EPSC2021: Scientists use seasons to find water for future Mars astronauts

EPSC2021: Scientists use seasons to find water for future Mars astronauts

An international team of researchers has used seasonal variations to identify likely sub-surface deposits of water ice in the temperate regions of Mars where it would be easiest for future human explorers to survive. The results are being presented this week by Dr Germán Martínez at the European Planetary Science Conference (EPSC) 2021.

Using data from NASA’s Mars Odyssey, which has spent almost 20 years orbiting the Red Planet, Martínez and his colleagues have identified two areas of particular interest: Hellas Planitia and Utopia Rupes, respectively in the southern and northern hemisphere. Seasonal variations in levels of hydrogen detected suggests that significant quantities water ice can be found in the metre or so below the surface in these regions. 

Martínez, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, said: ‘Data from Mars Odyssey’s Neutron Spectrometer showed signs of hydrogen beneath the surface Mars from mid to equatorial latitudes, but we still had the challenge of working out whether this is in the form of water ice, which can readily be used as a resource, or locked away in mineral salts or in soil grains and minerals. This is where the seasonal variation provides an important clue. As the coldest ground temperatures occur at the same time as the largest observed increase in hydrogen content, it suggests that water ice is forming in the shallow subsurface of these regions during the fall and winter seasons, and then sublimating into gas during the warm season of each hemisphere.’ 

Water ice in the shallow subsurface has been found in plentiful supply at the poles. However, the frigid temperatures and the limited solar light make polar regions a hostile environment for human exploration. The areas from equatorial to mid latitudes are much more hospitable for both humans and robotic rovers, but only deeper reservoirs of water ice have been detected to date, and these are hard to reach. 

To survive on Mars, astronauts would need to rely on resources already available in-situ, as sending regular supplies across the 55 million kilometres between Earth and Mars at their closest point is not an option. As liquid water is not available in the cold and arid Martian environment, ice is a vital resource. Water will not only be essential for life-support of the explorers, or the growth of plants and food, but could also be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen for use as rocket fuel. 

Two other regions are rich in hydrogen: Tharsis Montes and the Medusae Fossae Formation. However, these do not display seasonal variations and appear to be the less accessible forms of water.  

‘Definitely, those regions too are interesting for future missions,’ added Martínez. ‘What we plan to do now for them or Hellas Planitia and Utopia Rupes, is to study their mineralogy with other instruments in the hope of spotting types of rock altered by water. Such areas would be ideal candidates for robotic missions, including sample return ones, as the ingredients for rocket fuel would be available there too.’

Image

Caption: Global map of Mars with overlaid topography indicating areas with significant seasonal variations in hydrogen content during northern spring (top) and fall (bottom). Green (red) represents increase (decrease) in hydrogen content. The areas highlighted in orange are Hellas Planitia in the southern hemisphere, and Utopia Rupes in the northern hemisphere. These are the only extended regions undergoing a significant variation throughout the Martian year.  Credit: G. Martínez.

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Martinez.png

Further information:

EPSC2021-443: Looking for Non-Polar Shallow Subsurface Water Ice in Preparation for Future Human Exploration of Mars  

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-443

Science Contact

Germán Martínez
Lunar and Planetary Institute
gmartinez@lpi.usra.edu

Media contacts

EPSC Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community.

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

EPSC2021: Exotic Mix in China’s Delivery of Moon Rocks

Exotic Mix in China’s Delivery of Moon Rocks 

On 16 December 2020 the Chang’e-5 mission, China’s first sample return mission to the Moon, successfully delivered to Earth nearly two kilograms of rocky fragments and dust from our celestial companion.  

Chang’e-5 landed on an area of the Moon not sampled by the NASA Apollo or the Soviet Luna missions nearly 50 years ago, and thus retrieved fragments of the youngest lunar rocks ever brought back for analysis in laboratories on Earth. The rocks are also different to those returned decades ago. Early-stage findings, which use geological mapping to link ‘exotic’ fragments in the collected samples to features near the landing site, have been presented by Mr Yuqi Qian, a PhD student at the China University of Geosciences, at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 virtual meeting.

The Chang’e-5 landing site is located on the western edge of the nearside of the Moon in the Northern Oceanus Procellarum. This is one of the youngest geological areas of the Moon with an age of roughly two billion years. The materials scraped from the surface comprise a loose soil that results from the fragmentation and powdering of lunar rocks over billions of years due to impacts of various sizes.  

The study presented by Qian suggests that ninety percent of the materials collected by Chang’e-5 likely derive from the landing site and its immediate surroundings, which are of a type termed ‘mare basalts’. These volcanic rocks are visible to us as the darker grey areas that spilled over much of the nearside of the Moon as ancient eruptions of lava. Yet ten percent of the fragments have distinctly different, ‘exotic’ chemical compositions, and may preserve records of other parts of the lunar surface as well as hints of the types of space rocks that have impacted the Moon’s surface. 

Qian and colleagues from Brown University and the University of Münster have looked at the potential sources of beads of rapidly cooled glassy material. They have traced these glassy droplets to now extinct volcanic vents known as ‘Rima Mairan’ and ‘Rima Sharp’ located roughly 230 and 160 kilometres southeast and northeast of the Chang’e-5 landing site. These fragments could give insights into past episodes of energetic, fountain-like volcanic activity on the Moon.

The team has also looked at the potential sources of impact-related fragments. The young geological age of the rocks at the landing site narrows the search, as only craters with ages less than 2 billion years can be responsible, and these are relatively rare on the side of the Moon that faces Earth.  The team has modelled the potential contributions from specific craters to the south and southeast (Aristarchus, Kepler, and Copernicus), northwest (Harding), and northeast (Harpalus). Qian’s findings show that Harpalus is a significant contributor of many exotic fragments among Chang’e-5’s sample haul, and these pieces of rock could offer a way to address persisting uncertainty about this crater’s age. Some fragments may have been thrown into Chang’e-5 landing area from nearly 1,300 kilometres away. 

Modelling and review of work by other teams has linked other exotic pieces of rock to domes rich in silica or to highland terranes, mountains of pale rock that surround the landing site.

“All of the local and exotic materials among the returned samples of Chang’e-5 can be used to answer a number of further scientific questions,” said Qian. “In addressing these we shall deepen our understanding of the Moon’s history and help prepare for further lunar exploration.” 

Presentation

Qian, Y., Xiao, L., Head, J., van der Bogert, C., and Hiesinger, H.: The Exotic Materials at the Chang’e-5 Landing Site, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-447, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-447, 2021.

Images

Schematic diagram of the lunar lander of the Chang’e-5 mission. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program) / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).
Schematic diagram of the lunar lander of the Chang’e-5 mission. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program) / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).
Image showing the location of the Chang’e-5 landing site (43.06°N, 51.92°W) and adjacent regions of the Moon, as well as impact craters that were examined as possible sources of exotic fragments among the recently returned lunar materials. Credit: Qian et al. 2021
Image showing the location of the Chang’e-5 landing site (43.06°N, 51.92°W) and adjacent regions of the Moon, as well as impact craters that were examined as possible sources of exotic fragments among the recently returned lunar materials. Credit: Qian et al. 2021
Image zooming in on the location of the Chang’e-5 landing site while showing nearby impact craters that were examined as possible sources of exotic fragments among the recently returned lunar materials. Credit: Qian et al. 2021
Image zooming in on the location of the Chang’e-5 landing site while showing nearby impact craters that were examined as possible sources of exotic fragments among the recently returned lunar materials. Credit: Qian et al. 2021
Panoramic image taken after sampling of the lunar surface by Chang'e-5. The four dark trenches in the lower right corner of this image are where samples were collected. Abundant centimetre-sized boulders exist on the surface around the Chang'e-5 landing site. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program)  / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).
Panoramic image taken after sampling of the lunar surface by Chang’e-5. The four dark trenches in the lower right corner of this image are where samples were collected. Abundant centimetre-sized boulders exist on the surface around the Chang’e-5 landing site. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program) / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).
Image of the Chang'e-5 sample “CE5C0400” from the Moon’s surface. This fraction of lunar materials returned to Earth by Chang’e-5 weighs nearly 35 grams and was collected by a robotic arm.  Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program)  / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).
Image of the Chang’e-5 sample “CE5C0400” from the Moon’s surface. This fraction of lunar materials returned to Earth by Chang’e-5 weighs nearly 35 grams and was collected by a robotic arm. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program) / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).

Video

EPSC2021 Video presentation of Yuqi Qian et al. given at the Europlanet Science Congress 2021 virtual on YouTube:

Further information

All sample information and data collected by the Chang’e-5 mission and China’s other planetary missions can be found at this website – https://moon.bao.ac.cn/web/enmanager/home. Additional images of studied samples can be obtained from this source.

Science contact

Yuqi Qian
PhD Candidate
Planetary Science Institute, School of Earth Sciences
China University of Geosciences (Wuhan)
388 Lumo Road, Hongshan Dist., Wuhan, 430074, China
yuqii.qian@gmail.com
@Yuqii.Qian

Media contacts

EPSC2021 Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/), formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology (https://spj.sciencemag.org/journals/space/ ), a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2021 awarded to Dr James O’Donoghue

Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2021 awarded to Dr James O’Donoghue

The 2021 Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement has been awarded to Dr James O’Donoghue for his work in creating high-quality space science animations.

James is a planetary scientist, specialising in the study of giant planet upper atmospheres, and online content creator working at the Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). In 2018 he started creating animations around his area of expertise and publishing them online on his YouTube channel. Now, with more than 80 animated visualisations of space topics, he has reached 200 million views on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Gfycat, Reddit, and received hundreds of citations in international news articles.

James’s goal is to paint an accurate picture of the Solar System in people’s minds, highlighting its most relevant features in an intuitive way, such as the relative sizes, distances, orbits and axial tilts of the planets, or how fast a ball would fall to the surface on different Solar System objects. 

The animations are not only widely appreciated on social media: multiple educational professionals at schools, universities, planetariums, museums use his material for teaching and outreach.

Dr Federica Duras, Chair of the Europlanet Outreach Jury, said: “Among the talented and motivated science communication projects nominated this year,  James O’Donoghue’s brilliant animations stood out. In their simplicity they are a masterclass in outreach and communication, and the fact that they do not rely on language and translation means that they are perfectly inclusive, easily adaptable and usable all over the world. Congratulations to James, a great ambassador for the planetary science community.”

An awards ceremony will take place during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 virtual meeting on Friday 24th September, and it will be followed by 15-minute prize lectures by the winner, who will also receive an award of 1500 Euros.

Dr Luke Moore, Research Assistant Professor at the Center for Space Physics of Boston University, said: “James, in my mind, is ideal for this award, because his outreach is global and inclusive, being predominantly online and freely accessible; he engages with people from a full range of countries and backgrounds. In addition, beyond “merely” creating useful animations, promoting science news items, and providing planetary science insights to the public, James has an excellent sense of humor that he constantly deploys. This seemingly minor point, I feel, is actually incredibly important, because it helps to demonstrate that scientists are regular people, and that science can be fun too!”

Dr Elizabeth Tasker, Associate Professor at Department of Solar System Sciences of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said, “James has established an international reputation for his scientific animations. These animations demonstrate different scientific concepts in space science, such as the sizes of celestial objects, the speed of light or the relative rotation rates of the planets. Each animation is designed to show a single concept visually within a few seconds. Text is minimal and nonessential, allowing the animations to be shared with a wide multilingual audience. Despite being a professional astrophysicist, I have often been amazed to realise facts about relative sizes or scales of which I was unaware before seeing James’s animations! While the animations are self-explanatory, James spends considerable time supporting the content through threads sharing further information on Twitter, and by answering questions.”

Dr James O’Donoghue said: “I am honoured and grateful to be the recipient of the Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2021. Like the Europlanet Society, I believe outreach is an integral part of science in society and that we have a duty to make it accessible for all the people who fund it. It has been a pleasure to engage so many interested people and teach them about the universe through animated videos, images and posts. 

“First thank you goes to my wife Jordyn for her tremendous patience and support during all my creations and posting, often late at night. I would like to thank the public for their kind words on Twitter over the years and for their many excellent thought-provoking questions, and thank you to all the educators for letting me know they used the videos for teaching at schools, universities, planetariums, museums and more!  With this recognition by the Europlanet Society I can demonstrate to my employers, current and future, that large scientific organisations highly value outreach and that the way I have been doing it has been a success. In the future, I hope to do more outreach on the side of my research and this award will help me leverage that.”

Selection of animations

Earth and Moon Size and Distance scale – with real-time light speed!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_61SxDrdyhI

Planets and dwarf planets to scale in size, rotation speed & axial tilt in distance order from Sun
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf6WUmwJKZE

A 1 Kilometer “Ball Drop” On Solar System Bodies
https://youtu.be/oIMMZl4n-uk

The rotation periods of the planets cast to a single sphere. Rotations relative to background stars
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXPhhNEnldA

Images

James O’Donoghue in Hawaii. Credits: James O’Donoghue
James in a Japanese documentary. Credits: James O'Donoghue
James in a Japanese documentary. Credits: James O’Donoghue
James O’Donoghue at NASA. Credits: James O’Donoghue
A screenshot of James’s animation “Earth and Moon Size and Distance scale – with real-time light speed!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_61SxDrdyhI). Credits: James O’Donoghue
A screenshot of James’s animation “Planets and dwarf planets to scale in size, rotation speed & axial tilt in distance order from Sun” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf6WUmwJKZE). Credits:  James O'Donoghue
A screenshot of James’s animation “Planets and dwarf planets to scale in size, rotation speed & axial tilt in distance order from Sun” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf6WUmwJKZE). Credits: James O’Donoghue
A screenshot of James’s animation “The rotation periods of the planets cast to a single sphere. Rotations relative to background stars” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXPhhNEnldA). Credits: James O'Donoghue

A screenshot of James’s animation “The rotation periods of the planets cast to a single sphere. Rotations relative to background stars” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXPhhNEnldA). Credits: James O’Donoghue

Contacts

James O’Donoghue
Institute of Space and Astronautical Science
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
jameso@ac.jaxa.jp
Web: https://jamesodonoghue.wixsite.com/home
Animations: youtube.com/user/jayphys85/videos
Twitter: @physicsJ

Media contacts

EPSC Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community.

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

Cloud-spotting on a distant exoplanet

Cloud-spotting on a distant exoplanet

An international team of astronomers has not only detected clouds on the distant exoplanet WASP-127b, but also measured their altitude with unprecedented precision. A presentation by Dr Romain Allart at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 shows how, by combining data from a space- and a ground-based telescope, the team has been able to reveal the upper structure of the planet’s atmosphere. This paves the way for similar studies of many other faraway worlds.

WASP-127b, located more than 525 light-years away, is a “hot Saturn” – a giant planet similar in mass to Saturn that orbits very close to its sun. The team observed the planet passing in front of its host star to detect patterns that become embedded in the starlight as it is filtered through the planet’s atmosphere and altered by the chemical constituents. By combining infrared observations from the ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and visible light measurements from the ESPRESSO spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, the researchers were able to probe different regions of the atmosphere. The results brought a few surprises.

‘First, as found before in this type of planet, we detected the presence of sodium, but at a much lower altitude than we were expecting. Second, there were strong water vapour signals in the infrared but none at all at visible wavelengths. This implies that water-vapour at lower levels is being screened by clouds that are opaque at visible wavelengths but transparent in the infrared,’ said Allart, of the iREx/Université de Montréal and Université de Genève, who led the study.

The combined data from the two instruments enabled the researchers to narrow down the altitude of the clouds to an atmospheric layer with a pressure ranging between 0.3 and 0.5 millibars.

‘We don’t yet know the composition of the clouds, except that they are not composed of water droplets like on Earth,’ said Allart. ‘We are also puzzled about why the sodium is found in an unexpected place on this planet. Future studies will help us understand not only more about the atmospheric structure, but about WASP-127b, which is proving to be a fascinating place.’

With a full orbit around its star occurring in about four days, WASP-127b receives 600 times more irradiation than the Earth and experiences temperatures up to 1100 degrees Celsius. This puffs the planet up to a radius 1.3 times larger than Jupiter, with just a fifth of the mass, making it one of the least dense or “fluffiest” exoplanets ever discovered.

The extended nature of fluffy exoplanets makes them easier to observe, and thus WASP-127b is an ideal candidate for researchers working on atmospheric characterisation.

The team’s observations with the ESPRESSO instrument also suggests that, unlike planets in our Solar System, WASP-127b orbits not only in the opposite direction than its star but also in a different plane than the equatorial one.

‘Such alignment is unexpected for a hot Saturn in an old stellar system and might be caused by an unknown companion,’ said Allart. ‘All these unique characteristics make WASP-127b a planet that will be very intensely studied in the future’


The Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanets and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) is the world’s most precise spectrograph for radial velocity measurements, a method enabling to detect exoplanets.

The authors would like to acknowledge Dr Jessica Spake and her team for releasing the refined HST data used in this work.

EPSC2021-438: WASP-127b: a misaligned planet with a partly cloudy atmosphere and tenuous sodium signature seen by ESPRESSO. Romain Allart and the ESPRESSO consortium. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-438

Paper 
WASP-127b: a misaligned planet with a partly cloudy atmosphere and tenuous sodium signature seen by ESPRESSO. Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 644, id.A155, 18 pp. December 2020.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202039234

arXiv: https://arxiv.org/abs/2010.15143

Some of the elements making WASP-127b unique, with the planets of our Solar System. Credits: David Ehrenreich/Université de Genève, Romain Allart/Université de Montréal.
Some of the elements making WASP-127b unique, compared with the planets of our Solar System. Credits: David Ehrenreich/Université de Genève, Romain Allart/Université de Montréal.

Science Contact

Romain Allart
Trottier postdoctoral fellow
Université de Montréal
Institut de Recherche sur les Exoplanètes (iREx)
Canada
romain.allart@umontreal.ca

Media contacts

EPSC Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community.

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

EPSC2021: Life support cooked up from lunar rocks

EPSC2021: Life support cooked up from lunar rocks

Engineers have successfully shown how water and oxygen can be extracted by cooking up lunar soil, in order to support future Moon bases. A laboratory demonstrator, developed by a consortium of the Politecnico Milano, the European Space Agency, the Italian Space Agency and the OHB Group, is presented this week at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021.

The set-up uses a two-step process, well known in industrial chemistry for terrestrial applications, that has been customised to work with a mineral mixture that mimics the lunar soil. Around 50% of lunar soil in all regions of the Moon is made up of silicon or iron oxides, and these in turn are around 26% oxygen. This means that a system that efficiently extracts oxygen from the soil could operate at any landing site or installation on the Moon.

In the experimental set-up, the soil simulant is vaporised in the presence of hydrogen and methane, then “washed” with hydrogen gas. Heated by a furnace to temperatures of around 1000 degrees Celsius, the minerals turn directly from a solid to a gas, missing out a molten phase, which reduces the complexity of the technology needed. Gases produced and residual methane are sent to a catalytic converter and a condenser that separates out water. Oxygen can then be extracted through electrolysis. By-products of methane and hydrogen are recycled in the system.

“Our experiments show that the rig is scalable and can operate in an almost completely self-sustained closed loop, without the need for human intervention and without getting clogged up,” said Prof Michèle Lavagna, of the Politecnico Milano, who led the experiments. 

To accurately understand the process and prepare the technology needed for a flight test, experiments have been carried out to optimise the temperature of the furnace, the length and frequency of the washing phases, the ratio of the mixtures of gases, and the mass of the soil simulant batches. Results show that yield is maximised by processing the soil simulant in small batches, at the highest temperatures possible and using long washing phases.

The solid by-product is rich in silica and metals that can undergo further processing for other resources useful for in-situ exploration of the Moon.

‘The capability of having efficient water and oxygen production facilities on site is fundamental for human exploration and to run high quality science directly on the Moon,’ said Lavagna. ‘These laboratory experiments have deepened our understanding of each step in the process. It is not the end of the story, but it’s very a good starting point.’

Presentation

Lavagna, M., Prinetto, J., Colagrossi, A., Troisi, I., Dottori, A., and lunghi, P.: Water production from lunar regolith through carbothermal reduction modelling through ground experiments, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-527, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-527, 2021.

Images and animations

Artist impression of a Moon Base concept. Credit: ESA - P. Carril
Artist impression of a Moon Base concept. Credit: ESA – P. Carril

https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2019/07/Artist_impression_of_a_Moon_Base_concept

Video showing water extracted from lunar regolith simulant, 2021. Credit: Politecnico Milano. License: CC BY-NC-ND. Credit must be given to the creator. Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted. No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted.

Science Contacts

Michèle Lavagna
Politecnico di Milano
DAER
Italy
michelle.lavagna@polimi.it

Media Contacts

EPSC2021 Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

Exploring Mars from Etna

Exploring Mars from Etna

There are many different ways of studying the Solar System and the other planets. Some of them do not require to go to space or to be in a laboratory, but can be carried out in the field – in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

This is the case for a campaign that took place in July 2021, which brought 11 students from all over Europe together for a field trip on the Sicilian volcanano, Etna, in preparation for the arrival ESA’s next mission to Mars in 2022. In this campaign, organised through the EuroMoonMars initiative and presented for the first time at EPSC2021, the team simulated the landing of a basic rover and used it to explore the harsh environment of Etna and to collect and analyse data from a selection of instruments.

‘Sicily was chosen due to the fact that Mount Etna is a very similar environment to the Moon and Mars, both being fairly desolate, harsh environments,’ says Hannah Reilly, from Technological University Dublin, a member of the team. ‘The constant volcanic activity at Mount Etna means that the terrain and surrounding areas are constantly changing and covered in fresh volcanic soil, similar to soil found on other planets. Volcanic areas are usually chosen for campaigns like this.’

The rover used in the campaign was operated by the team to simulate the activities of the Rosalind Franklin Rover that will be used in the Exomars mission.

‘As you can imagine our rover is a lot smaller than the ESA one, but we developed our own camera system similar to that on ExoMars, including PanCam, which we used to generate 360 panoramas,’ explains Reilly. ‘Just like the ExoMars rover that will analyse the terrain, we also used different spectrometers including a Raman spectrometer and UV-Vis-NIR one. The in-situ analysis of samples collected was then carried out on site, as part of the simulation of what will happen with ExoMars. All the scientific results have been shared with the community in a selection of articles discussing different aspects of the campaign, like the rover and radio antenna, that have been presented at EPSC this year.’

The campaign was organised as part of the LEAPS project by the ESA/Leiden University, under the supervision of Prof Bernard Foing and with the collaboration of researchers from DLR and from INAF and University in Catania. The EuroMoonMars initiative was founded by the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG), as part of research efforts towards the exploration of the Moon and Mars. In the past, EuroMoonMars has carried out field campaigns in other Moon-Mars analogue environments like Hawaii and Iceland. Next summer, the project will return to Etna, collaborating with a new mission, called ARCHES, which will be run by DLR.

Aside from the scientific aspects and results, campaigns such as the Etna one are also an opportunity for young researchers.

‘Our team was made of students coming from all over Europe, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Ireland, England and Italy. It was a really nice opportunity, especially during Covid, in terms of academic and career experience, getting to work in an international team and learning how to put our university knowledge to good use. And Mount Etna was an amazing and beautiful place that I can’t wait to visit again. We even got the chance to see some volcanic activity – we spent one whole evening watching an eruption, a once in a lifetime opportunity!’ said Reilly.

Images

Group photo : left to right : Gary Brady, Chiaryu Mohan, Dr. Armin Wedler, Yke Rusticus, Leander Schlarmann, Kevin McGrath, Christoph Hones, Prof. Bernard Foing , Anouk Ehreiser, Hannah Reilly
Credits: Hannah Reilly, Bernard Foing and Gaia de Palma

The Rover on site at Mount. Etna
Credits: Hannah Reilly, Bernard Foing and Gaia de Palma

Instrument set up : Mock Lander and rover
Credits: Hannah Reilly, Bernard Foing and Gaia de Palma

Setting up the spectrometer
Credits: Hannah Reilly, Bernard Foing and Gaia de Palma

Watching an eruption on Etna
Credits: Hannah Reilly, Bernard Foing and Gaia de Palma

EPSC2021: Dashcam Detective Work Leads to Recovery of Space Rocks from Fireball over Slovenia

Dashcam Detective Work Leads to Recovery of Space Rocks from Fireball over Slovenia

On 28 February 2020, at 10:30 CET, hundreds of people across Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary observed a bright ball of light hurtling across the morning sky. This delivery of rocks from a distant asteroid to the fields and villages of southern Slovenia was captured by cars’ dashcams, security cameras, and even a cyclist’s helmet. It is one of only around 40 fallen space rocks that has been recovered within weeks and for which the origins in the Solar System have been tracked. Initial results are being presented by Dr Denis Vida, of the University of Western Ontario, at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 virtual meeting.

Observers in southern Slovenia, who were directly under the path, reported loud explosions and a three and half second flash that left a trail of dust visible for several minutes. Analysis shows that some fragments survived aerodynamic pressures above ten million pascals, equivalent to 50 times the pressure of a car tyre, one of the highest measurements recorded for a space rock-dropping fireball.

Before entering the Earth’s atmosphere, the initial stony mass is thought to have been four metric tons and roughly one metre across. Video footage shows the fireball breaking up into 17 smaller pieces. Three fragments amounting to 720 grams have been recovered and taken to laboratories for analysis. The largest fragment seen to fall, with an estimated mass of about ten kilograms, is yet to be found. It likely dropped into a muddy field and may have accidentally been ploughed in before its fall area was known.

Rocks from space provide opportunities to understand the history of our Solar System and are important in studies of how life arose on Earth. However, fall locations often remain unknown or hidden and the space rocks’ scientific messages are then lost. To address this, astronomers deploy networks of fireball cameras to measure the precise paths of fireballs by comparing their positions to stars in the background. This means they can ascertain both the locations where space rocks can be collected, and can trace backward to where in the Solar System they came from. However, these networks are designed to work at night.

“By combining observations from several cameras around 100 kilometres apart, a fireball’s position can be pinpointed to within 50 metres, and it’s usually fairly easy to compute its atmospheric trajectory and pre-atmospheric orbit this way,” said Vida. “The fireball’s path is in a volume of the world’s sky among the most densely observed by specialist night-operating cameras. Its path would have been caught by at least 20 if it happened just a few hours earlier. But because this fireball occurred during the day and was recorded by dash cameras moving up to 70 kilometres per hour, we required a different approach.”

To help create 3D models, local people were asked to take several photographs from known locations of buildings, telephone posts, distant mountains, and other landmarks visible in the dashcam videos. The images enabled triangulation of exact locations accurate to within a few centimetres, akin to surveyors with a theodolite. Photographs were taken on starry nights, so after calibrating against window frames and the other known points, every pixel on the original images could be mapped to a precise direction. Hardest was determining the exact coordinates from the dashcam footage of moving vehicles – for every video frame and to a precision of about one centimetre, which was long tedious work.

Studying the brightness of the fireball across the sky can show how it fragmented. However, stars in the night sky are again used for reference. The daytime observations meant the team once more had to innovate, buying an identical dashcam to one that recorded the fireball and comparing the brightness of the fireball in the video to that known of an artificial analogue.

Analysis of the Novo Mesto space rock, named after the Slovenian city near where the fragments were found, is ongoing. Although of an ‘ordinary chondrite’ type meteorite, it is interesting in being linked to the Solar System region where Near Earth Objects exist, possibly telling us something of larger former neighbours, a small number of which are potentially hazardous to Earth.

EPSC2021-139: Novo Mesto meteorite fall – trajectory, orbit, and fragmentation analysis from optical observations
Denis Vida, Damir Šegon, Marko Šegon, Jure Atanackov, Bojan Ambrožič, Luke McFadden, Ludovic Ferrière, Javor Kac, Gregor Kladnik, Mladen Živčić, Aleksandar Merlak, Ivica Skokić, Lovro Pavletić, Gojko Vinčić, Ivica Ćiković, Zsolt Perkó, Martino Ilari, Mirjana Malarić, and Igor Macuka

https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-139

Video

Composite of video observations of the Slovenia fireball from Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia.
Credit: Denis Vida and colleagues.
Download

Dashcam image of the fireball observed from Sesvete in Croatia, calibrated using the height of lampposts.
Credit: Denis Vida et al.
Download

Images

Screenshot of the SkyFit software using the heights of houses and lampposts for dashcam calibration. Credit: Denis Vida et al.
Screenshot of the SkyFit software using the heights of houses and lampposts for dashcam calibration. Credit: Denis Vida et al.
The fireball fragmenting, observed from Sesvete in Croatia. Credit: Damir Šegon (Astronomical Society Istra Pula and Višnjan Science and Education Center, Croatia).
The fireball fragmenting, observed from Sesvete in Croatia. Credit: Damir Šegon (Astronomical Society Istra Pula and Višnjan Science and Education Center, Croatia).
A 48-gram piece of the Novo Mesto meteorite. Credit: Bojan Ambrožič (Center of Excellence on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Slovenia and https://bojanambrozic.com/).
A 48-gram piece of the Novo Mesto meteorite. Credit: Bojan Ambrožič (Center of Excellence on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Slovenia and https://bojanambrozic.com/).
Locations from which people reported sightings of the Novo Mesto fireball. Credit: International Meteor Organisation.
Locations from which people reported sightings of the Novo Mesto fireball. Credit: International Meteor Organisation.

https://fireballs.imo.net/members/imo_view/event/2020/1027

The coloured points on the map mark the area calculated to be where fragments of the space rock fell to the ground and could be searched so as to recover it. Credit: Denis Vida et al.
The coloured points on the map mark the area calculated to be where fragments of the space rock fell to the ground and could be searched so as to recover it. Credit: Denis Vida et al, Google Maps.

Further information

International Meteor Organisation’s information on the event: https://fireballs.imo.net/members/imo_view/event/2020/1027

Space rocks recovered from fireballs observed across the globe: www.meteoriteorbits.info

Official recognition, initial description, and classification of the Novo Mesto space rock: https://www.lpi.usra.edu/meteor/metbull.php?code=72430

Publicly available information by strewnify concerning this space rock fall: https://www.strewnify.com/novomesto/

Science contact

Denis Vida
Postdoctoral Research Associate
University of Western Ontario
Canada
+1 226 239 5764
dvida@uwo.ca
@meteordoc

Media contacts

Anita Heward
EPSC Press Officer
+44 7756034243
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Livia Giacomini
EPSC Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Adriana Postiglione
EPSC Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Luca Nardi
EPSC2021 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Amy Riches
EPSC2021 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Thibaut Roger
EPSC2021 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)
The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.
Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet
Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community.

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

2021 Farinella Prize Awarded to Diana Valencia and Lena Noack

2021 Farinella Prize Awarded to Diana Valencia and Lena Noack

Prof Diana Valencia, a physicist working at the Department of Physical Sciences and of the University of Toronto, and Prof Lena Noack, a planetary scientist working at Department of Earth Sciences at Freie Universität Berlin, have been awarded jointly the 2021 Paolo Farinella Prize for their significant contributions in our understanding of the interior structure and dynamics of terrestrial and super-Earth exoplanets. The award ceremony will take place today during the EPSC2021 virtual meeting and will be followed by 15-minute prize lectures by each of the winners.

The annual prize was established in 2010 to honour the memory of the Italian scientist Paolo Farinella (1953-2000) and, each year, it acknowledges an outstanding researcher not older than 47 years (the age of Farinella when he passed away) who has achieved important results in one of Farinella’s fields of work. Each year the Prize focuses on a different research area and, in 2021, the eleventh edition was devoted to the thriving field of study of exoplanets, i.e. planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.

Prof Valencia’s pioneering work developed the first interior model and the first mass-radius relationship for rocky exoplanets (1-10 Earth masses) and stimulated high pressure-temperature experiments used to study how atoms bind together in the interior of super-Earths. She also began to address the question of the possibility of plate tectonics on super-Earths and triggered a controversial discussion that continues to this day. In addition, she addressed the issue of the composition of this new category of planets, essential for robustly comparing them to the Earth and other Solar System bodies. In particular, her work on the exoplanet GJ 1214 b has strongly motivated atmospheric observations of super-Earths to better determine their compositions.

Prof Noack has studied the long-term evolution of terrestrial planets inside and outside the Solar System, from processes that take place in their interior to those that characterise their surface, like the mechanism of resurfacing (e.g. through plate tectonics) and volcanic activity, to those influencing the build-up and replenishment of their atmosphere. An important contribution of her work shows how the actual bulk composition of a rocky planet can influence its evolution – in the interior as well as at the surface of that planet. Her work represents an important example of a bridge between different disciplines and communities: geoscience, astronomy and astrobiology.

Overall, Prof Valencia’s and Prof Noack’s theoretical work has led to a deeper understanding of the composition and evolution of Earth-like exoplanets. Their work is critical to assess the habitability potential of exoplanets and to determine how ‘Earth-like’ a small exoplanet is.

Prof Valencia received her MS in Physics at University of Toronto and her PhD in planetary science at Harvard University. She is currently an Associate Professor at the Department of Physical Sciences of the University of Toronto.

After studying mathematics, Prof Noack worked at the German Aerospace Center at the Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, Germany. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Münster and currently holds the position of an Associate Professor for geodynamics and mineral physics of planetary processes at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Before receiving the Prize, Prof Valencia commented: ‘I am honoured to receive this prize, as it recognises my contributions to the field of super-Earths. I have seen the field grow from not knowing anyone else studying these planets when I was a PhD student, to a flourishing research field attracting numerous young scientists. It feels particularly special to be recognised in the research field I helped to grow from the beginning.’

Prof Noack said: ‘I am very honoured to receive this prize alongside Diana Valencia. The research field of rocky exoplanets is still a young field, and the topic being selected for this year’s prize in honour of Paolo Farinella is an important recognition.’

About the Paolo Farinella Prize

The Paolo Farinella Prize (https://www.europlanet-society.org/paolo-farinella-prize/) was established to honour the memory and the outstanding figure of Paolo Farinella (1953-2000), an extraordinary scientist and person, in recognition of significant contributions given in the fields of interest of Farinella, which span from planetary sciences to space geodesy, fundamental physics, science popularization, and security in space, weapons control and disarmament. The winner of the prize is selected each year on the basis of his/her overall research results in a chosen field, among candidates with international and interdisciplinary collaborations, not older than 47 years, the age of Farinella when he passed away, at the date of 25 March 2000. The prize was first proposed during the “International Workshop on Paolo Farinella the scientist and the man,” held in Pisa in 2010, supported by the University of Pisa, ISTI/CNR and by IAPS-INAF (Rome).

The first “Paolo Farinella Prize” was awarded in 2011 to William Bottke, for his contribution to the field of “physics and dynamics of small solar system bodies”. In 2012 the Prize went to John Chambers, for his contribution to the field of “formation and early evolution of the solar system”. In 2013, to Patrick Michel, for his work in the field of “collisional processes in the solar system.” In 2014, to David Vokrouhlicky for his contributions to “our understanding of the dynamics and physics of solar system, including how pressure from solar radiation affects the orbits of both asteroids and artificial satellites”, in 2015 to Nicolas Biver for his studies of “the molecular and isotopic composition of cometary volatiles by means of submillimetre and millimetre ground and space observations”, and in 2016 to Kleomenis Tsiganis for “his studies of the applications of celestial mechanics to the dynamics of planetary systems, including the development of the Nice model”. In 2017, to Simone Marchi for his contributions to “understanding the complex problems related to the impact history and physical evolution of the inner Solar System, including the Moon”. In 2018, to Francis Nimmo, for his contributions in our “understanding of the internal structure and evolution of icy bodies in the Solar System and the resulting influence on their surface processes”. In 2019, to Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo, for their outstanding collaborative work for the “observational characterisation of the Kuiper belt and the Neptune-trojan population”. Finally, in 2020, to Jonathan Fortney and Heather Knutson for their significant contribution in our “understanding of the structure, evolution and atmospheric dynamics of giant planets”.

Images

Lena Noack. Credit: L Noack
Lena Noack. Credit: L Noack

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Lena_Noack_Credit_L.Noack_.jpg

Prof Diana Valencia, winner of the 2021 Farinella Prize .Credit: D Valencia
Prof Diana Valencia, winner of the 2021 Farinella Prize .Credit: D.Valencia

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Diana_Valencia.Credit_D.Valencia.jpg

Science Contacts

Prof. Diana Valencia
University of Toronto
Department of Physical Sciences
Department of Astronomy
1265 Military Trail, ON, M1C 1A4, Canada, Canada
T +1 (416) 208 2986
valencia@astro.utoronto.ca
astro.utoronto.ca/~valencia/

Prof. Dr. Lena Noack
Freie Universität Berlin
Department of Earth Sciences
Malteserstr. 74-100
Room D210 – Building D
12249 Berlin
Tel.: +49 (0) 30 838 636 94
E-mail: lena.noack@fu-berlin.de

Media Contacts

EPSC2021 Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

EPSC2021: From walls and railings of our cities to…space: the story of Xanthoria parietina

EPSC2021: From walls and railings of our cities to…space: the story of Xanthoria parietina

One of the main topics in astrobiology is the study of life limits in stressful environments -very high temperatures, inhuman pressures, deadly radiations- in order to shed light on the possibility of life in space or in extra-terrestrial habitats such as Mars. You might think it’s difficult to find life forms suitable for these studies, but instead in some cases they are very common; so common as to grow on walls and railings of our cities. 

This is precisely the case of Xanthoria parietina, a yellow-orange leafy lichen selected by the research group of Dr John Robert Brucato, Senior Research Scientist at INAF, the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics, for their study presented at EPSC2021.

The Xanthoria parietina is so common in our cities because it is particularly tolerant to air pollutants as nitrogen oxides and heavy metals” says John, “but we chose it for its ability to produce a particular substance, the parietin, which allows it to protect itself from UV rays”.

In the study, presented at EPSC by Christian Lorenz, a Master’s Student in Environmental Biology at the University of Florence, John and his team tested the lichen under simulated UV space radiations in two different extreme and dehydrating environments, i.e. in nitrogen atmosphere and in vacuum, and demonstrated that it was able to survive. 

The innovative aspect of our study is the spectroscopic analysis we used.” says Christian. “This analysis allowed us to obtain for the first time the spectrum of this lichen species, which we monitored during the exposure, allowing us to appreciate the real time changes in it.

Is this silent inhabitant of our cities ready to colonise space? John thinks it’s too early to tell: “As the next step of our study, we will directly assess the presence of damages in the lichen through electron microscope analyses and expose it to other extreme conditions. Then, it would be really exciting to expose it in real space conditions, for example on the ISS!”.

For more information about the work, you can have a look at Christian’s presentation, Survival of Xanthoria parietina in simulated space conditions: spectroscopic analysis and vitality assessment during the EPSC2021 session TP5 on Friday 17 September. 

EPSC2021: Mushballs stash away missing ammonia at Uranus and Neptune

Mushballs stash away missing ammonia at Uranus and Neptune

Mushballs – giant, slushy hailstones made from a mixture of ammonia and water – may be responsible for an atmospheric anomaly at Neptune and Uranus that has been puzzling scientists. A study presented by Tristan Guillot at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 shows that mushballs could be highly effective at carrying ammonia deep into the ice giants’ atmospheres, hiding the gas from detection beneath opaque clouds.

Recently, remote observations at infrared and radio wavelengths have shown that Uranus and Neptune lack ammonia in their atmosphere compared to the other giant planets in our Solar System. This is surprising because they are otherwise very rich in other compounds, such as methane, found in the primordial cloud from which the planets formed. 

Either the planets formed under special conditions, from material that was also poor in ammonia, or some ongoing process must be responsible. Guillot, a researcher at the CNRS, Laboratoire Lagrange in Nice, France, turned to a recent discovery at Jupiter for a possible answer to the puzzle.

“The Juno spacecraft has shown that in Jupiter, ammonia is present in abundance, but generally much deeper than expected – thanks to the formation of mushballs. I show that what we have learned at Jupiter can be applied to provide a plausible solution to this mystery at Uranus and Neptune,” said Guillot.

The Juno observations at Jupiter have shown that ammonia-water hailstones can form rapidly during storms because of ammonia’s ability to liquefy water ice crystals, even at very low temperatures of around -90 degrees Celsius. Models indicate that these mushballs in Jupiter may grow to weights of up to a kilogram or more, slightly higher than the largest hailstones on Earth. As they plunge downwards, they transport ammonia very efficiently to the deep atmosphere, where it ends up locked away beneath the cloud base. 

“Thermodynamic chemistry implies that this process is even more efficient in Uranus and Neptune, and the mushball seed region is extended and occurs at greater depths,” said Guillot. “Thus, ammonia is probably simply hidden in the deep atmospheres of these planets, beyond the reach of present-day instruments.”

To determine exactly how deep down the mushballs are carrying ammonia and water may have to wait until an orbiter with instruments can probe the atmospheres of the ice giants close up.

“To fully understand the processes, we need a dedicated mission to map the deep atmospheric structure and understand mixing in hydrogen atmospheres,” said Guillot. “Neptune and Uranus are a critical link between giant planets, like Jupiter and Saturn, and ice giant exoplanets that we are discovering in the galaxy. We really need to go there!”

Images

Composite image of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter.  Credits: Jupiter from Juno: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran; Saturn from Cassini: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute; Uranus and Neptune from HST: NASA/ESA/A. Simon (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong and A. Hsu (University of California, Berkeley).
Composite image of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter.
Credits: Jupiter from Juno: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran; Saturn from Cassini: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute; Uranus and Neptune from HST: NASA/ESA/A. Simon (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong and A. Hsu (University of California, Berkeley).

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/NeptuneUranusSaturnJupiter.png

Artist’s impression of a mushball descending through a giant planet’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/CNRS
Artist’s impression of a mushball descending through a giant planet’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/CNRS

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Mushballs_descent-scaled.jpg

Artist’s impression showing how mushballs form in giant planets’ atmospheres. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/CNRS

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/pia24042-image-3b-1041.jpg

Science Contact

Tristan Guillot
Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur / CNRS
Nice, France
tristan.guillot@oca.eu

Media Contacts

EPSC2021 Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

Announcing the Contenders for the #PlanetaryScience4All Video Contest 2021

Announcing the Contenders for the #PlanetaryScience4All Video Contest 2021

Earlier this year, the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Communication working group invited all early career researchers, including PhD, Master’s and Bachelor’s students, involved in planetary science the opportunity to showcase their research through a 4-minute video contest called #PlanetaryScience4All.

Watch the 2021 Contenders’ Entries

The winner is….

The winner of the 2nd edition of the #PlanetaryScience4All EPEC-EPSC Video Contest will be announced during the EPSC2021 session CE10 – Other Prize Lectures, at 14:20–14:50 (CEST) on Friday 24 September.

The Judging Committee for the second edition of the #PlanetaryScience4all includes eight members of the current EPEC Communications Working Group.  All members have been involved in planetary science research projects as well as several outreach activities. The group is made by people of different nationalities currently working for different institutions and universities.

The group is voting using  a Google form where is not possible to see scores assigned by the other judges. Videos are going to be evaluated according to the following criteria: Scientific content, Structure Presentation delivery Layout, and Visual quality. The scores have been given based on a scale from 0 to 5. The video with the highest score will be considered the winner of the competition.  

The winner of the video contest will receive free registration to EPSC 2022 which will be held in Granada, Spain. 

Help spread the word on social media #PlanetaryScience4All #PS4All #EPSC2021 and join us on Friday 24 September to find out if your favourite entry has won!

EPSC2021: European facility prepares for haul of samples returning from planetary bodies

EPSC2021: European facility prepares for haul of samples returning from planetary bodies

The Institute of Planetary Research at DLR (German Aerospace Center) is starting construction of a new Sample Analysis Laboratory (SAL) dedicated to the study of rock and dust samples from planetary bodies such as asteroids and the Moon. The first phase will be operational by the end of 2022, on time to welcome samples collected by the Hayabusa2 mission, and fully ready by 2023. A status report will be presented today at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021.

The 2020s promise a bounty of new missions returning planetary samples to Earth for analysis. Scientists can learn a huge amount about planetary bodies by sending remote sensing orbiters, and even more by ‘in situ’ exploration with landers and rovers. However, sensitive laboratory instruments on Earth can extract information far beyond the reach of current robotic technology, enabling researchers to determine the chemical, isotopic, mineralogical, structural and physical properties of extra-terrestrial material from just a single, tiny sample. 

‘The SAL facility will allow us to study samples from a macroscopic level down to the nanometric scale and help us answer key question about the formation and evolution of planetary bodies,’ said Dr Enrica Bonato from DLR. ‘Sample return provides us with “ground truth” about the visited body, verifying and validating conclusions that can be drawn by remote sensing. SAL will unlock some really exciting science, like looking for traces of water and organic matter, especially in the samples returned from asteroids. These are remnants of “failed” planets, so provide material that gives insights into the early stages of the Solar System and planetary evolution.’ 

The establishment of SAL has taken three years’ planning and the facility will see its first instruments delivered in summer 2022. The state-of-the art equipment will allow researchers to image the rock samples at very high magnification and resolution, as well as to determine the chemical and mineralogical composition in great detail. The laboratory will be classified as a “super-clean” facility, with a thousand times fewer particles per cubic metre permitted than in a standard clean room. Protective equipment will be worn by everyone entering in order to keep the environment as clean as possible, and SAL will be equipped with glove boxes for handling and preparation of the samples. All samples will be stored under dry nitrogen and transported between the instruments in dry nitrogen filled containers.

Together with other laboratory facilities within the Institute of Planetary Research (including the Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory and Planetary Analogue Simulation Laboratory), the new SAL will be open to the scientific community for “transnational access” visits supported through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure. 

The first studies at SAL will relate to two small, carbonaceous asteroids: Ryugu, samples from which were returned by JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission in late 2020, and Bennu, from which NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will deliver samples back to Earth in 2023.

‘Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx are in many ways sister missions, both in the kind of body being visited, and in the close cooperation of scientists and the sponsoring agencies. International collaboration is an important part of the sample return story, and becomes even more key when it comes to analysis,’ said Bonato. ‘We are also looking forward to receiving (and potentially curating) samples from Mars’s moon, Phobos, returned by JAXA’s Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission late in the decade. We also hope to receive samples at SAL from the Moon in the early part of the decade from China’s Chang’E 5 and 6 missions.’

A collaboration with the Natural History Museum and the Helmholtz Center Berlin in Berlin aims to establish an excellence centre for sample analysis in Berlin within the next 5-10 years. In the future, SAL could be expanded into a full curation facility.

‘Returned samples can be preserved for decades and used by future generations to answer questions we haven’t even thought of yet using laboratory instruments that haven’t even been imagined,’ added Jörn Helbert, Department Head of Planetary Laboratories at DLR.

Further Information

Bonato, E., Schwinger, S., Maturilli, A., and Helbert, J.: A New Facility for the Planetary Science Community at DLR: the Planetary Sample Analysis Laboratory (SAL)., Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-561, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-561, 2021.

Equipment to be installed in SAL:

  • Field Emission Gun Electron Microprobe Analyser (FEG-EMPA)
  • Field Emission Gun Scanning Electron Microscope (FEG-SEM) equipped with:
    • EDX detector for chemical mapping
    • STEM detector
  • X-ray Diffraction (XRD): 
    • Measurements of powders
    • μ-XRD for in situ analysis and mapping
    • Non-ambient stage for dynamic experiments
  • Polarized light microscope
  • Supporting equipment for sample preparation and handling

Information on Transnational Access offered by the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) can be found at: https://www.europlanet-society.org/europlanet-2024-ri/transnational-access-ta/

Europlanet 2024 RI has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

SAL follows the approach of a distributed European sample analysis and curation facility as discussed in the preliminary recommendations of EuroCares (European Curation of Astromaterials Returned from Exploration of Space) project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 640190. 

http://www.euro-cares.eu/

Images

An example of extra-terrestrial material that will be analysed in SAL: the little glass vial is containing about 45 mg of lunar soil (regolith) returned to Earth in 1976 by the robotic soviet mission to the Moon Luna 24. Credit: DLR
An example of extra-terrestrial material that will be analysed in SAL: the little glass vial is containing about 45 mg of lunar soil (regolith) returned to Earth in 1976 by the robotic soviet mission to the Moon Luna 24. Credit: DLR.

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/8K2jO5dC.jpg

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission preparing to touch the surface of asteroid Bennu. Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/o-rex_approach.png

Science Contacts

Enrica Bonato
DLR, Berlin, Germany
sal@dlr.de

Jörn Helbert
Department Head of Planetary Laboratories
DLR, Berlin, Germany
Joern.Helbert@dlr.de

Media Contacts

EPSC2021 Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

About DLR

DLR is the Federal Republic of Germany’s research centre for aeronautics and space. We conduct research and development activities in the fields of aeronautics, space, energy, transport, security and digitalisation. The German Space Agency at DLR plans and implements the national space programme on behalf of the federal government. Two DLR project management agencies oversee funding programmes and support knowledge transfer.

Climate, mobility and technology are changing globally. DLR uses the expertise of its 55 research institutes and facilities to develop solutions to these challenges. Our 10,000 employees (as of February 2021) share a mission – to explore Earth and space and develop technologies for a sustainable future. In doing so, DLR contributes to strengthening Germany’s position as a prime location for research and industry.

Winners announced for the machine vs stellar and instrument noise data challenge

Winners announced for the machine vs stellar and instrument noise data challenge

Artificial intelligence (AI) experts from around the world have been competing for the opportunity to help astronomers to explore planets in our local galactic neighbourhood.

The European Space Agency’s Ariel telescope, which launches in 2029, will study the atmospheres of around 1000 planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.

Observing faint signals to measure the make-up of exoplanet atmospheres is incredibly challenging and is made even more so by other signals the instrument may pick up. The effect of star activity, like sun spots, and even the noise of the spacecraft itself can obscure the information scientists receive from Ariel. 

The Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge, sponsored by Spaceflux Ltd, was set to harness the expertise of the artificial intelligence community to help disentangle this unwanted noise from the light filtering through exoplanet atmospheres. Over 110 teams from around the world participated with 35 teams submitting viable solutions. The teams represented a mix of academia and AI companies.

The competition winners, ML Analytics, an artificial intelligence company in Portugal, and a team from TU Dortmund University in Germany were able to achieve highly accurate solutions for even the most difficult to observe planets.

Luís F. Simões from ML Analytics said: ‘To advance our knowledge of exoplanets, we will first need to advance our knowledge of Artificial Intelligence. The Ariel mission will need predictive models that can extract information with extremely high accuracy from noisy sensor data. Building such models is akin to engineering at very small scales: at some point quantum effects start to manifest themselves, and conventional wisdom no longer applies. The Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge provided the ideal setting in which to design the modelling approaches that can lead to such error-free models. It is an honour for me and ML Analytics to be able to play a part in this process of discovery,that will tell us so much about the universe and our place in it.’

Mirko Bunse from TU Dortmund University said: ‘To disentangle the atmospheric properties of exoplanets from the massive amounts of noise is only possible through machine learning models that are trained by sophisticated simulations. Since the first edition of this challenge in 2019, we have seen significant improvements in the Ariel simulations, which also lead to better machine learning-based analyses of the telescope data. We expect further improvements to stem from expert input: are all training examples equally important? Should the machine learning model obey certain boundary conditions? We are excited to take part in these developments and to see the solutions of the other 5 top-ranked teams.’

The winning teams will receive a cash prize of €500 and will be recognised at the Europlanet Science Congress 2021 in an award ceremony on Friday 24 September. The teams will present their research at the European Conference on Machine Learning and Principles and Practice of Knowledge Discovery in Databases (ECML PKDD) on Wednesday 15 September and will also present at the Ariel Conference in November. Their solutions will help the mission team correct for brightness variabilities from stars and sensitivity variations of the instrument enabling them to measure the radius of the planet correctly and discern the chemistry of their atmospheres.  

Dr Ingo Waldmann, Associate Professor in Astrophysics, University College London and Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge lead said: ‘Artificial Intelligence will play an increasingly important role in exoplanet research. Many of the cutting-edge AI solutions can be applied to the very difficult data sets the exoplanet field has to offer. Data challenges such as this one not only provide tangible new solutions to long standing problems, they also help to bridge the gap between both the exoplanet and AI communities. I believe that a closer collaboration between exoplanet and AI research will not only benefit Ariel science but astronomy in general.’

The top three runners up, DeepBlueAI, an AI company based in Shanghai, a team from the Aalen University in Germany, an AI researcher at the University of Tubingen in Germany, will each receive €200 and will present a shorter talk at the ECML workshop.

This was the second Ariel Machine Learning Data challenge. With each competition the Ariel science team is able to work towards a programme which will enable them to get the best quality data from Ariel. By looking at their atmospheres we can understand how these planets formed, what they’re like and ultimately, put the eight planets in our own solar system into context. 

Images

Ariel will be placed in orbit around the Lagrange Point 2 (L2), a gravitational balance point 1.5 million kilometres beyond the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/Europlanet-Science Office 

https://arielspacemission.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/ariel_lagrange_points_high_res1.jpg

Artist’s impression of Ariel. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/UK Space Agency/ ATG Medialab 

Artist’s impression of Ariel. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/UK Space Agency/ ATG Medialab
Artist’s impression of Ariel. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/UK Space Agency/ ATG Medialab

https://arielspacemission.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/ariel-telescope.jpg

A hot planet transits in front of its parent star in this artist impression of an exoplanet system. ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/03/Hot_exoplanet

Videos: 

Note: Please get in touch with press contact for mp4 files. 

Ariel animations: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7nlYuIpjicaxp36LxZwkXOH72Otf-rgY  

Welcome to Ariel: https://youtu.be/28afJ_5TTGc

Contacts: 

Madeleine Russell
Ariel Consortium Communications Lead and RAL Space Communications Manager
Mob: +44 (0) 7594083386
Email: madeleine.russell@stfc.ac.uk

Notes to editors: 

Ariel (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey) 

Ariel, a mission to answer fundamental questions about how planetary systems form and evolve, is a European Space Agency (ESA) medium-class science mission due for launch in 2029. During a 4-year mission, Ariel will observe 1000 planets orbiting distant stars in visible and infrared wavelengths to study how they formed and how they evolve. It is the first mission dedicated to measuring the chemistry and thermal structures exoplanet atmospheres, enabling planetary science far beyond the boundaries of the Solar System. 

The Ariel mission has been developed by a consortium of more than 50 institutes from 16 ESA member state countries, including the UK, France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Estonia – plus USA contribution from NASA. 

Twitter: @ArielTelescope | YouTube: Ariel Space Mission | arielmission.space

Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge

https://www.ariel-datachallenge.space/

Ariel consortium 

The Ariel mission payload is developed by a consortium of more than 50 institutes from 17 ESA countries – which include the UK, France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Estonia – plus a NASA contribution. 

UCL – London’s Global University 

UCL is a diverse community with the freedom to challenge and think differently. 

Our community of more than 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems. 

We are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world and are one of only a handful of institutions rated as having the strongest academic reputation and the broadest research impact.

We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research – championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors. 

For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge. 

We were the first in England to welcome women to university education and that courageous attitude and disruptive spirit is still alive today. We are UCL. 

www.ucl.ac.uk| Follow @uclnews on Twitter | Watch our YouTube channel | Listen to UCL podcasts on SoundCloud | Find out what’s on at UCL Minds | #MadeAtUCL

EPSC2021

The Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge will be presented on Friday 24 September 2021 during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 during the prize lectures session from 14:20-14:50 CEST. For details see: https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EPSC2021/session/41825

EPSC2021 is taking place as a virtual meeting from 13-24 September 2021. The EPSC2021 programme covers the full spectrum of planetary science and technology across 43 sessions. More than 840 oral and poster presentations have been submitted by planetary scientists from Europe, the US and around the world. The EPSC2021 virtual meeting has a hybrid format of asynchronous presentations and discussion alongside a programme of live events, which runs from Thursday 16 – Friday 24 September.

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society and is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

Workshop Registration Now Open: Satellite for Space Science and Technology in Africa

Workshop Registration Now Open: Satellite for Space Science and Technology in Africa

Registration Deadline: 12 November 2021

Travel grant application deadline: 17 October 2021

Registration is now open for the workshop ‘Satellite for Space Science and Technology in Africa‘, which will take place from 15-19 November 2021 in Palapye, Botswana, and online.

This first Europlanet WorkshopSeries on Satellite for Space Science and Technology in Africa will bring together space tech specialists, scientists and students to discuss current topics in this rapidly developing space field. This workshop format is focusing on content and collaboration, and targets to create an African network in planetary science.

Europlanet WorkshopSeries aims to inspire and encourage planetary science and space technology development across borders in developed and developing countries and across the spectrum of academia, industry and civil society. 

Physical participation is open to applicants from Botswana only. Virtual participation is open to all, but there will be a limit on participation and priority will be given to African participants.

Travel grants

The Europlanet WorkshopSeries links travel grants to selected applicants who intend to physically attend the workshop. However, due to Covid-19, the physical presence can only be allowed to applicants from Botswana, and can not be guaranteed due to current Covid-19 regulations.

Not just a travel grant! The Europlanet Workshop Series grants will provide opportunities for leveraging on established research networks to directly contribute to the applicant’s current research and career.

Visit the website

Download the brochure.

Europlanet WorkshopSeries is an initiative under the umbrella of the Global Collaboration and Integration Development program of Europlanet 2024 RI.

Observational alerts issued for NA2

Observational alerts issued for NA2 during Reporting Period 1.

The observational alerts issued through PVOL for NA2 were followed by over 200 active observers. The alerts are also sent through the hstjupiter list on groups.io, which has 64 members including highly active astro-photographers. Each of these alerts has generated new observations by observers., i.e.:  

31st March 2020: Storm Activity on Saturn’s North Polar Region. Active follow-up by Trevor Barry (Australia), Clyde Foster (South Africa) and Christopher Go (Philippines). 

31st May 2020: Jupiter Storm in the South Temperate Belt. Active follow-up by many observers over June-July. 

3rd July 2020: Amateur Support to Venus Research. Active follow-up with tens of images by amateur astronomers: J. Camarena (Spain), M. Kardasis (Greece), L. Morrone (Italy). 

18th August 2020: New Storm in the North Tropical Zone-North Temperate Belts Jetstream. This was a major event in Jupiter atmospheric dynamics and attracted large interest from the amateur community. Follow-up observations were obtained by several observers with initial coordination from PVOL later, with analysis by multiple active observers from many different countries, resulting in hundreds of observations uploaded into PVOL. 

18th September 2020: Jupiter’s North Temperate Belt Plume and Turbulent Wake Interaction. This was a continuation of the previous alert. 

13th October 2020: BepiColombo Flyby of Venus: Request for observations. Active follow-up by amateur astronomers: J. Camarena (Spain), M. Kardasis (Greece), L. Morrone (Italy).

29th July 2020: The possible detection of a volcanic plume at Io by J.-L. Dauvergne (France) could, If proven true, be the first detection of a volcanic plume in Io from ground-based observations although hot volcanic spots are regularly detected with large (8-m) telescopes with Adaptive Optics and volcanic plumes have been observed from space with HST. Three further observations by amateur astronomers following our observational alert on 5th August 2021 may indeed show some signatures of the volcanic plume with lower quality, but further scientific assessment will be needed and performed in September 2021.

Banner image: Jupiter GRS and STB outreach. Credit: Christopher Go.

EPSC 2021 goes live for schools

EPSC 2021 goes live for schools

Once again, the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021, a scientific conference on planetary science, is opening its doors to schools and will give students a glimpse of how contemporary science is done.

Teachers and students are kindly invited to join us virtually with their classroom or educational institute  (suggested age range 12-18 years old or older).

When

This autumn, presenters from all over the world will make their work available to schools to follow online. A list of topics on high level planetary science, ranging from the Moon to the exoplanets and laboratory experiments will be given. 

Events 

  • Teachers’ supporting material 
  • Live webinars with scientists
  • Q&A sessions in various languages 
  • Interactive sessions

See what happened last year!

These activities are kindly being organised by the researchers of Lecturers without Borders, the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Network and the Diversity Committee of the Europlanet Society.

Pre-register here

Please register your Intention to participate (non binding from your part), either in the live or in the recorded events, according to the technical capabilities of your classroom, in the following form:

Registration link: https://form.jotform.com/212083125887660

We will record your expression of interest and you will receive – in late September 2021 – more information on the detailed program and on how to participate.

Let’s open up science to young students and give them the chance to  ask  experts in planetary science questions directly! The content will be held in English, with a possibility of a follow-up in the native language of the speaker, if different from English (Portuguese and Italian are already included). More to be announced soon.

With the kind support of the Diversity Committee of the Europlanet Society, Lecturers without Borders, Europlanet Early Career network (EPEC), Scientix and Frontiers in Science.

Other activities for schools and educators

Arts Competition: Schools are also invited to participate in the EPSC arts contest #InspiredByOtherWorlds. If you have been inspired, create and share your drawings, storytelling, pictures, videos, models, craft works or art installations at home. The deadline for submissions is 31st of October. There are no age restrictions for participants. You can find more information on the contest at https://www.europlanet-society.org/outreach/inspiredbyotherworlds-arts-contest/. If you’d also like to share on social media please use the hashtags #InspiredByOtherWorlds #EPSC2021.

Check out Europlanet’s educational resources.

More about Outreach at EPSC 2021.

20-EPN-005: Cosmic-ray-induced chemistry in pure ices

20-EPN-005: Cosmic-ray-induced chemistry in pure ices

Virtual visit by Alexei Ivlev, Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) (Germany) to TA2.11 Atomki Ice Chamber for Astrophysics / Astrochemistry (ICA) (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 23 February – 05 July 2021

Report Summary: The principal aim of the project was a dedicated study of generic effects induced in pure astrophysical ice analogs due to their bombardment by cosmic rays with energies E in the vicinity of the maximum of electronic stopping power. It is known that the energy of ejected electrons, which are produced in primary ionization events, has a significant dependence on E in this energy range. 

Thus, by selecting pairs of beam energies on both sides of the Bragg peak, such that the corresponding stopping-power values are equal, we were able to probe the effect of electron-impact excitations of ice molecules. We selected CO films as the best irradiation target, for which the biggest variety of radiolysis products was expected and the most detailed predictions of chemical models were available. 

We found that the first radiolysis products, detected at the astrophysically relevant values of ion fluence, are very different from predictions of chemical models. At the same time, the reaction kinetics shows no statistically significant difference between ion beams of same stopping power. This rules out the importance of electron-impact excitation in radiolysis chemistry of CO, and suggests that this process may generally be negligible compared to the chemistry driven by CR heating (determined by the stopping power value). On the other hand, by comparing the sputtering yields measured for beams of same stopping power, we discovered a significant asymmetry, with the yield at lower energies being up to a factor of two larger that at higher energies.


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20-EPN2-046: Dust-carbon-climate feedbacks tested through detailed independent dating of Arctic wind-blown dust sequences on Greenland

20-EPN2-046: Dust-carbon-climate feedbacks tested through detailed independent dating of Arctic wind-blown dust sequences on Greenland.

Visit by Thomas Stevens, Uppsala University (Sweden) to TA1.4 AU Greenland Kangerlussuaq Field Site (Greenland).
Dates of visit: 19-25 July 2021

Report Summary: The aim of this field campaign was to investigate the dynamics of aeolian mineral dust activity and organic carbon burial in western Greenland. Dust is an important component of the global climate system, and investigating its mobilisation, transport and deposition can reveal important information about regional climate and environmental development during the Holocene. Carbon burial in permafrost is one of the main mechanisms by which carbon is sequestered from the atmosphere, and may be linked to dust activity in high latitudes. The work focused on the area between the Greenland Ice Sheet margin and Kangerlussuaq, which represents a range of environmental conditions depending on distance from the ice sheet. We collected modern analogue samples of terrestrial windblown dust (loess) deposits to test and compare the performance of optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon dating. These samples were taken at a high-resolution from the surface of the deposits and thus represent recent aeolian activity. Furthermore, we targeted aeolian deposits containing palaeosol layers to be able to independently compare radiocarbon and luminescence ages, and to identify climate phases which were favourable for soil formation and carbon burial. In addition to purely aeolian sediments, peat bogs were also sampled.

These highly organic deposits complement the nearly purely minerogenic loess deposits because they effectively capture and preserve fine-grained wind-blown sediments. Further analysis of these samples and the use of different climate and carbon burial proxies will reveal important details of the regional climate history, dust-carbon burial dynamics, and provide insights into ice-proximal wind dynamics.

Read full report.

Outreach report


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20-EPN2-089: UPSIDES – Unravelling icy Planetary Surfaces: Insights on their tectonic DEformation from field Survey

20-EPN-014: UPSIDES – Unravelling icy Planetary Surfaces: 
Insights on their tectonic DEformation from field Survey.

Visit by Costanza Rossi, INAF – Astronomical Observatory of Padova (Italy) to at TA1.4 AU Greenland Kangerlussuaq Field Site (Greenland).
Dates of visit: 19-25 July 2021

Report Summary: The Isunguata Sermia and Russell glaciers represent optimal analogues for the study of deformation in glacial environments and their comparison with deformation that affects the icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. The aim of UPSIDES project concerns the relation of tectonic structures from the outcrop to the regional scale with multi-scalar investigation which can provide significant support for planetary analysis. The collection of field data has been significant to find scaling laws between tectonic structures in glaciers and in icy satellite surfaces, and the behaviour at depth of their tectonic structures.

The successful fieldwork in the Kangerlussuaq area enabled the identification of tectonic structures in representative areas of the Isunguata Sermia (southern margin) and Russell glaciers (northern margin and terminus). More than 250 data have been collected from 31 field measurement stations including high dip- and low dip-structures, originated by different stress fields caused by the westward flow of both glaciers. We recognized high dip-extensional fractures approximately E-W and NE-SW trending at the Russell glacier. On the other hand, NNW-SSE trending fractures and low-angle faults, such as compressional thrusts/shear planes, have been detected at the Isunguata Sermia. From satellite imagery and aerial photos, we detected consistent structural orientations with the structures identified in outcrop. A similar correlation will be applied to the structures recognised by remote sensing on the icy satellites. Additionally, at the outcrop scale we identified structures acting as preferential way of fluid circulation. We performed measurements also in rock outcrops near the glacier to understand the relationship between bedrock morpho-tectonics and ice drainage that in turn control the measured glacial deformation.


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20-EPN-014: Constraining CO2 uptake and release through chemical weathering pathways in a young, active orogen

20-EPN-014: Constraining CO2 uptake and release through chemical weathering pathways in a young, active orogen.

Visit by Erica Erlanger, GFZ Potsdam (Germany) to TA2.10 Stable, Rare Gas and Radiogenic Isotope Facility at CRPG (France).
Dates of visit: 14-21 June 2021

Report Summary: Young, active orogens often retain an intact sedimentary cover that is composed of marine sequences, which can host large volumes of carbonate and sulfuric acid-producing minerals, such as pyrite. Unlike silicate weathering, which is responsible for CO2 drawdown over geologic timescales, sulfuric acid weathering of carbonates has the potential to release COinto the atmosphere that was previously trapped in rock. The goals of this study are to calculate the overall carbon budget for the Central Apennines, a young, active orogen, and to understand the mechanisms for the release and drawdown of CO2 in this landscape. 
Compiling a representative assessment of chemical weathering fluxes requires an understanding of the possible variability between seasons. To this end, the objective of my TA visit to the CRPG in Nancy, France was to process riverine water samples collected in winter of 2021 for δ34SSO4, δ18OSO4, and  δ13CDIC. These samples are replicate analyses of samples from summer 2020, and provide a direct comparison of isotopic signatures between the hot and dry summer versus the wet and cool winter. Preliminary results show that δ34S signatures are similar between winter and summer for spring and groundwater samples, whereas river samples are more enriched in summer. Further analysis and results from other isotopic systems will help elucidate the major sources of variability that we observe in the river samples. 

Read full report.


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20-EPN-043: A Systematic Study of Sulfur Ion Radiolysis of Simple Oxide Ices

20-EPN-043: A Systematic Study of Sulfur Ion Radiolysis of Simple Oxide Ices.

Visit by Zuzana Kanuchova (virtual participation), Astronomical Institute od Slovak Academy of Sciences (Slovakia) and Duncan Mifsud (in-person participation), University of Kent (UK) to TA2.11 Atomki Ice Chamber for Astrophysics / Astrochemistry (ICA) (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 30 November – 4 December 2020 and 25-29 January 2021

Report Summary: We have implanted 290 keV S+ ions in a variety of simple oxide ices, including CO, CO2, H2O, N2O, O2, and CO:N2O at 20 K, as well as CO2 and H2O at 70 K. Our aim was to determine whether such implantations could result in the formation of sulfur-bearing product molecules, particularly SOwhich has been detected at the surfaces of several icy Solar System moons. 

The performed experiments suffered from initial setbacks in the form of unexpected and significant sputtering of the astrophysical ice analogues during irradiation. In order to mitigate this sputtering, we made use of two different experimental techinques; (i) via simultaneous deposition and irradiation of the ice analogue in cases where we knew gas phase chemistry to be negligible, and (ii) via creation of a very thick (~3-5 μm) ice and a slow rate of implantation. Once these initial problems were solved, we were able to successfully carry out implantations into the six ices mentioned above. 

Our work has indicated that although sulfur-bearing molecules (such as OCS and H2SO4 hydrates) may form as a result of such implantations, SO2 formation was not detected in most experiments, except at high fluence (~1016 ions/cm2) implantations in CO. Such results have important implications for the icy Galilean satellites of Jupiter, suggesting that the SO2 present there may be formed by endogenic processes at the lunar surfaces.


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