SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research develops pioneering technology and space instruments to conduct fundamental research in the fields of astrophysics, earth observation and exoplanets. The scientific program focusses on the evolution and history of the Universe, on climate change and air quality, on the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system and on the development of detection technology.
SRON’s earth observation programme had a fruitful year, starting with the discovery of inactive flaring installations at oil production facilities in Turkmenistan, venting large quantities of the potent greenhouse gas methane into the armosphere. Engineers from SRON and Airbus Nederland installed the aerosol instrument SPEXone onto Nasa’s PACE climate satellite. And SRON’s Tropomi team measured methane plumes coming from four major landfills, with a climate impact as high as that of 1.5 million cars. Later, at the COP27, they presented a world map covering over 100 landfills with large methane emissions. At that same conference it was announced that SRON becomes one of the core partners in a United Nations initiative (MARS) to monitor methane hotspots around the globe. In the meantime in 2022, SRON joined forces with other knowledge institutes and launched the Clear Air Consortium. In October, the Dutch Tropomi partners celebrated the milestone of being five years in space.
The astrophysics programme also had a successful year with many scientific publications. These include photographing a shock wave in space stretching across 6.5 million lightyears, discovering a black hole spinning sideways and creating a new method to study outflows from galactic centers in preparation for the Athena X-ray mission. SRON’s planetary scientists found that space dust, asteroids and comets suffice to account for all water on Mercury, discovered that Jupiter is inhomogeneous and used the recently launched JWST to detect carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet. The PLATO team conducted the first tests to find out of its cameras will hold in space conditions.
SRON’s technology programme had a major breakthrough by reaching the highest possible sensitivity for its far-infrared KID detectors. They are now sensitive enough to detect the background radiation of the Universe.