Astronomical event of the year: the Transit of planet Mercury over the Sun’s disk as seen from the Institute of Space Science

Sequence showing the Mercury transit's advance over the Sun's disk observed in H-alfa, on November 11th, 2019. (Foto: M. Teodorescu)
Sequence showing the Mercury transit’s advance over the Sun’s disk observed in H-alfa, on November 11th, 2019. (Foto: M. Teodorescu)

Transits of the inner planets over the disk of the Sun occur periodically, being observed for several centuries now. The interest in such events was mainly a scientific one, focused on a problem that remained unresolved in celestial mechanics for some time. The problem was the advancement of the perihelion of Mercury (a point where a planet, in its movement around the Sun, is closest to it) with a value greater than that calculated by Newton’s law of gravitation. Eventually, the problem was solved at the beginning of the 20th century, with the emergence of the general theory of relativity.

At the headquarters of the Institute of Space Science, a team of researchers from the Space Plasma and Magnetometry Laboratory (Maximilian Teodorescu, Gabriel Voitcu, Costel Munteanu, Eliza Teodorescu and Cătălin Negrea) observed the event from the building’s rooftop. The observation conditions, although not perfect due to the low altitude of the Sun above the horizon, allowed the acquisition of images in two wavelengths (in “white light” at 540 nm for the observation of the solar photosphere, and in the light of ionized hydrogen “H-alpha” at 656.28 nm for the observation of the chromosphere).

In addition to the actual observations, the team had the pleasure of engaging in solar observations with other researchers of the institute. Also, a few children viewed the event through the instrument’s eyepiece, and were fascinated by the appearance of the small dark disk of Mercury with the Sun’s chromosphere in the background.

The current transit showed a major interest from the astronomical community worldwide. The next such event will occur in November 2032.

Below are some photos from the event as well as some astronomical images resulted from the observation session.

This movie  shows the transit of Mercury over the disk of the Sun. Observations are done in the wavelength of ionized hydrogen (H-alpha).

Contact person: Dr. Maximilian Teodorescu <tmaxim[at]>

Photo Gallery:


JWST Master Class: a local workshop in ROMANIA

Workshop organisers:

Laurentiu Caramete, Bogdan Dumitru and Razvan Balasov from Institute of Space Science (ISS)

Marco Sirianni and Tim Rawle from European Space Agency (ESA)

Date: Feb 17-18, 2020

Location: Institute of Space Science, Măgurele


The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and also the proposal submission process (Cycle1 GO – General Observation) will start soon. In preparation for this event, ISS in collaboration with ESA is organizing a workshop in Romania to train the scientific community. This training helps building the necessary skills to use the proposal tools (APT and ETC, which are relatively complex) and to stimulate proposal ideas.

During this local workshop the participants will be familiarized with the JWST mission status and the scientific instruments (NIRCam, NIRSpec, NIRISS, and MIRI). Furthermore, the available proposal tools and observing scientific modes will be presented and discussed.

The participation is based of registration (Registration Form – Click here). There is no registration fee for this workshop. Please use the form below and provide some information on your interests and science questions. Deadline for Registration is Jan 13th, 2020.

20th Anniversary of the Foundation of the Pierre Auger Observatory

Artwork by Sandbox Studio Chicago with Pedro Rivas
Artwork by Sandbox Studio Chicago with Pedro Rivas

Pierre Auger Observatory celebrates this year the 20th Anniversary. The Scientific Symposium, Science Fair and official Celebration take place in Malargüe (Province Mendoza, Argentina), during November 14th -16th, 2019, at the site of the Pierre Auger Observatory.

The Pierre Auger Observatory is the world-wide largest cosmic ray detector, covering an area of 3000 km2. It is operated by a collaboration of more than 400 scientists from 17 countries (including Romania since 2014, represented presently by IFIN-HH and ISS). The aim of the Observatory is the study of the highest-energy particles of the cosmos, up to 1020 electronvolts and above. Data of the Auger Observatory led to major advances in our understanding of high-energy phenomena linked to the most violent processes in the Universe. Scientific breakthroughs have been achieved in several fields. Still, the sources of the particles of such extreme energies have not been identified. In addition, the properties of multiparticle production are studied at energies not covered by man-made accelerators searching for new or unexpected changes of hadronic interactions. The currently ongoing upgrade of the Pierre Auger Observatory, called AugerPrime, will help to address also those remaining open questions and will favor the emergence of a uniquely consistent picture.

More info about the event here.

Conference about “Societal changes determined by the national program of JAXA Space Education Center”

Organizers: ISS and the White Cross Foundation


When: 6th March 2018, from 09:00

Where: Institute of Space Science – ISS (Auditorium)


The speakers, experts of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), will present the premises, methods used and the national program results of promoting curiosity and the adventure spirit, as well as creativity, applied to children with the purpose of generating not only further generations of researchers in aerospace sciences but moreover citizens with broad vision and respect for scientific research.

Access to the conference <see program > will be made exclusively upon registration here.

The event can be followed live on the ISS Facebook and YouTube channels.

Contact person: Cristian Dumitru Ionescu <idcristi[at]spacescience[do]ro>


Participation of the Institute of Space Science to LISA space mission

Illustration of a LISA mission satellite. © AEI/MM/exozet; GW simulation: NASA/C. Henze

The Institute of Space Science was represented at the LISA Consortium Meeting – LISA Phase A Activities, which took place between January 29th – 30th, 2018, at the Max-Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), in Hannover, Germany, by Dr. Ion Sorin ZGURĂ, Director of the Institute of Space Science, Dr. Laurențiu Ioan CARAMETE, Head of the Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics Group and Dr. Eugeniu Mihnea Popescu, Head of the High Energy Astrophysics and Advanced Technology Group. The status of the future LISA space mission, which is an L-type (Large) mission of the European Space Agency, was presented, as well as the foreseen contributions of each entity in the consortium.

The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) will be the first space-based gravitational wave observatory and it will consist of 3 satellites joined by laser interferometers, placed in a triangle, at a distance of 2.5 million kilometers that will follow the Earth in its orbit around the Sun for an in-depth study of the Gravitational Universe. The satellites will have similar characteristics with the LISA Pathfinder mission, which flew successfully in December 2015 and has tested the most important technical components.

The Institute of Space Science will contribute to the LISA space mission with the Constellation Acquisition Sensor (CAS) system, which will verify the alignment of the 3 satellites, ensuring the acquisition of the laser signal on the interferometric detectors. Together with the Coarse Star Tracker (STR) system, CAS will check the visualization of the laser signal at the scanning maneuver stage. This contribution is fully supported by the Romanian Space Agency (by the programs “Romanian Incentive Scheme”, PRODEX and national programs) and is in excellent agreement with the Institute of Space Science strategy, as well as with the national strategy of research and development in Romania.

At the express request of the LISA Consortium, the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) appointed as representative in the “LISA National Agency Board” (which has representatives from each national space agency in the consortium) Dr. Marius-Ioan Piso, president and CEO of the Romanian Space Agency, who is recognized by the scientific community as one of the main initiators of gravitational radiation research since the ’80s. Also, Dr. Ion Sorin ZGURĂ, Director of the Institute of Space Science was appointed as delegate member in the LISA National Agency Board.

LISA space mission is proposed by an international consortium made by researchers from Germany, Italy, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Romania, Belgium, Portugal, Sweden, Hungary and United States of America. The launch of LISA is foreseen in 2034, with a lifetime of the mission for 4 years and the possibility of an extension up to 10 years.

Contact person: Dr. Laurențiu Ioan CARAMETE <lcaramete[at]spacescience[dot]ro>

Photo gallery


Dr. Laurențiu Ioan Caramete (left) and Dr. Ion Sorin Zgură (right) at the LISA Consortium Meeting – LISA Phase A Activities
Presentation of the Institute of Space Science contribution, at the LISA Consortium Meeting – LISA Phase A Activities, given by Dr. Laurențiu Ioan Caramete


NASA reveals the existence of an exoplanetary system at 40 light years away from Earth

Artistic Illustration of the TRAPPIST-1 system. Source NASA.

On February 22nd, 2017, through a press release, NASA reveals a historic discovery concerning the existence of new exoplanetary system, called TRAPPIST-1, which hosts seven planets, comparable in size and mass with Earth; three of them being located in the habitable zone, the most likely to have liquid water. The super-cool dwarf star, located at about 40 light years away from Earth, is being named after the TRAPPIST mission – Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescopes.

”One light year means about nine trillion kilometers, i.e at one milliard add three more zeroes. At the moment we cannot perceive yet to cover such a distance with human capabilities. Perhaps, it is necessary a paradigm shift, a change of perception, which will allow us, hopefully in a near future, to see how we could access these stars”, says President of the Romanian Space Agency (ROSA), Dr. Marius-Ioan Piso, in an interview accorded at Radio France International (RFI).

The observations began at the end of 2015, when a team of astronomers from University of Liege, Belgium, decoded the data acquired with the Liege telescope TRAPPIST-Sud, located in Chile. Further ongoing observations have implied more telescopes on-ground (TRAPPIST-Nord in Morocco, UK Infrared Telescope – UKIRT in Hawaii, William Herschel and Liverpool telescopes in La Palma, and the South African Astronomical Observatory telescope) and the NASA’s Spitzer space telescope.

In order to detail the atmospheric composition, or the structure of the rock of those planets, we may need perhaps a decade from now on”, says scientific researcher at the Institute of Space Science (ISS), Dr. Gina Isar, in an interview accorded at Antena 1 Observator TV.

However, NASA has made the reveal that seven planets revolve around TRAPPIST-1, through long and dedicated observations of better precision with the Spitzer space telescope. The remarkable results were recently published in Nature, which conclude that: “The TRAPPIST-1 system represents a unique opportunity to thoroughly characterize temperature Earth-like planets that are orbiting a much cooler and smaller star than the Sun” [Gillon, M. et al. Nature, 2017].

The TRAPPIST telescopes are part of a wider project called SPECULOOS – Search for habitable Planets EClipsing Ultra-cOOl Stars, which aims to detect more systems of this type, with four new telescopes in Chile.

Further observations will continue with new performant telescopes, both on ground and in space.

More information on the TRAPPIST telescopes can be found here.

More information on the SPECULOOS project can be found here.


INA – An interactive software tool for the statistical analysis of time series with application to space plasma turbulence

The diagram of INA and the schematic illustration of its main functionalities.

INA (Integrated Nonlinear Analysis) is an interactive software product designed to analyze satellite data with advanced nonlinear methods adapted to space plasma turbulence research. The software is developed in the framework of the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme project STORM (Solar system plasma Turbulence: Observations, inteRmittency and Multifractals) where ISS had a significant contribution. The main developers are Dr. Costel Munteanu (scientist at the Institute of Space Science – ISS), Dr. Marius Echim (senior scientist at ISS and also at the Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BISA), Brussels) and Dr. Peter Kovacs (senior scientist at the Geological and Geophysical Institute of Hungary, Budapest).

INA is publicly available from the website of the project ( as an executable file to be run under Windows or Linux operating systems. The download page is available after registration by email to

The software is written in MATLAB (version 2015a), but it can also be used independently by installing a MATLAB compiler, which can be downloaded freely from here. Through an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI), INA provides a complete statistical analysis of a time series and provides various methods: descriptive analysis, power spectral density (PSD), spectrogram analysis, analysis of probability distribution functions (PDF) of fluctuations, wavelet analysis, structure function analysis (SF), and multifractal analysis using the rank ordered multifractal analysis (ROMA).

INA is optimized for the analysis of magnetic field and plasma data provided by Venus Express, Cluster and Ulysses satellites, but has also adequate modules for reading and analyzing other data types.

For more information about INA, the software developers can be contacted directly by email: Dr. Marius Echim <marius.echim [at] oma [dot] be>, Dr. Costel Munteanu <costelm [at] spacescience [dot] ro>, Dr. Peter Kovacs <kovacs [dot] peter [at] mfgi [dot] hu>.

ISS’s researcher, IAA Newly Elected Member 2016

©ISS The award ceremony of IAA member, L. A. Popa together with IAA’s President and Vicepresident.

On the 25th September 2016, Dr. Lucia Aurelia Popa, senior researcher at the Institute of Space Science (ISS), became a full member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) at the Basic Sciences Section.

The award ceremony took place in frame of the 67th International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Dr. Lucia Popa is the Romanian representative of the Planck and Euclid ESA’s Missions and has been a Corresponding Member of IAA for three years, since 2013.


This post is also available in: Romanian

©ISS The IAA award of L. A. Popa

A new technique to gauge the distant Universe

Image credit:  ESA/XMM-Newton/G. Hasinger, N. Cappelluti, and the XMM-COSMOS collaboration
Image credit: ESA/XMM-Newton/G. Hasinger, N. Cappelluti, and the XMM-COSMOS collaboration

Scientists have developed a technique to use quasars – powerful sources driven by supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies – to study the Universe’s history and composition. To demonstrate the new method, based on a relation between a quasar’s luminosity at X-ray and ultraviolet wavelengths, they made extensive use of data from XMM-Newton X-ray observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA). This approach promises to become an important tool to constrain the properties of our Universe.

Read moreA new technique to gauge the distant Universe

Dark knowledge to search for dark matter — CERN workshop on artificial intelligence (AI)

Image credit: CERN
Image credit: CERN

During 9–13 November, physicists who work on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and artificial intelligence (AI) researchers attended a workshop — the first of its kind — at which they discussed how advanced AI techniques could speed discoveries at the LHC.

Read moreDark knowledge to search for dark matter — CERN workshop on artificial intelligence (AI)