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Research and public service in the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere of the Earth and other planets, and of outer space.

A question came up this week: “is it just an impression, or is the sky clearer and “bluer” since the start of the lockdown?” To be clear, we’re not talking about the weather or clouds, but the colour of the sky itself.

To answer the question, our scientist, Christine Bingen, first wrote an article about where the blue colour of the sky comes from.

It's incredible to think that pieces of a protoplanet – a large asteroid/small baby planet that never had the chance to become a real one - have been scattered around the solar system and made their way to planet Earth, in our time! And not just that, one piece of the protoplanet Vesta even made it all the way to Belgium. It was seen falling into a barn in the southern village of Tintigny in 1971, by Mr Eudore Schmitz. At the time, it was entrusted to the village teacher for identification, but fell into oblivion for over 40 years.

Many articles and statements have circulated about the effects of the Corona virus on air quality, including from us (see article about NO2 pollution in China). We would like to think that air quality has vastly improved since our lives have been virtually stopped in their tracks, but, as always, reality is complex. Here are a few scientific facts for you.

The edge of the world, where would that be? Our great-great-great-many-times-great grandfathers and grandmothers pondered this question with conviction that it must be found somewhere. Of course, now we know there is no end or edge (though sadly some individuals in the world appear not to have grasped this idea yet), but there are still places where you can see the ‘end of our world’ and maybe feel like you’re there.

The ASPA instrument had quite an unconventional birth compared to the usual remote sensing instruments that we develop at BIRA-IASB. It was designed, built, tested, and used without any dedicated budget line. Still, to my experience, its realization is a huge success given the limited resources (both in time and money) that were available. And this could only happen thanks to the motivation and commitment of the engineering department, which backed the ideas of some scientists to turn a nice concept on paper into a working and reliable instrument, operated in a harsh environment.

Rather than adapting our environment, today we are learning to adapt ourselves. For the duration of the period of confinement, the Royal Belgian Institute is adapting its slogan from "Science between Heaven and Earth" to "Science between Heaven and Home". We'll be sharing with you the little things that brighten our days in our new life and work routines. Each week you'll see new additions to the collection here.