ESA’s wandering eye

ESA’s wandering eye


04/07/2019 12:09 pm


IQOQI Vienna, Austrian Academy of Sciences


Sitting 2400 m above sea level on the volcanic island of Tenerife, Spain, ESA’s Optical Ground Station keeps watch on the skies.

The 1-m telescope nestled within the dome on the left of this image, spends its time surveying Earth’s local environment for artificial debris objects, testing different strategies for observing risky asteroids (near-Earth objects) as well as testing and commissioning optical communication satellites. (The telescope is also used for quantum key distribution and feeder-link experiments.)

Part of the larger Teide Observatory, the optical ground station can detect artificial debris objects as small as 10-cm travelling in the ‘geostationary ring’ –  a volume of space that comprises all geostationary orbits suitable for practical use, and one of the most valuable regions in space for telecommunications and Earth observation.

The search for fragments in the geostationary ring and a better knowledge of the current debris population are crucial to understand its future evolution, to assess the risk of collisions, and to define suitable and cost-efficient mitigation measures.

ESA’s Space Safety activities are underpinned by such accurate data from observatories around the globe, not only on space debris and asteroids but on our energetic Sun.

Find out more about how ESA works to keep people, life and infrastructure safe, here.

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