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New Belgian instruments for solar measurement in Antarctica

7 December 2012 - In 2007, Belgium started the construction of a new 0-emission research station in Antarctica: Princess Elisabeth Station.

UV AntarcticaThis year, the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) has deployed its UV-B and UV-A and pyranometer sensors for the measurement of the global solar irradiation in the UV and visible wavelength ranges.

Elisabeth StationThese instruments have been installed on the northern roof of the station, thanks to our local RMI colleague Dr. Alexander Mangold. The weatherproof instrument container had to be raised higher up on a strong support in order to increase the free field of view. Observations started as planned on December 1st 2012.

The measured data that are available on are important for our research concerning the stratospheric ozone layer that protects the Earth’s biosphere from a large part of the ultraviolet radiation emitted by the Sun. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiations can cause significant damage to living organisms.

More details on:


Power Supply installed in the International Space Station

09 November 2012 - Tuesday 6 November 2012 astronaut Aki Hoshide installed and activated the Portable Power Supply (PPS) in Columbus, the European Laboratory of the International Space Station (ISS). The PPS can provide power to 3 experiments at the same time, but for now only one is connected:  TriTel (Three-Axis Telescope).

B.USOC Control RoomThe European TriTel (Three-Axis Telescope) will run for 6 months continuously to characterize the radiation environment within Columbus lab with high accuracy. Radiation levels can have impact on crew health.

On the ground the Belgian Operations Centre B.USOC is responsible for the PPS. The Portable Power Supply has one inlet at 124V, and 3 outlets at 28V, as is used by most experiments and laptops. Every outlet can be switched off separately, so there is no interference between different payloads attached.  


9th European Space Weather Week

30 October 2012 - The Solar‐Terrestrial Centre of Excellence, STCE organises a space weather conference of world‐class. The European Space Weather Week, ESWW is THE annual event for researchers, users and others interested in Space Weather.

ESWWThe conference brings everybody concerned in contact with all possible aspect of space weather: from fundamental research to practical applications, from researcher to user.
300 participants worldwide chair their expertise and ideas. The conference is followed by politics, ESA, NASA and the public opinion.

European Space Weather Week (ESWW),
5 – 9 November 2012, Brussels



Official inauguration of measurement station in the Indian Ocean

29 October 2012 - On the 23 October a new measurement station was officially inaugurated on the Maido-mountain on Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean (Pictures).  

VenusThe Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) uses an infrared Fourier transform spectrometer to provide unique information on the atmospheric composition. The emphasis lies on ozone and gases that play a role in ozone chemistry, as well as on gases resulting from biomass burning.

The Maido site rises 2,203 m above sea level. The advantage of such an altitude is that there is less interfering humidity and pollution, which enhances the quality of the measurements. For its work on Réunion Island BIRA-IASB collaborates with LACy (OPAR). The station is part of the Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Composition Change (NDACC).

Infrared measurements from the ground (BIRA-IASB research group)


Belgian Operations Center gets the ISS rotated

9 October 2012 - For the very first time, the International Space Station (ISS) will be rotated for science objectives in December 2012.

SOLARIt was the Belgian Operations Center B.USOC that managed to get this scoop. B.USOC is responsible for the SOLAR platform, which is mounted on the exterior of the European Columbus Module.

SOLAR carries three Sun observing instruments, of which one, SOLSPEC, was developed at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) in collaboration with the French LATMOS.

Press release


A curious cold layer in the atmosphere of Venus

3 October 2012 - Venus Express has spied a surprisingly cold region high in the planet’s atmosphere that may be frigid enough for carbon dioxide to freeze out as ice or snow.

VenusThe planet Venus is well known for its thick, carbon dioxide atmosphere and oven-hot surface, and as a result is often portrayed as Earth’s inhospitable evil twin.

But in a new analysis based on five years of observations using ESA’s Venus Express, scientists have uncovered a very chilly layer at temperatures of around –175ºC in the atmosphere 125 km above the planet’s surface.

Complete article on ESA Venus Express website


Space Week 2012

Space Week Logo24 September 2012 - 20 years ago Dirk Frimout, the first Belgian astronaut, flew aboard the American space shuttle Atlantis/STS-45.

As chairman of the Euro Space Society, he invites the entire crew of mission STS-45 out to Belgium from 24th to 28th September 2012 to participate in conferences and debates on space research during the "Space Week 2012".

In this framework an academic session is organised on the 25th September in the Palais des Académies of Brussels by the Belgian Science Policy Office (BELSPO) and the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB).



European Metop-B satellite launched

21 september 2012 - On September 17 the second Metop satellite was launched from the missile base in BaikonuMetopr, Kazakhstan on a Russian Soyuz rocket. Metop-B will ensure continuity in the atmospheric monitoring services of its predecessor, Metop-A.

The instruments GOME-2 and IASI on the satellite are essential for the scientists of the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) doing atmospheric measurements on a global scale in relation to ozone, acid rain, volcanic eruptions, ...


Ozone layer stabilized, but large depletion in the polar regions continues to occur

16 September 2012 - On the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol, the global ozone layer has stabilized, but large depletion in the polar regions continues to occur.

Ozone HoleThe United Nations has declared the 16th of September as the International Day for the Protection of the Ozone Layer to commemorate 16 September 1987, the date when the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (a protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer) was signed.

The Montreal Protocol controls the production and use of ozone-depleting substances. It is an outstanding example of a successful cooperation between scientists, governments, non-government organizations, and industry, as well as between developed and developing countries.

Complete press release written by the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences (IAMAS) - International Ozone Commission (IO3C) (.pdf)


Smelling Grímsvötn

Grimsvotn5 September 2012 - While piloting a commercial transatlantic flight last year, Captain Klaus Sievers and his crew got a whiff of an unusual odour. In a confined space 10 km up in the air, there was only one thing it could be.

The foul smell with traces of sulphur in the cockpit came from none other than the Grímsvötn volcano that was spewing gas and ash from southeast Iceland.

Complete article on the ESA Portal


Dirk Frimout Exhibition in Brussels Planetarium

27 July 2012 - 20 years ago Dirk Frimout, the first Belgian astronaut, flew aboard the American space shuttle Atlantis/STS-45.

PlanetariumAs chairman of the Euro Space Society, he invites the entire crew of mission STS-45 out to Belgium from 24th to 28th September 2012 to participate in conferences and debates on space research during the "Space Week 2012".

This event will take place in various scientific institutes and universities and aims to motivate young people for scientific and technical studies.

An exhibition devoted to this flight, can be visited in the Planetarium of Brussels as from 1st July to 30th September 2012.


The transit of Venus

25 May 2012 - Venus, the Earth and the Sun will be perfectly aligned on the 5th and 6th June 2012. The passage of Venus between the Earth and the Sun will block a tiny part of the solar disk.

Venus transitFrom the Earth, Venus will look like a small, black disk passing across the Sun. This phenomenon is exceptionally rare and is an event not to be missed. In fact, this is the last chance to observe such a ‘transit’ until the 22nd century.

Transit of Venus : videos, photos and some technical and scientific explanation


Visit of Minister Magnette in Uccle

P. Magnette15 May 2012 - On Wednesday 9 May 2012 the Minister of science policy, Mr. Paul Magnette, honored the RMI, the Royal Observatory of Belgium and the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy with a work visit.

P. MagnetteDifferent team leaders had the opportunity to explain their scientific and service activities and are very grateful for the Minister's kind interest.

Photo credits: RMI



20 years ago, the first Belgian astronaut, Dirk Frimout flew aboard the space shuttle STS-45 for the space mission "Atlas1".

24 March 2012 - On 24 March 1992 Dirk Frimout, first Belgian astronaut originating from Poperinge in West Flanders, travelled into space, along with six American astronauts.

Among them was the commander, now the current Administrator of NASA, Charles Bolden. They participated in the Space Shuttle mission "Atlas 1" to study the Earth's atmosphere and the relationship between the Sun and the Earth.

Did you know that Dirk Frimout began his career at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB)?

Complete article in FrenchComplete article in Dutch


Dirk Frimout


Symposium on Sustainable of Space Activities

28 February 2012- A three-day symposium on Sustainability of Space Activities was held in February 2012 at the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France bringing together elites of space industry, academia, and major space agencies. The event promoted discussion of the major issues in sustainability and safety of space activities. The foremost place on the agenda belonged -not surprisingly- to the intensifying problem of space debris.

Dr. Norma Crosby, a BIRA-IASB scientist, took part in this symposium and presented her research. It was also the place to present the ESA operational software Space Environment Information System (SPENVIS), developed and maintained at BIRA-IASB.

Read complete article in Space Safety Magazine


BIRA-IASB & Space Aeronomy Reviewed

Public Service12 January 2012 - In 2014, the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

In its 50 years of existence, the institute has evolved to an institute with an international reputation in space physics, and in Earth and planetary atmospheres research, and providing a significant contribution to space and atmosphere related scientific services for the society.

Read much more on Space Aeronomy. Public Service Review: European Science and Technology - Issue 13, 13-12-2011, pp. 1-2.


Satellite evidence for a large source of formic acid from boreal and tropical forests

19 December 2011 - Formic acid contributes significantly to acid rain in remote environments. Direct sources of formic acid include human activities, biomass burning and plant leaves. Aside from these direct sources, sunlight-induced oxidation of non-methane hydrocarbons (largely of biogenic origin) is probably the largest source.

Acid rain Formic AcidHowever, model simulations substantially underpredict atmospheric formic acid levels indicating that not all sources have been included in the models. Here, we use satellite measurements of formic acid concentrations to constrain model simulations of the global formic acid budget.

According to our simulations, 100–120Tg of formic acid is produced annually, which is two to three times more than that estimated from known sources. We show that 90% of the formic acid produced is biogenic in origin, and largely sourced from tropical and boreal forests. We suggest that terpenoids—volatile organic compounds released by plants—are the predominant precursors. Model comparisons with independent observations of formic acid strengthen our conclusions, and provide indirect validation for the satellite measurements.

Finally, we show that the larger formic acid emissions have a substantial impact on rainwater acidity, especially over boreal forests in the summer, where formic acid reduces pH by 0.25–0.5.

Satellite evidence for a large source of formic acid from boreal and tropical forests. Nature Geoscience, 18 December 2011.


BIRA-IASB scientists at DPS-EPSC

3-7 October 2011 - Scientists from the Planetary Aeronomy research unit were present at the DPS-EPS joint conference held in Nantes (France) last week. They reported on a variety of topics.



Tenuous ozone layer discovered in Venus' atmosphere

ozone on Venus7 October 2011 - Using observations of Venus performed with the SPICAV-UV instrument on ESA's Venus Express, scientists have detected, for the first time, a tenuous layer of ozone in this planet's atmosphere.

The discovery poses new challenges to the characterisation of planetary atmospheres, especially in the quest for biomarkers on extrasolar planets. Scientists from BIRA-IASB have participated in this discovery.

Planetary Aeronomy News


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