity and also makes it possible for data products to receive a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) to simplify referencing of the data in scientific papers.
A presentation was given on the Mars Express (MEX) Legacy Archive, and in particular on the ongoing plan to store all the published MEX atmospheric products (high-level data) on the PSA. The products (e.g. column measurements, profiles and 2D/3D maps) will be collected from published papers on Mars' atmosphere, with the agreement of their authors. Hosting these data products at the PSA will foster their visibility and their use as reference datasets.
PSA Users Group members also provided inputs on the Archival Research Visitor Programme, to be launched in Autumn, which will allow early-career scientists interested in exploiting archival data to pursue their research at ESAC and ESTEC.
The minutes of the meeting will soon be available in the PSA Users Group webpage.
Image: NASA

ESA and ESDC contributions to the 4th Planetary Data Workshop

By B. López Martí
Planetdata 2019

From June 18 to 20, 2019, engineers and scientists from ESAC and the ESDC participated in the 4th Planetary Data Workshop in Flagstaff, AZ, USA, presenting the work done to process and deliver the scientific data from ESA’s planetary missions. The goal of these workshops is to bring together planetary data users, space mission data providers, data archivists, and software and technology experts to exchange ideas on current capabilities and needs for improved and new tools that can be used to address evolving needs in planetary research and data analysis.
ESA’s participation included presentations on the 15 years of the Planetary Science Archive (PSA) and lessons learned for the future, the BepiColombo science data processing infrastructure and the use of the PDS4 data format in the BepiColombo Operational Archive (BOA), as well as the plans for integrating the data from the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover in the PSA. In addition, two posters summarised the status and future developments planned for the PSA in 2019 and 2020, and described the GIS architecture and applicability on this archive.
Images: Twitter/Workshop participants

ESA and the ESDC at EWASS 2019

By B. López Martí, D. Baines, G. de Marchi, M. López Caniego & E. Racero
EWASS 2019

The European Week of Astronomy and Space Science, the largest astronomical conference in Europe, took place in Lyon from June 24 to 28, 2019. This annual meeting of the European Astronomical Society welcomed nearly 1200 participants to discuss the present and future of European Astronomy in its plenary sessions and its numerous symposia, special sessions, and other parallel meetings. The European Space Agency had a large representation with scientists of many different missions (including Gaia, XMM-Newton, HST, and Athena), and even Dr. Günther Hasinger, ESA’s Director of Science, who gave a plenary talk about the current status and future plans of the ESA science programme.
Members of the ESDC organised a Lunch Session that was held on Wednesday, June 26. Around 30 participants attended the meeting to get updated on the latest developments in the ESA Astronomy Archives, to learn about the Astronomy Archives Users Group (AAUG), and to see the demos of ESASky and pyESASky. We want to thank them all for their comments and questions.
There was as well a Gaia Exploration Lab where participants had the chance to work on their own science projects with the support of mission scientists. In addition, many attendees passed by the ESA booth to pick some goodies, talk to the ESA scientists, get a personalised demo of some ESDC service, or try the Gaia Virtual Reality, probably the most popular attraction in the exhibition hall. Not to forget the press conference on Wednesday, June 29, on the synergies of Athena and LISA.
Next year, the appointment will be in Leiden, the Netherlands. We look forward to meeting you all there again!
Images: ESA/ESDC