Cyprus Mail

Cypriot scientist says island has important role to play in space

The study of space is the future, Cypriot scientist Georgios Nicolaou, who shed light on the secrets of Jupiter, the largest planet of our solar system, told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).

Nicolaou, who has analysed the data of the NASA New Horizons mission, is a scientific member of the Cyprus Space Exploration Organization (CSEO) and has been working abroad on missions exploring our Solar System.

On New Year’s Day the New Horizons mission passed by the most distant celestial body that was ever studied by a spacecraft, the Ultima Thule.

The New Horizons spacecraft flew by Jupiter, to exploit its gravity and accelerate for its journey to Pluto and beyond.

During its passage from Jupiter, Dr Nicolaou worked on the calibration of the instrument measuring the ion fluxes and he analysed the measurements taken by that instrument when the spacecraft passed through the magnetic system of Jupiter.

In order to have the correct interpretation of the data, it was necessary to simulate and model the instrument’s response to the planet’s environment.

He told CNA that ultimately they were able to understand the various mechanisms that govern the physics of the system.

Asked about space exploration, Dr Nicolaou said that it is clear that the study of space is the future.

He pointed out that the study of space is necessary to understand the mechanisms that take place in our planet’s system and thus to be able to protect it.

He referred to the study of space weather and space physics, which explores how the sun’s activity affects earth’s magnetosphere, sometimes with devastating consequences on communication systems, electrification, etc.

Asked how he would describe Cyprus’ steps in the study of space, he underlined the “outstanding contributions” of other Cypriot scientists to space missions and studies and said that the CSEO has achieved significant steps in this field and has important partnerships around the world.

He said that as a scientific member of the CSEO he works with the organisation on various international programmes including its forthcoming collaboration on a mission to explore the solar system.

Concluding, he expressed hope that Cyprus, “which has excellent scientists at home and abroad”, will have the financial capacity and the appropriate infrastructure to lead space missions and studies in the near future.

Nicolaou is currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, on the Solar Orbiter mission.

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