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Research and public service in the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere of the Earth and other planets, and of outer space.

Vega Flight VV16 is postponed to August, due to persistent unfavourable winds at high altitudes above Kourou (French Guyana, South America). Aboard the Vega launcher, 53 satellites, including two Belgian CubeSats, PICASSO and SIMBA, are waiting to be lifted into orbit.

The NOMAD instrument, developed at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy and currently in orbit around Mars on board ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, has detected a unique green glow of oxygen in the atmosphere surrounding the red planet (around 80 km altitude). This emission gives its characteristic colour to the terrestrial polar aurora and airglow, but was never observed before in other planetary atmospheres outside of the Earth.

The Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy is working on a future ESA mission to Venus, called EnVision. The spacecraft is currently scheduled for launch in 2032, and its aim will be to investigate the geological characteristics and activity of Venus, as well as their influence on the planet’s atmosphere. This could help us understand why Venus and Earth evolved so differently.

Scientists from the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB), in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have determined the extent to which the COVID-19 crisis has had an impact on air quality. The results were published on May 8, 2020, in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

This spring, the Arctic was marked by what may be the largest hole in the ozone layer ever recorded over the North Pole. The ozone hole is a common seasonal phenomenon observed yearly over the South Pole areas (Antarctica). Ozone holes over the Arctic, however, are rarer. Since the start of satellite observations over this region in 1978, only one Arctic ozone hole has formed above the North Pole before, in 2011. Unusual meteorological conditions are responsible for this year’s exceptional ozone hole at the North Pole.

A question came up this week: “is it just an impression, or is the sky clearer and “bluer” since the start of the lockdown?” To be clear, we’re not talking about the weather or clouds, but the colour of the sky itself.

To answer the question, our scientist, Christine Bingen, first wrote an article about where the blue colour of the sky comes from.