Victor Castro Moreno
University of Seville

Correcting XMM-Newton X-Ray Astronomical Observations for Photon pile-up
Tutors: Norbert Schartel, Richard Saxton, Maria Santos-Lleo

XMM-Newton is an ESA space observatory that collects X-rays from astronomical sources. It carries three high throughput X-ray telescopes with an unprecedented effective area. Each telescope has an X-ray CCD camera on its focal plane: one pn and two MOS. These cameras are comprising the European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC). In addition, XMM-Newton is also equipped with two Reflection Grating Spectrometers and an Optical Monitor for simultaneous X-ray imaging, spectroscopy and UV/optical measurements. The large collecting area and ability to make long uninterrupted exposures provide unique highly sensitive observations.

As many astronomical sources are highly variable in X-rays, XMM-Newton sometimes observes its target at a source flux significantly higher than expected. Such observations often show pile-up within the EPIC cameras. Pile-up means that two or more photons arrive in the same camera-pixel during one read-out cycle. The camera then combines these into a single piled-up photon, which creates distorted spectra that are seriously hampering the scientific interpretation of celestial sources.

For the EPIC pn camera the XMM-Newton science operations centre developed the concept of a new pile-up correction method, never used in astrophysics before. The concept was inspired by methods applied in nuclear physics and was implemented within the XMM-Newton science analysis software. During the last two years the method has been significantly improved and fine-tuned. The method has been intensively tested for single events, i.e. when a photon arrives and hits only one pixel, as well as for double events, i.e. when a photon hits two contiguous pixels.

The purpose of the project was to test the improved pile-up correction method considering single and double events simultaneously. This allowed to decrease the remaining degeneracy and to evaluate the limitations of the method. I worked with simulations such that the input and output spectra ccould be directly compared as well as with real data. The outcome of the study was documented for the astronomers making scientific use of XMM-Newton data.

Dimitris Chatzigiannakis
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Binary AGNs hunt; the X-ray prospect
Tutors: Eleni Kalfountzou, Maria Santos-Lleo, Nora Loiseau, Laura Tomas

Supermassive black holes (SMBHs) were first proposed to account for the energy source of active galactic nuclei (AGNs). Now it is widely accepted that nearly every galaxy hosts a SMBH in its center. At the same time, in a ΛCDM universe, galaxies grow by hierarchical merging. During the merger, the SMBHs from each progenitor will sink toward the center of the merger remnant, and the formation of a gravitationally bound system, known as a SMBH binary, is almost inevitable. Merging SMBHs are expected to be the strongest source of gravitational wave radiation for space-based laser interferometers. However, the exact temporal evolution of these binaries, which determines their detection rates, remains uncertain. If most galaxies host a central SMBH, and nuclear activity is triggered in mergers, double/binary AGN should be common in a hierarchically evolving Universe. However, the expected ratio is in conflict with the existing data. High resolution imaging in the optical, radio, and X-ray is needed to help identify these binary systems.

The proposed work is to conduct a systematic work to analyze the X-ray properties of high-redshift AGN using XMM-Newton observations. The X-ray observations will be used to confirm the AGN companions, estimate the accretion rate of the system's components and help us distinguish the origin of the outflows associated with AGN feedback. In addition, the project has a great potential to further understand, via numerical simulations, the properties of binary AGN and their association with different type of mergers.

In this project, the successful applicant will be asked to:

  • Perform an X-ray study of AGN sources using XMM-Newton archive.
  • Estimate the X-ray properties of the sample and perform statistical analysis.
  • Make a comparative analysis with available data from samples of i) single quasars, ii) X-ray detected submillimeter galaxies, iii) nearby mergers.


Miguel Descalzo

Providing access to multi-mission, high-energy, flux upper limits
Tutors: Richard Saxton and Peter Kretschmar

Several astronomical missions, operating at X-ray and Gamma-ray wavelengths, have surveyed large areas of the sky. Some of these, e.g. XMM-Newton, Integral and Swift, provide internet-enabled mechanisms for finding the flux which has been observed at a particular position in the sky. We wish to create a single web-based tool which will provide a high-quality interface to this data, correlate the inputs and display results in a consolidated, flexible form including plotting of light curves. The tool will be written in javascript and other web technologies.

If time permits, interfaces to other space-based missions, such as Chandra, Exosat and Rosat will be constructed.

Sophia Milanov
Ruprecht-Karls University Heidelberg and Max Planck Inst Astro Heidelberg

Characterising galaxy evolution in nearby galaxy clusters
Tutors: Ricardo Perez-Martinez, Ana M. Perez-Garcia, Leo Metcalfe, Bruno Altieri

Galaxy clusters are gravitationally bound systems harbouring from hundreds to thousands of individual objects, each of them with their own characteristics and history. However, observations show that galaxies within clusters end up having similar morphology, star formation activity, gas and dust contents etc, indicating a significant influence of density in their evolution.

Several mechanisms have been suggested to explain this behaviour: galaxy-galaxy interactions, influence of the intracluster medium (ICM), effect of the gravitational well etc, each of them different impact in different spatial and phase-space zones. Characterising these zones and the physical properties of the galaxies in them will help to understand the processes driving galaxy evolution in high density environments.

This project intends to exploit the wealth of archival data from ESA missions (Hubble Space Telescope, Herschel, XMM-Newton etc) and tools developed within the team to comprehensively study cluster galaxies at redshift ~ 0.2 and determine the areas where the bulk of the galaxy transformations take place.


Katerina Sleptsova
University College Dublin

Development of Python data-mining’s algorithms and understanding of Mercury's Explosive Volcanism through visible and near infrared observations
Tutors: Sebastien Besse, Santa Martinez, Inaki Ortiz de Landaluce, Emmanuel Grotheer

The scientific observations of Mercury’s surface by the MESSENGER spacecraft have revealed quite a number of surprises, one of them being an extensive volcanism on most of the surface. Its characteristics and properties are still largely unknown, however recent investigations by international teams have emphasized the specificity of Mercury’s volcanism throughout the Solar System. Of particular interest is the fine scale variability of spectral properties observed by Besse et al. (2015) that can only be mapped by digging through millions of spectra obtained by the mission.

The selected candidate will re-use algorithms developed in Besse et al. (2015), migrate them from IDL to Python language, improve and develop them based on scientific research interests, and use them for exploring the wealth of data returned by the MESSENGER spacecraft in order to better understand the properties of Mercury’s volcanism. Improvements of the algorithms are needed in particular to properly address geometries and projections, with the additional prospects of projecting the footprints in a GIS environment. The proposed work is expected to provide significant outputs in understanding Mercury’s volcanism in order to prepare observations of the upcoming ESA mission BepiColombo to Mercury.

Project duration: 3 to 6 months.

Greta de Marco
Politecnico di Milano 

Demonstration of a web-based interface to a generic planetary mission science planning system (MAPPS)
Tutors: David Frew and Federico Nespoli

MAPPS (Mission Analysis and Payload Planning System) has been developed over the last fifteen years as a software tool in support of the science operations of the ESA (European Space Agency) Solar System missions. MAPPS provides a wide range of planning and simulation features, used in the different phases of the planning process for the scientific experiments and the consolidation and conflict resolution of the overall experiments planning.

The trainee will be involved in the R&D activity of migrating the planning tool interface from a desktop into a web-server apllication. In detail the trainee after getting familiar with MAPPS will provide support in searching for the appropriate technology and designing the web interface of the planning tool module inside MAPPS. The project will terminate with the development of a prototype to proof the feasibility of the selected design.

Markus Grass
University of Stuttgart

Supporting Solar System Exploration Missions Science Observations with Cosmographia 
Tutors: Nicolas Altobelli and Marc Costa

SPICE is an information system the purpose of which is to provide scientists the observation geometry needed to plan scientific observations and to analyze the data returned from those observations. SPICE is comprised of a suite of data files, often called kernels, and software -mostly subroutines-. SPICE is the ‘de facto’ standard for geometry computations among the Planetary Science community, and is used in ESA Solar System Exploration missions in both the planning of the science observations and the exploitation of science data.

On the other hand Cosmographia is an open source, SPICE-enhanced, interactive visualisation tool used to produce 3D visualizations of planet ephemerides, sizes and shapes; spacecraft trajectories and orientations; and instrument field-of-views and footprints. Cosmographia has a yet unexploited and almost unprecedented potential to serve as a tool to design and analyse science observations for Solar System Exploration missions. In order to do so the observations designed by the different Science Operations Centers of the ESA Solar Systems missions need to be processed in such a way that they can be feed into Cosmographia.

The student would build this missing link using web-based technologies and systems working with the ESA SPICE Service and in close collaboration with the JUICE Science Operations Center. After getting familiar with SPICE and Solar System Exploration observations geometry, the student would:

  • Working with his/her tutors, design a set of criteria that would allow to generate a generic observation definition for the different ESA Planetary Missions.
  • Design a set of algorithms that would calculate the required geometrical information (trajectory, attitude, reference frames, implied bodies and spacecraft, etc) based on the input observation information. For example, the algorithm might identify that the observation is performed by the JUICE mission with the MAJIS instrument in the surface of Ganymede. The system shall generate the set of Cosmograhia and SPICE configuration files, data and scripts from this information.
  • Design and implement the system, providing the user with a web-based interface to enter an observation from his/her mission and obtain the resulting Cosmographia viusalization.

Danae Bournou
National Technical University of Athens

Correlation of Smart-1 Data with other moon missions
Tutors: Emmanuel Grotheer, Richard Moissl-Fraund, David Heather, Sebastien Besse, Carlos Rios Diaz, Isa Barbarisi

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Director General has been calling for the creation of a "Moon Village" (see http://www.esa.int/About_Us/DG_s_news_and_views/Moon_Village_humans_and_robots_together_on_the_Moon).  Such a large endeavour consists of many components, and one small step towards such a goal is to create a catalog correlating the observations of the various missions to the Moon that humanity has sent in the past few decades.  This project will start on that road by first creating a catalog of all the observations made by ESA's technology demonstrator: Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology 1 (SMART-1).

After the initial SMART-1 catalog is created, the trainee will then correlate the observations with those made by the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) missions.  The resulting cross-mission catalog should include information, where applicable for each observation, such as the time, coordinates on the Moon's surface, solar activity level, altitude range, etc.  Thus, the trainee is expected to generate 3 (or more, as described below) mission-specific catalogs, each listing all the archived observations of that mission with the aforementioned parameters.  These will then be combined by the trainee to culminate in a query-able cross-mission catalog which lists all relevant observations that pertain to particular values or ranges of the informational parameters (time, altitude, etc.).

Depending on the trainee's interests and efficacy at tackling the above problems, this project could expand to cover other missions.  Additionally, the trainee could also work on a prototype of inter-archive querying based on the European Planetology Network - Table Access Protocol (EPN-TAP) and/or Planetary Data Access Protocol (PDAP) mechanisms to gather similar observation data from the various moon mission archives.

Tomáš Babej 
Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic 

FLASHES (FLexible Alert System for High Energy Sources) 
Tutors: Emilio Salazar, Celia Sanchez, Eva Laplace (Tübingen University) and Peter Kretschmar

In previous years a succesful trainee project created the Be X-ray Binary and Black Hole Activity Monitors at ESAC. These tools automatically obtain data from X-ray monitors and indicate if given sources seem to be active. They have proven to be helpful for the scientific comunity, on occasion triggering observations with targeted telescopes. But there are further types of transient or strongly time variable sources not yet covered by these monitor tools, e.g., neutron stars in Low Mass X-Ray Binary (LMXB) systems.

Instead of creating more instances of similar tools, based on the same basic funtionalities, the project FLASHES is foreseen to create an even more generic application, with data display configurable for different source classes handled by a common tool set in the background. More advanced web interfaces and alert mechanisms via mobile phones should also be investigated.

The student involved in the project will do systematic software development, extending and improving the existing code base. Statistical methods, including possibly data mining, will be used to distinguish between real variability and measurement noise. Training on methods and approaches will be provided by the tutors. A succesful project will leave a tool used and appreciated by professional astronomers around the world.

Christian Kirsch​​​​​​​
Erlangen-Nuremberg University

Radiation in L2: GAIA data analysis
Tutors: Asier Abreu, Cian Crowley, Juan Martin-Fleitas, Alcione Mora and Uwe Lammers

Orbits arount the L2 Lagrangian point in the Sun-Earth system are a preferred choice for many recent and future astronomical missions. It combines proximity to Earth with a very stable thermal environment. The radiation environment, dominated by low energy solar wind particles ahd high energy Galactic cosmic rays, is critical for key aplications (e.g. radiation damage in Gaia, background signal in Athena). However, it is not as well characterised as other locations like low earth or geosynchronous orbits. Gaia, with its gigapixel CCD camera, offers multiple possibilities to characterise the radiation in L2. For this traineeship, we will consider just two.

The first method is the analysis of the Basic Angle Monitor (BAM) data. The BAM records laser interferograms with a frequency of ~20s. The volume sampled is 10 mm x 10 mm x 40 micrometres of silicon (thick detector). The BAM astrometric precision is limited by the subtraction of energetic particle traces. Therefore, detecting cosmic rays is already a byproduct of the data reduction procedure.

The second diagnostic comes from the onboard computers (VPUs), which autonomously detect particle traces and reject them for further processing to save resources. Even though these results are VPU configuration dependent, they have been shown consistent with and complementary to other spacecraft data.

The long term goal is a systematic study of the long term behavior of the radiation environment in L2 across different solar cycles.

The proposed tasks in this traineeship are:

  • Fine tune the BAM cosmic detection algorithm
  • Derive cosmic ray images and noise maps (read-out and Poisson)
  • Determine event properties (time, number of pixels, charge, energy)
  • Correlate the VPU rejection counters with BAM data and calibrate them, if possible
  • Discuss these data sets in the context of other space missions

The trainee will gain valuable experience in the following fields:

  • General knowledge of the Gaia mission
  • Radiation monitoring in space
  • Laser interferogram analysis
  • Gaia onboard autonomous object detection

Additional information on the Gaia mission, radiation in L2 and the basic angle monitor can be found at:

Iuliana Tabian
Imperial College London


Enrique Lopez Becerra

Test and Validation of SST Web Portal
Tutors: Beatriz Jilete and Tim Flohrer

The Space Surveillance and Tracking segment, under Space Situational Awareness programme, is intended to provide high –level services to users in the field of object cataloguing, conjunction risk analysis, re-entry prediction analysis, fragmentation analysis, special mission support, sub-catalogue characterisation and mission characterisation.

The SST segment can be divided in a front-end and a backend as follows:

  • Back-end: the core of the system comprised of Data Processing Chain, Sensor Simulator and Planning System.
  • Front-end: the services provided to external users. Concretely Conjunction Prediction System, Re-entry Prediction System, Fragmentation Analysis System and Catalogue Query System, reachable via the SST Web portal.

The SST Web Portal is about to be published and reachable by the community. The successful applicant will be asked to help with the operation of the SST Web portal for test and validation purposes by means of procedures and scripts, optimising the automatic and manual executions of CPS, RPS, CQS and FAS systems. These four systems shall be executed in a daily base fed-up with orbital information gathered in the database.

The project can be developed and extended in various different directions during the traineeship based on the rate of progress and the trainee’s own personal interests.

Jose Angel Gutierrez Ahumada​​​​​​​
TU Delft 

Development of a thermal model to optimise SMOS external manoeuvres
Tutors: Jorge Fauste, José María Castro Cerón, Carmen Gamella, Alvaro Llorente

Launched in November 2009, SMOS is making global observations of soil moisture over landmasses and salinity over the oceans. The SMOS mission is based on a LEO sun-synchronous orbit, with a single on board payload called MIRAS. As part of the MIRAS mission planning cycle, the spacecraft is manoeuvred once every two weeks to obtain sky calibration images on L-Band. These calibrations are always performed over the Pacific Ocean selecting an inertial sky attitude as close as possible to any of the Galactic Poles. During the first five years of the mission, these sky calibrations were always performed with the Sun out of the field of view i.e. below the antenna plane. In 2014 the calibration results started to show some anomalous values that were clearly linked to instrument thermal edging effects. These effects were significantly reduced by turning the calibration strategy and having the Sun above the antenna plane (maximum elevation 10 degrees). With this new strategy it has been seen that the geometrical and thermal conditions of these calibrations change dramatically along the year due to the yearly seasonal evolution of the SMOS orbit. Also the calibration results obtained in these conditions strongly depend of the maximum Sun elevation reached during the observation but also on the initial Sun elevation and its evolution along the manoeuvres.

The SMOS operations team would like to have the possibility to optimize the Mission Planning process and select the best possible calibration conditions based on instrument thermal aspects. To do so, a simplified thermal model of the SMOS NIR antennas should be built having as main output variables the temperature of two sensors located respectively above and below the SMOS antenna plane. This model shall also include the variations of the Sun and Earth energy fluxes taking into account the variations of the spacecraft attitude and its orbital position. Further tune of this initial model will be performed using the thermal ESATANTMS simulator. Based on this, the main objectives of this project are:

  • To develop a MIRAS thermal model that could be used to predict the temperature evolution of the instrument during external calibrations.
  • To validate the model against real SMOS telemetry data.
  • To create a dedicated SW application based on that model.
  • To use this model to optimise the selection of the SMOS external manoeuvres.

Triantafyllia Voulivasi​​​​​​​
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Data mining of the SOHO science archive
Tutors: Arnaud Masson, Beatriz Martinez, Bernhard Fleck, Pedro Osuna, Daniel Mueller

The SOlar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) Science Archive (SSA) of the European Space Agency provides access to data acquired by the SOHO satellite over the past two solar cycles (i.e. 22 years). It contains data acquired by all SOHO instruments together with any other data produced by the SOHO project. SSA allows to search data by time intervals, but also by instrument detector, study or campaign, wavelength...

Enhanced SOHO archive with content search/data mining capabilities will be of great utility for solar physicists (example, the newly developed Hinode IRIS archive at LMSAL in Palo Alto, http://iris.lmsal.com/search/, see below).

The goal of this trainee project is to develop a proof of concept for a new web interface to SOHO archive that will allow to search by solar events (cross-matching with the Heliophysics Events Knowledgebase, HEK). It will display the events found on top a SOHO image, for at least one type like Flares. It will enable a quick access to download the related SOHO data. All time periods fitting the criteria set by the user will be downloabled. The trainee will work with the support of the ESAC Science Data Centre (ESDC), being in contact with heliophysics scientists and data experts. The output of the project will support the development of the future archive of Solar Orbiter.

Philipp Wirth​​​​​​​
ETH Zurich

Archiving and Calibrating Georeferenced Astronaut Auroral Photography 
Tutors: Andrew Walsh and Arnaud Masson

The aurora borealis and aurora australis (the northern and southern lights) are a beautiful natural display caused by the interaction of the Earth's magnetosphere with the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field. By studying the aurora through imaging and in situ measurements we can understand the physics behind this interaction and how it can affect our society.

Astronauts on board the International Space Station have taken thousands of high resolution, colour photographs of the aurora which we have processed to produce a useful science dataset by reconstructing each image's pointing information from the starfield in the image (See Riechert et al., 2016, doi:10.5194/gi-5-289-2016). Our processed data, however, are still uncalibrated and hosted on a temporary server (https://cosmos.esa.int/arrrgh). This project has two objectives: Firstly, to investigate how to perform photometric calibration on images taken by off-the-shelf DSLR cameras after the fact (i.e. without taking specific calibration images), most likely by again using the stars in the image, and secondly to integrate the software and data with the ESA heliophysics archive here at ESAC, so that it will be available to the scientific community in the long term.

Thomas Samuel ​​​​​​​
Ecole Centrale de Nantes

Advanced Exploration of GAIA data through virtual reality
Tutors: Juan Gonzalez, Jesus Salgado, Bruno Merin, Alcione Mora, Emanuel Ramirez

The ESAC Science Data Centre (ESDC) provides worldwide exposure to data generated by ESA astronomy, planetary and heliophysics missions. Most of this data is highly dimensional, and its interpretation and visualisation is one of the challenges faced by present astronomy.

Catalogues with stellar distances can be naturally accommodated into 3D visualizations. Virtual Reality (VR) brings an unprecedented level of interaction possible with these visualisations, and emerging VR platforms such as Oculus VR, Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR are making these technologies accessible to the wide public.

This project aims to deliver advanced functionalities for VR tools created to access current Gaia Data Release 1 catalogues with stellar distances (~2 million sources), with particular emphasis on LOD (Level of Detail) techniques that can scale up to final Gaia releases (~1E9 sources). The functionalities will also include advanced functionalities for data selection in a VR space through peripherals like Oculus Touch.

The trainee will work with the resources, infrastructure and support of the ESAC Science Data Centre (ESDC). He or she will also be in contact with scientists or data experts for each of the domains of application.

Sara Alberola​​​​​​​
University of Valencia 

Creating a mobile version (or app) of ESA’s astronomy discovery portal ESASky
Tutors: Bruno Merin, Fabrizio Giordano, Jesús Salgado, Deborah Baines

In May of 2016, the ESAC Science Data Centre (ESDC) released ESASky (http://sky.esa.int), a desktop web science-driven portal to allow the exploration and discovery of data in the ESA Astronomy archives. The response from the community has been extremely positive and several ideas have raised on possible further evolution of the application.

Although ESASky is geared towards the scientific community, the portal has several obvious applications in the area of science education and outreach. Some of them would require making a version of the application that runs well on mobile devices and possibly can handle the position information to align the screen view to the mobile orientation in physical space.

The project consists in the development of a mobile version of the ESASky application (either in web application form or as an independent app) to be tested and published for iOS, Android and Windows Phone if possible within the duration of the traineeship.

The trainee will work with the resources, infrastructure and support of the ESAC Science Data Centre (ESDC) within the ESASky team. She or he will be in contact with scientists or data experts for each of the domains of the application and will be based at ESAC, near Madrid.


Carlos Viscasillas​​​​​​​
Valencian International Univeristy & UAB Trikdis, Lithuania

The impact of mass loss on the late stages of evolution of massive stars
Tutors: Frank Tramper and Danny Lennon

Massive stars are key players in the Universe, and strongly affect their surroundings through their dense stellar winds, intense ionizing radiation, and eventual deaths in supernova explosions. Even though they live fast and die young, the stellar winds of massive stars are so strong that they can lose up to 90 percent of their mass during the few million years of their lives. This happens in particular during the late stages of evolution, when some of these stars go through a so-called Wolf-Rayet (WR) phase. The mass loss of WR stars is so high that the stellar wind is opaque and hides the star itself from view, and tens of solar masses of material can be lost in only a few hundred thousand years.

To understand the evolution of massive stars and their impact on their surroundings, knowing the effect of the mass loss is thus critical. In this project, the trainee will develop stellar evolution models for WR stars using the Models for Experiments in Stellar Astrophysics (MESA) code. These models will incorporate a new prescription for the mass loss rate, which is considerably more accurate than the older prescriptions currently in use. The predictions from these models will be compared to those of published models from various groups to asses the impact of the more accurate mass loss rates. Finally, observed properties of WR stars will be compared to those predicted by the new models.

Patricia Revuelta Ropero​​​​​​​
Universidad Europea de Madrid

Zero-G Drone: Feasibility study of a microgravity facility based on drones
Tutors: Fernando Martin-Porqueras, Emmet Fletcher, Juan Gonzalez, Julio Gallegos, Luis Martin-Polo

Astronauts work in a free-fall environment in their orbital flights around the Earth. This environment is often described as “microgravity” or “weightlessness”. However gravity is still present. In fact, the Earth’s gravity is responsible for keeping spacecraft in their orbits. Spacecraft are actually falling (accelerating) directly towards the centre of the Earth and they need a large horizontal (tangential) speed in order to maintain their distance from the Earth’s surface constant.

Things behave differently in free-fall environments. For instance, fire burns in a different shape and crystals develop purer in free fall. Therefore, exploiting the microgravity environment for research aids us to understand more about the way in which the world works.

Free-fall environments on the Earth are achieved by means of drop towers and parabolic flights. Those facilities are scarce and their maintenance and operations are expensive. The miniaturization of instrumentation along with the cost reduction of drone technology present a unique opportunity for the development of affordable and easily used microgravity facilities for small experiments.

This internship offers the student the opportunity to develop their analytical and design skills while carrying out the feasibility study of an innovative microgravity facility, based on drones. The study will cover the gathering of the system requirements, the system design (functional and physical design), the identification of the suppliers for the main parts of the system and the validation of the design through the development of a simulator. The student will also have access to a drone for the preliminary assessment of the designed system in the real world.

The feasibility study will be carried out in collaboration with Tech For Space (techforspace.com), a non-profit association of space enthusiasts. Tech For Space will be part of the advisory team and will contribute with the instrumentation required for evaluating the drone aerodynamics during the feasibility study.

Roger Cano​​​​​​​
EETAC-IPC, Barcelona

CubeSat: Science mission proposal and communications subsystem demonstrator
Tutors: Julio Gallegos, Xavier Dupac, Fernando Martín Porqueras, Beatriz Jilete

Our group has been working on the development of different subsystems for a CubeSat with the focus on an astronomical application. We would like to continue in the refinement of what we already have and advance the project to a full system in the near future. If you decide to join us, you will work on the AOCS, communication system (UHF/VHF and X-Band), power subsystem, and new ideas to deploy antennas and solar panels. In addition, we would like you to work on the analysis of the communication system for a cubesat to be able to communicate with a larger satellite in a very precise operational environment; this will imply to study the power and technology needed, the CCSDS for cubesats, the operational environment and time of contact. It is a very demanding but enriching task.

The roadmap for this project would include the integration of the AOCS, UHF/VHF communication systems and the power system. In parallel, you will investigate the operational environment (details will be given during the interview) and propose a communication system for the cubesat (6U) to cope with the limitations of the operational environment and the payload. You will present a proposal for the communication system, AOCS, power subsystem... or for any subsystem you have selected, by the end of your stay.


Michelangelo Pantaleoni Gonzalez

OB stars in the solar neighbourhood as observed by Gaia
Tutors: Jesús Maíz Apellániz and Danny Lennon

On 14 September 2016 the first Gaia data were released and a new era in Galactic astronomy started. The first release includes parallaxes and proper motions for the 2 million brightest stars obtained by combining Hipparcos and Gaia information (TGAS). At the same time, our research group has access to the Galactic O-Star Spectroscopic Survey (GOSSS) and four high-resolution multi-epoch optical spectroscopic surveys (OWN, IACOB, CAFÉ-BEANS, and NoMaDS). GOSSS provides the selection of a magnitude-complete sample of ~400 O stars in the solar neighborhood and the high-resolution surveys provide precise radial velocities (with multi-epoch measurements of spectroscopic binaries) and stellar parameters. Therefore, for the first time we can have an accurate and complete knowledge of the spatial distribution of the O-type stellar population in the solar neighborhood. In this project we will use these data as well as complementary data for B stars to study the Galactic rotation curve, the location and dynamical effect of nearby spiral arms, the distances to known clusters and associations, the height scale for massive stars, and the spatial distribution of dust.


Stanislav Stoyanov​​​​​​​
University of Konstanz, Germany

Exploitation of the XMM and Kepler satellites: lithium, rotation and activity in young clusters 
Tutors: David Barrado, Nuria Huelamo, Eva Verdugo

XMM-Newton is one cornerstone of the ESA space observatories, whereas Kepler is producing and amazing database of stellar variability. including rotation, in open clusters. On the other hand, the Gaia-ESO project is collecting a very large amount of spectra in some of these associations. The goal of this proposal is to combine these extraordinary databases in order to: i) detect new members based on the coronal activity, ii) investigate the general properties of the cluster members, iii) analyze the rotation, activity and stellar properties from a comprehensive perspective in order to establish the true nature of the lithium overabundances detected in fast rotators.

Outcome: At least one referee paper in a major journal.

Carlos Moreno Jodar​​​​​​​

Study of common proper-motion binaries using GWP and Gaia
Tutors: Enrique Solano, José Antonio Caballero, Rosario Lorente

Very wide, weakly physically bound binary stars are unique probes of the star formation process and of disruption mechanisms by perturbers and the Galactic tidal field. We will use the Garraf Wide Pairs Surveys (GWP, http://www.oagarraf.net/) and the Gaia Data Release \#1 to identify and characterize new binary systems.

The methodology to be used in this study will be as follows:

  • GWP-2MASS-Gaia cross-match to compute proper motions from 2MASS and Gaia epochs and compare them with those derived using USNO-B1, NOMAD and UCAC-3.
  • Determination of distance-color and mass-color relationships using 2MASS and Gaia data. Well-studied stars from the CARMENES project will be used to derive these calibrations.
  • Estimation of the binding energy of the systems and detailed characterization of the weakest ones.

Outcome: The project is suitable to be considered as a research master work.

Enrico Fini
Politechnico di Milano

Image processing pipeline for the CESAR Solar Observatory
Tutors: Miguel Perez-Ayúcar, Santa Martinez, Michel Breitfellner, Javier Ventura

CESAR (Cooperation through Education in Science and Astronomy Research) is a joint educational programme developed by the European Space Agency (ESA), the Spanish National Institute for Aerospace Technology (INTA) and INTA-owned company ISDEFE. Its objective is to provide students from European secondary schools and universities with hands-on experience in Optical and Radio Astronomy. In addition, CESAR shall contribute with outreach activities to promote Space Science and to stimulate European students' interest in Science and Technology in general and Astronomy in particular.

As part of the CESAR initiative, a permanent Solar Observatory (CESO) was installed at ESAC, Madrid, Spain in 2012 http://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/cesar/esac-solar-observatory. It consists of two telescopes:

  • Coronado Solarmax II 90 with a double Stack Filter, in H-alpha and a
  • Bresser AR-102, in visible (white-light).

The telescopes are mounted on a Celestron CGEM GOTO mount, installed in a Scopedome 3M. The dome is connected to a AAG CloudWatcher weather station. The cameras currently used are two QHY5-II. A second set of portable telescopes, mounts and cameras is also available for testing, and specific observations from remote locations.

The CESAR ESAC Solar Observatory (CESO) is designed to work completely autonomous delivering H-alpha and visible light images every minute if meteorological conditions allow it. Those images are acquired by two QHY5-II cameras and transferred from the computers in the dome to a server where they are processed and archived. Last processed images are displayed on the CESAR webpage: http://cesar-programme.cab.inta-csic.es/sun.php?Section=Play

CESAR is upgrading its infrastructure with new server(s) for observatory operations and web pages.

The project objective is to migrate and improve the image-processing pipeline for the CESAR Solar Observatory to the new infrastructure, and it entails the following tasks:

  • Understand how the current image-processing pipeline works.
  • Evaluate existing SW packages (mostly in shell script, Python and Matlab) and identify possible improvements / alternatives, preferably open source.
  • Evaluate the hardware and software environment provided by the new infrastructure and identify if there are any additional needs from the image-processing pipeline.
  • With the knowledge of the previous three points, design the new image-processing pipeline for the new CESAR infrastructure.
  • Implement the new image-processing pipeline on the new CESAR infrastructure.
  • Test the image-processing pipeline during CESO routine operations.

The final result of the project should be a working image processing pipeline running on the new CESAR infrastructure including a detailed document explaining its design and usage.

Maria Patricia Bejarano
IE University

Human Resources Department Traineeship
Tutors: Javier Delgado, Nienke de Boer


The European Space Agency (ESA) is an International Organization composed of 22 Member States. Its mission is to draw up the European space programme and carry it out in areas such as earth observation, space technology, science and space exploration, launchers, human spaceflight, navigation, telecommunications …

ESA's headquarters are located in Paris (France) and has sites in a number of European countries, each of which has different responsibilities:

EAC, the European Astronauts Centre in Cologne, Germany;
ESAC, the European Space Astronomy Centre, in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain;
ESOC, the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany;
ESRIN, the ESA centre for Earth Observation in Frascati, Italy;
ESTEC, the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands;
ECSAT, the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications in Harwell, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom;
ESA Redu Centre, Belgium.

In addition, ESA has coordination offices in United States, Russia and a space port in the French Guyana (Kourou) and space tracking stations in different parts of the world.

Traineeship opportunity

The Agency is offering an unpaid traineeship opportunity in the Human Resources Department at its ESAC establishment from January/February 2016 to July/August 2016. The main tasks to be carried out by the trainee are amongst others the following:

  • Support the digitalization process of the personal files of staff working on site.
  • Support the setup of databases in the area of Human Resources.
  • Update the newcomers guide.
  • Prepare the Human Resources news to be displayed every week in the intranet and in TV screens distributed onsite.
  • Support with training and interviews logistics.

Eduardo Bressel
University of Zaragoza

Procurement Traineeship
Tutors: Javier Delgado


The European Space Agency (ESA) is an International Organization composed of 22 Member States. Its mission is to draw up the European space programme and carry it out in areas such as earth observation, space technology, science and space exploration, launchers, human spaceflight, navigation, telecommunications …

ESA's headquarters are located in Paris (France) and has sites in a number of European countries, each of which has different responsibilities:

EAC, the European Astronauts Centre in Cologne, Germany;
ESAC, the European Space Astronomy Centre, in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain;
ESOC, the European Space Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany;
ESRIN, the ESA centre for Earth Observation in Frascati, Italy;
ESTEC, the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands;
ECSAT, the European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications in Harwell, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom;
ESA Redu Centre, Belgium.

In addition, ESA has coordination offices in United States, Russia and a space port in the French Guyana (Kourou) and space tracking stations in different parts of the world.

Traineeship opportunity

The Agency is offering an 6 months unpaid traineeship opportunity in Procurement at its ESAC establishment. The main tasks to be carried out by the trainee are amongst others the following:

  • preparing requests for offers/invitations to tender;
  • participating in the evaluation of offers and tenders;
  • preparing and negotiating the resulting contracts;
  • participating in the monitoring of the execution of the contracts;
  • dealing with administrative, contractual, legal and industrial problems arising from the procurements concerned.​​​​​​​