Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Esa's Proba-2 demonstration satellite views eclipse

Annular eclipse (Esa)
In an annular eclipse, the Moon does not quite cover the Sun's disc

One of smallest satellites ever flown by the European Space Agency (Esa) has returned its first images of the Sun.

On Tuesday, mission managers hailed the excellent performance of the Proba-2 technology demonstration spacecraft.

The PRoject for OnBoard Autonomy satellite is intended to test hardware and software that might be incorporated into future Esa missions.

The 0.6m by 0.6m by 0.8m box includes new computer, battery, thruster, and solar panel systems.

It also carries some instruments to study the Sun and the space environment.

Proba-2 (Esa)
The satellite is part of a series of technology demonstration missions

At a press conference at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, the Proba team unveiled the spacecraft's first solar observations.

These included pictures of the annular solar eclipse on 15 January, which was seen from the Earth's surface across much of Africa and Asia.

Proba-2 was a secondary payload on the rocket which launched Esa's flagship "water mission" - the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (Smos) Earth Explorer.

Future Proba missions will be used by Esa to test new Earth observation techniques and the technology to fly spacecraft in formation.

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