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On a clear summer night, look up to the sky and what do you see? Ordinary matter such as planets, stars maybe even an asteroid. Millions of little specks, as far as the eyes can reach. This ordinary matter, also known as baryonic matter, is the primary observable component of our universe. But is what we see all that is out there?
If you raise your eyes to the sky, you won't see it but you might sense it passing by. On 12 January just before sunrise in Europe, PicSat, a cube satellite as big as a shoebox and barely as heavy as a brick, will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India. Supported with a grant from the European Research Council, it is the first nanosatellite to embark on one of the greatest space adventures: exploring, from afar, an exoplanet.
Catalysts are essential for a lot of chemical production processes, accelerating and enhancing chemical reactions to produce plastics, medicines and fuels more efficiently. Now, thanks to EU-funded research, catalysts are being made more precise and effective with potentially significant benefits for industry and the environment, not least through the development of ultra-clean fuels.
How can we explain the continuity of Chinese empires? Dr Hilde De Weerdt with her project "Chinese Empire" revisits this big question in world history.
When Prof. Heino Falcke obtained an ERC grant to study and identify the sources of ultra-high energy cosmic rays, back in 2008, he could not imagine that his research would provide an important clue to better understand lightning and thunderclouds much closer to us. His team indeed realized that cosmic rays, originating in outer space and striking the Earth from all directions, can provide a near instantaneous 'picture' of the electric fields in clouds. The unexpected finding, to be published this week in Physical Review Letters, is the result of a fruitful collaboration between astronomers, particle physicists and geophysicists. The measurements were performed with the LOFAR radio telescope, located in the Netherlands, and partly funded by the ERC.