Meet ESASky, a discovery portal that provides full access to the entire sky. This open-science application allows computer, tablet and mobile users to visualise cosmic objects near and far across the electromagnetic spectrum.
An innovative celestial atlas, the Internet-based application ESASky offers astronomers – professional and amateur alike – an easy way to access high-quality scientific data. It contains over half a million images, 300 000 spectra and more than one billion catalogue sources.
From gamma rays to radio wavelengths, the science-driven application allows users to explore the cosmos with data from a dozen space missions from the astronomical archives of missions in ESA's space science fleet, as well as from some missions from NASA and JAXA. ESASky requires no prior knowledge of each particular mission.
"We want to broaden access to astronomical data from ESA's sophisticated spacecraft and space telescopes, and give users the best science-ready products from each mission," says Bruno Merín, Head of the ESAC Science Data Centre at ESA's European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) near Madrid, Spain.
"Experts have chosen to simplify their lives, and ESASky is here to help them."
All Skies In Your Browser
ESASky features an all-sky exploration interface. Users can easily zoom in anywhere in the sky to visualise the star, galaxy or other cosmic object of their interest and retrieve the relevant data taken in that area of the sky with just a few clicks. Moreover, they can compare observations of the same source performed in different wavelengths with different space missions. For example, far-infrared data from the Herschel Space Observatory can be combined with observations from the XMM-Newton X-ray observatory.
The tool can also be used to help prepare future observations with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope, comparing the relevant portion of the sky as observed by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope or by any of the other missions included in ESASky.
All-sky view of the content of ESASky, ESA's interactive portal to access astronomical data from space science missions. By zooming out to see half of the sky and displaying the footprints from all the missions (visualised as squared in different colours), the users get a coverage map of all observations ever done from the X-ray to the far-infrared in one single map. ESASky is a discovery portal that provides full access to the entire sky. The open-science application contains a universe of data – over half a million images, 300 000 spectra and more than one billion catalogue sources.
There are many options to visualise and access astronomical data with ESASky. Interactive footprints of each instrument's field of view on the sky, catalogue sources, additional information about each observation and trajectories of Solar System objects can all be combined and displayed.
The platform promotes collaborations among scientists, as users can inspect a region of the sky, share it with colleagues and download all data without having to log in or register, further simplifying the access to the data archives.
What's In It?
ESASky contains data from over one million astronomical observations collected since 1978. The cosmic sources range from planets, satellites and comets to stars, the interstellar medium that pervades our Milky Way and other galaxies beyond our own.
As of March 2018, the platform incorporates data from past and present ESA missions such as EXOSAT, Gaia, Herschel, Hipparcos, the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Ultraviolet Explorer, INTEGRAL, the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO), Planck, and XMM-Newton. It also includes data from NASA's Chandra and the NASA/JAXA Suzaku space telescopes.
The most recent version of ESASky, released last month, includes access to scientific publications.
The spiral galaxy M101 region as viewed through ESASky, ESA's interactive portal to access astronomical data from space science missions. The yellow and red circles are clickable icons that refer to scientific publications related to individual sources in this galaxy, bringing up the publication details in the lower panel. These include direct links to the publications in the NASA Astrophysics Data System. ESASky is a discovery portal that provides full access to the entire sky. The open-science application contains over half a million images, 300 000 spectra and more than one billion catalogue sources.
"Users can highlight on the sky all astronomical objects that are featured in scientific publications," explains Deborah Baines, Astronomy Archive Science Lead at ESAC.
"By clicking on a dedicated icon, it is possible to open the list of available publications for each object, linking directly back to the publication in the NASA Astrophysics Data System," she adds.
"This is a useful way to search for, and visually relate, scientific publications with astronomical sources."
ESASky is in continuous development. New functionalities and data sets will be added in future releases to make the application more robust and complete. The next versions will provide improved usability for mobile phones and the possibility to look for changes over time in any area of the sky that has observed more than once.
"We encourage everyone to try ESASky and dive into the cosmos with their fingertips," concludes Merín.
ESASky was launched by ESA in 2016. It is developed by the ESAC Science Data Centre (ESDC) at the European Space Astronomy Centre (ESAC) near Madrid, Spain. It works as a top-level search interface to the Astronomy Science Archives, which are developed and maintained by the ESDC, in coordination with the science operations centres and consortia of the various missions.
ESASky makes use of Aladin Lite, a lightweight sky atlas running in the browser, developed by the Centre de Données astronomiques de Strasbourg (CDS), Strasbourg Observatory, France.
Top image: The interacting pair of galaxies M51 (bottom) and NGC 5194 (top) as viewed through ESASky, ESA's interactive portal to access astronomical data from space science missions. The green squares are footprints on the sky of different instruments on board the NASA/ESA Hubble Space telescope.
ESASky is a discovery portal that provides full access to the entire sky. The open-science application contains over half a million images, 300 000 spectra and more than one billion catalogue sources.
ESASky features an easy-to-use interface to explore, visualise and download science-ready data from any position in the sky by zooming and panning.
Filed under: Astronomy Software