20-EPN2-117: Exploring Mars’s Rootless Cones Based on the Geomorphometry of Icelandic Analogues

20-EPN2-117: To the Root of a Problem – Exploring Mars’s Rootless Cones Based on the Geomorphometry of Icelandic Analogues

Sebastiaan de Vet (TU Delft, Netherlands) and Lonneke Roelofs (Utrecht University, Netherlands) to TA1.1 – Iceland Field Sites, MATIS
Dates of visit: 04-12 July 2022

Rootless cones are created by steam explosions when lava flows interact with local water sources. Consequently, these landscape features offer a unique palaeo-environmental insight into the conditions at the time of the eruption. Rootless cones have also been identified on planet Mars. The aim of this project was to identify geomorphological and morphometric characteristics of Icelandic rootless cones and use these insights to infer the formation conditions and palaeo-environmental significance of rootless cones on the planet Mars. While features on Mars can only be studied remotely through satellite data, this project leverages the accessibility of lcelandic analogues to study their morphologies and properties in fine details. The rootless cone groups in the Younger Laxa Lava are uniquely and specifically suited for this purpose; they offer a morphological variety along various gradients of lava-water interactions.

During the field project the team intended to map representative rootless cones in the Younger Laxa Lava in high-resolution during a drone-assisted photogrammetric survey and analyse high-resolution Digital Terrain Models to quantitatively compare rootless cones on lceland and Mars. However, logistical issues arising in the aviation industry during Summer 2022 resulted in a temporary loss of fieldwork gear. The project was thus refocussed to carry out a field campaign to collect representative pilot-dataset to meet parts of the initial goals and prepare for a future follow-up campaign.

Banner image: A rootless cone at Myvatn Lake, Iceland. Credit: Hansueli Krapf/CC BY-SA 3.0

22-EPN3-005: Spatial Relationship Between Biosignatures and Their Geologic Context by Large-scale Geoscientific Mapping at Rio Tinto, Spain

22-EPN3-005: Spatial Relationship Between Biosignatures and Their Geologic Context by Large-scale Geoscientific Mapping at Rio Tinto, Spain

Visit by Alessandro Frigeri (INAF, Italy) and Giacomo Panza (intern at INAF, University of Bologna, Italy) to TA1.2 Rio Tinto (Spain).
Dates of visit: 07-11 November 2023

Report Summary: Since the early 2000’s, Rio Tinto has been a critical witness plate for the investigation of extremophiles and it is recognized to be a mineralogical and geochemical analog of Mars (Amils et al., 2014). The Mars Analog Rio Tinto Experiment (MARTE), in particular, demonstrated that the Rio Tinto biosphere extends at least 900 meters below the land surface with a high potential of anaerobic microorganisms to be present (Stoker et al., 2008). Host rocks, however, are exposed at the surface in sediments and rocks of the Rio Tinto watershed, providing potential for key investigations.

The Rio Tinto 2023 field campaign was held between November 7th and November 18th 2023 at Rio Tinto Terrestrial Analogue. The campaign team was made by Alessandro Frigeri (INAF, Italy), James Skinner (USGS, US), Giacomo Panza (undergrad student at University of Bologna, intern at INAF) and Felipe Gomez as the TA Field expert (Centro de Astrobiologia, Madrid).

The campaign focused on geologic surveying and mapping the spatial relationship of the rocks where extremophile life develops today and has evolved through the geologic times. When bacteria proliferate within a solid media in a natural environment, microbial life alters the hosting environment chemically and physically. When the hosting media are soils and rocks, geological aspects like color, grain size, texture, and composition will be altered by the presence of life. Before the campaign, the team prepared a context cartographic base from remote sensing data from which they defined three sites of interest with different geological characteristics where to observe and map biosignatures.

In the field, the team applied traditional geological field large-scale mapping techniques coupled with photogrammetric drone surveys and drafted specific geoscientific mapping themes describing the geospatial setting of biosignatures at Rio Tinto Planetary Field Analogue in Spain.

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22-EPN3-77: Preservation of Organic Matter in Glacial Lakes: Implications for Martian and Icy Moon Biosignatures

22-EPN3-77: Preservation of Organic Matter in Glacial Lakes: Implications for Martian and Icy Moon Biosignatures

Visit by Charlotte Spencer-Jones (University of Durham, UK) and Sevasti Filippidou (Imperial College London, UK) to TA1.4 AU Greenland Kangerlussuaq Field Site (Greenland).
Dates of visit: 25 July – 02 August 2023

Report Summary: In the search for extra-terrestrial life, environments that have previously contained water are a key target. Glacial environments, such as those found in Greenland, are highly dynamic ephemeral systems with a range of habitat types that support many different species, from bacteria and archaea to large mammals and higher plants. Organic carbon (OC) compounds, the fundamental building blocks of life, can be used to trace different species and/or biogeochemistry. The aim of the fieldwork campaign was to characterise OC in the lake water column to establish OC synthesis patterns in glacial lakes. In this study we collected water, sediment, and soils from 13 sites from a range of lake types near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.The second phase of this study will be to characterise organic compounds within the samples. The outcome of this work will be to establish the key parameters that control organic compound preservation with the potential to impact the interpretation of putative extra-terrestrial biosignatures.

Read the full scientific report with kind permission by Charlotte Spencer-Jones and Sevasti Filippidou.

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22-EPN3-127: Silcrete deposits of the Kalahari Desert as potential analogs for silica-rich deposits on Mars

22-EPN3-127: Silcrete deposits of the Kalahari Desert as potential analogs for silica-rich deposits on Mars

Visit by Maxime Pineau (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille (LAM), France) and Simon Gouzy (Laboratoire de Planétologie et Géosciences (LPG), France) to TA1.5 Makgadikgadi Salt Pans (Botswana).
Dates of visit: 21-28 August January 2023

Report Summary: Hydrated silica occurs in various forms depending on the geological context and as such are good tracers for paleoenvironmental reconstitutions on Earth and Mars, as well as a prime exobiological target. Observed on Mars since the early 2000’s, hydrated silica minerals have been used to describe aqueous geological processes in diverse regions. However, geological origins of some deposits are still misunderstood because no satisfactory terrestrial analogues were found. Likewise, the exobiological potential of hydrated silica as a prime host of Mars organic matter remains to be fully ascertained.

The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans show a very high potential to be considered as a terrestrial analogue site for Mars hydrated silica, especially in fluvio-lacustrine geological settings. Maxime Pineau (LAM), Simon Gouzy (LPG), plus 2 other colleagues (Vassilissa Vinogradoff (PIIM) and John Carter (LAM)), spent 9 days at the pans (15 different locations) and sampled numerous samples (over 80s) of silicified clastic sedimentary rocks (i.e., silcretes) and conducted preliminary visible-near infrared spectra with a portable spectrometer.

Field observations and spectral analyses confirm the large amount of amorphous to (micro-)crystalline silica in the samples, along with different clays (e.g., glauconite, sepiolite) and salts (e.g., sulfates). This type of mineralogy, possibly indicating a formation in a fluvio-lacustrine context in semi-desert environments, is reminiscent of some silica-rich deposits on Mars in locations interpreted as potential paleo-lakes. These observations will be completed by further laboratory measurements (spectroscopy, microscopy, geochemical and organic analyses) in order to perform advanced studies in terrestrial geology, comparative planetology (e.g., Mars’ geology) and astrobiological exploration.

Read the full scientific report with kind permission by Maxime Pineau and Simon Gouzy.

22-EPN3-065: Ion Bombardment of Glycine and Glycine Embedded Within Water Ice in Solar System and Interstellar Conditions

22-EPN3-065: Ion Bombardment of Glycine and Glycine Embedded Within Water Ice in Solar System and Interstellar Conditions

Visit by María Belén Maté and Ramón Javier Peláez (IEM-CSIC, Spain) to TA2.12 Atomki-Queen’s University Ice Laboratory for Astrochemistry (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 07-11 November 2023

Report Summary: The possibility that prebiotic precursors of life formed in the space and were then transported to the early Earth by comets, asteroids and meteorites is a fascinating hypothesis. We focus in this project on hydroxylamine, NH2OH, a key N-bearing species that has been proposed as an important precursor in the formation of amino acids like glycine or alanine. Very recently, hydroxylamine has been detected in the gas phase in dense clouds in the interstellar medium. It has been predicted to form efficiently on dust grains according to laboratory experiments and chemical models. Then, the presence of this species in ISM ices and on the surface of Solar System bodies is probable, and in those surfaces can react to form more complex prebiotic species like amino acids.

Although the chemical pathways leading to the formation of NH2OH in astrophysical ices have been thoroughly studied, the next step in the chemical evolution that would begin with NH2OH as a precursor in ice has, to our knowledge, not been addressed experimentally.

In this TA project the team studied the chemistry induced by Cosmic Rays on ices containing hydroxylamine. They studied pure NH2OH ices and mixtures with H2O, CO and D2O, at 20 K, irradiated with 15 keV H+ ions. In particular, we were interested in finding complex organic molecules in the processed ices, and learning how different ice composition affects the chemistry and the destruction efficiency of NH2OH by Cosmic Rays.

22-EPN3-065: Ion Bombardment of Glycine and Glycine Embedded Within Water Ice in Solar System and Interstellar Conditions

22-EPN3-065: Ion Bombardment of Glycine and Glycine Embedded Within Water Ice in Solar System and Interstellar Conditions

Visit by Alfred Hopkinson (Aarhus University, Denmark) to TA2.12 Atomki-Queen’s University Ice Laboratory for Astrochemistry (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 04-08 December 2023

Report Summary: During this TNA visit, the simplest amino acid glycine (NH2CH2COOH), and its deuterated analogs, partially deuterated d3-glycine (ND2CH2COOD) and fully deuterated d5-glycine (ND2CD2COOD), were irradiated using 10 KeV protons. The subsequent products of this processing were then measured using infrared spectroscopy and a quadrupole mass spectrometer. The aim of this was to investigate the products of glycine destruction and investigate if this energetic processing could result in the formation of glycine peptides. The outcome of the TNA visit was the collection of infrared spectra of the irradiation of these molecules and then following this, temperature-programmed desorption measurements. These preliminary results show the formation of CO2, CO, and D2O.

Full scientific report published by kind permission of Alfred Hopkinson.

22-EPN3-053: Proton Processing of Phenanthrene Ice Mixtures for Application to Titan’s Lower Atmosphere

22-EPN3-053: Proton Processing of Phenanthrene Ice Mixtures for Application to Titan’s Lower Atmosphere

Visit by Alessandra Candian and Annemieke Petrignani (University of Amsterdam, Netherlands) to TA2.11 Atomki Ice Chamber for Astrophysics / Astrochemistry (ICA) (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 4-8 March 2024

Report Summary: During this TNA visit, the three-ring PAH phenanthrene (C14H10), acetonitrile (CH3CN) and their 1:1 mixture were irradiated using 10 KeV protons. The subsequent products of this processing were then measured using infrared spectroscopy (5000-700 cm-1) and a quadrupole mass spectrometer.

The aim of these experiments was to investigate 1) if energetic processing can modify the structure of solid hydrocarbons and 2) if proton irradiation could trigger the formation of new species. During the visit to Atomki, the team collected infrared spectra of at different proton fluences and then following this, infrared spectra during temperature-programmed desorption (TPD). They also obtained the residues after TPD for ex-situ analysis. The preliminary results show a) the puckering of phenanthrene solid, b) the formation of ethanimine (C2H5N) in acetonitrile solid, c) a complex behaviour of the 1:1 mixture, with puckering and formation of new hydrocarbon species.

Full scientific report published by kind permission of Alessandra Candian and Annemieke Petrignani.

22-EPN3-091: Evolution Under Radiation of Organics Pertaining to Europa

22-EPN3-091: Evolution Under Radiation of Organics Pertaining to Europa

Visit by Alexis Bouquet (Aix-Marseilles University, France) to TA2.11 Atomki Ice Chamber for Astrophysics / Astrochemistry (ICA) (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 19-24 February 2024

Report Summary: Several of the icy moons of Jupiter possess a liquid water ocean under a thick icy crust. In the especially promising case of Europa, a young surface (>100 Myr), and likely recent cryovolcanicactivity (within the last 8 years) imply the presence of ocean material on the surface. Therefore, observations performed by space missions could determine the ocean’s composition, and derive indications on its potential habitability (presence of chemical gradients providing metabolic energy, quantity and composition of available organic matter…). Characterising Europa’s ocean and its possible habitability requires to understand processes that alter organic and inorganic molecules in this environment. These processes include the processing by energetic ions coming from Jupiter’s magnetosphere and hitting the surface.

In this project, Alexis Bouquet visited the Atomki facility to study the effect of sulfur ion bombardment on methanol, a species that could be indicative of key characteristics of the ocean, pure and within an ice matrix. The alteration of the sample was followed using infrared spectroscopy, and the resulting complex organic residues were retrieved for ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry.

Full scientific report published by kind permission of Alexis Bouquet.

20-EPN2-090 – A Search for Thiols Formation Pathways Under Space-Relevant Conditions

20-EPN2-090 – A Search for Thiols Formation Pathways Under Space-Relevant Conditions

Visit by Zuzana Kaňuchová (Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia) and Tom Field (Queen’s University Belfast, UK) TA2.11 Atomki Ice Chamber for Astrophysics / Astrochemistry (ICA) (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 27 November – 8 December 2023

Report Summary: Despite being only the tenth most abundant element in space, sulfur is a component of several biomolecules, making it a key subject for astrochemistry studies. Sulfur containing molecules were observed in the solid phase on the surfaces of icy moons and in the icy mantles of interstellar grains. Despite the seemingly ubiquitous detection of sulfur-bearing species in space, the sulfur budget is still puzzling the scientific community. To address this, Zuzana Kaňuchová and Tom Field conducted an exploratory series of irradiation experiments to determine if species with thiol (-SH) groups may be formed in hydrocarbon-rich ices at temperatures relevant to interstellar matter, the surfaces of Solar System icy satellites, and Kuiper Belt objects.

They implanted 200 keV S+ ions in methane (CH4), ethane (C2H6), ethene (C2H4), and ethyne (C2H2) ices at 20 K and 60 K. Formation (and destruction) of species was monitored via FTIR spectroscopy and quadrupole mass spectrometry. Based on preliminary analysis performed during the TA they decided to conduct one extra (supplementary) experiment to explore the possibility of forming carbon and sulfur-bearing molecules by implanting high-energy carbon (750 keV) ions into hydrogen sulfide (H2S).
The preliminary analysis does not indicate the formation of thiols in the investigated hydrocarbon ices as a result of high-energy sulfur ions implantation. However, several new absorption bands appeared in the
spectra of all irradiated hydrocarbons, indicating the formation of various alkanes and alkenes. The emergence of a prominent band around ~1600 cm-1 could suggest the presence of carbon in an amorphous form.

22-EPN3-028 – Energetic Ion Processing of Pyrene Ice

22-EPN3-028 – Energetic Ion Processing of Pyrene Ice

Visit by Alicja Domaracka (CIMAP-CNRS, France) and Anna Bychkovato (Normandie Université, France) TA2.11 Atomki Ice Chamber for Astrophysics / Astrochemistry (ICA) (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 16-20 October 2023

Report Summary: Over the last decades it became clear that we live in a “molecular universe”. Carbon forms the basis of the majority of the molecular species that so far have been identified in space. Although small carbon-based molecules, like CO and CO2, are some of the most abundant molecules in space, only a small fraction of the carbon is expected to be locked up in such species. It was proposed that a large portion of the interstellar carbon, up to 20%, is built in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and fullerenes. There is a clear lack of information about interaction of energetic ions with pyrene in the solid phase.

In January 2022, Alicja Domaracka (CIMAP-CNRS, France) and Anna Bychkovato (Normandie Université) performed irradiations of pure pyrene 20 K by protons and carbon ions at the ATOMKI facility. Within the present TA, they studied pure pyrene ice at 20K irradiated with 6.4 MeV S3+, 4 MeV S2+, 2,4 MeV C2+, 400 KeV He+, 800 keV He+ and 800 keV H+ ion beams, respectively. In particular, we are interested in learning how the pyrene destruction cross sections depend on the projectile parameters (atomic number, energy).

IAU-Kavli Symposium, Durham University

IAU-Kavli Symposium, Durham University

An astrobiology symposium was convened last week at Durham University, UK. The conference brought together a multidisciplinary range of leading experts to discuss the search for extraterrestrial life, the emergence of life on Earth and how to communicate this exciting field with the media and wider public audience. Europlanet was represented through a crewed stand for the week.

The symposium was supported by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), The Kavli Foundation, Durham University, Breakthrough Initiatives and 4Ward Futures.

Group photo of participants in the IAU-Kavli Symposium held at Durham University in April 2024.
Group photo of participants in the IAU-Kavli Symposium held at Durham University in April 2024. Credit: Durham University.

Find out more

Explore Interactive Planets with Aladin

Explore Interactive Planets with Aladin

The Aladin Sky Atlas suite enables users to visualise and manipulate digitised astronomical images or full surveys, superimpose entries from astronomical catalogues or databases, and interactively access related data and information from astronomical archives. Using the Hierarchical Progressive Surveys (HiPS) methodology, developed by the Strasbourg Astronomical Data Center (CDS) at the Universite de Strasbourg/CNRS, multiple Solar System bodies can be explored through the Aladin Lite planets explorer or  full list of available planetary maps on Aladin Desktop.

Earth can also be explored with Aladin. Thomas Boch recently created a new HiPS combining Earth elevation data with hillshading; with the pointer tool, you can even get OpenStreetMap information on local features.


CDS work toward enabling data access and visualisation of planetary surface data has been partly supported by the Europlanet 2024 RI project. Europlanet 2024 RI has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

Issue 6 of the Europlanet Magazine is out now!

Issue 6 of the Europlanet Magazine is out now!

In this issue:

In Focus

round up of news from Europlanet and the planetary community, including:

Cover of issue 6 of the Europlanet Magazine.
Cover of Issue 6 of the Europlanet Magazine.

• New Board Members of the Europlanet Society
• New EPEC Co-Chairs
• Join us on Discord!
• DPS-EPSC Joint Meeting 2023
• EPSC in Berlin and Beyond!
• GMAP Winter School
• Europlanet at Space Tech Expo Europe
• European Space Weather Week
• 1st Europlanet Latin America Workshop
• Europlanet Committee Funding Scheme Results 2023
• Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2023
• Farinella Prize 2023
• Students as Planetary Defenders
• Blink of a Star
• Polish Experiments to Fly on ISS
• EXPLORE Apps for Lunar, Stellar & Galactic Research

Machine Learning for a Data Driven Era of Planetary Science 

Stavro Ivanovski (INAF-Trieste Astronomical Observatory, Italy), Angelo Pio Rossi (Constructor University, Germany), Jeronimo Bernard-Salas (ACRI-ST, France), and Anita Heward (DFET, UK) look at how Machine Learning (ML) is revolutionising planetary science

Planetary Perspectives: Meet the New Europlanet Society Board

This edition of Planetary Perspectives finds out more about interests, backgrounds and ambitions for the Europlanet Society of the members of the Executive Board elected and taking up new roles in November 2023. 

Supporting Astronomy in Ukraine

Gražina Tautvaišienė (Vilnius University, Lithuania), describes how a Europlanet programme is supporting Ukrainian colleagues to continue their research.

ERIM 2023: A New Kind of Europlanet Meeting 

Anita Heward (Chair of the ERIM Organising Committee and Europlanet Sustainability Committee) reports on how the Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting (ERIM) in Bratislava has helped to lay the foundations for a sustainable Europlanet. 

EPEC Annual Week: A Melting Pot of Ideas 

James McKevitt (University of Vienna, Austria and UCL, UK) reflects on the outcomes of the Europlanet Early Career event, EPEC Annual Week, held in Bratislava, Slovakia in June 2023. 

Bridging the Gap Between Policy and Science 

The Europlanet Policy Team reports on a policy workshop that took place as part of the Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting (ERIM) 2023 last June. 

The Ecological Footprint of Astronomy 

Thibaut Roger (University of Bern, Switzerland) reports on a session at ERIM to initiate a discussion about the ecological impact of astronomy and planetary research activities 

ERIM Goes to Schools 

Thibaut Roger (University of Bern, Switzerland) and Barbara Cavalazzi (University of Bologna, Italy) bring astrobiology and planetary science to schools in Bratislava.

Diving into the Heavens: The Solar System Scope Project 

Jozef Bodlak (Solar System Scope) tells the story behind the Solar System Scope – an app that takes users on an immersive journey with the aim of bringing the grandeur of space to the fingertips of people around the world. 

The Making of ‘The Making of Juice’ 

Maarten Roos-Serote (Lightcurve Films, Portugal) shares a unique view behind the scenes of the making of the Juice mission

Molėtai Magic 

Alejandro Luis García Muñoz reports on the Europlanet Summer School 2023 at the Molėtai Astronomical Observatory in Lithuania. 

Orionids Workshop 2023 

Miloš Obert, Chair of the Slovak Union of Astronomers, reports on the Orionids 2023 astro-camp on meteor observations. 

Dusting the Moon 

Karolien Lefever and Sylvain Ranvier (BIRA-IASB, Belgium) report on DUSTER, a project that gets to grips with lunar dust in preparation for future exploration missions. 

Commkit – The Dream of AI

Thibaut Roger (University of Bern, Switzerland) examines how AI can be useful for scientific outreach and communication, as well as the limitations.

The Last Word – Europlanet: A Page Turns 

Ann Carine Vandaele, President of the Europlanet Society, reflects on sustainability plans for Europlanet

EPSC Goes Live for Schools 2024

EPSC Goes Live for Schools 2024 / 4th edition

During the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) from 7-13 September 2024, Berlin will become a travelling hotspot for planetary scientists. EPSC Goes Live For Schools 2024 will brings participants into contact with classrooms in Berlin and beyond.

It’s been 4 years since the first edition of “EPSC goes live for schools”. Since the initial online edition, developed in the context of the pandemic lockdown, we have come a long way! In the intervening years we have managed to add on-site components, thus fulfilling the main aim of our partner, Lecturers Without Borders (Lewibo): give travelling scientists the opportunity to share their knowledge with the local community of schools, creating a temporary hotspot of sharing science with the local community!

In 2024, we are doing it again with our partners: LeWiBo, Europlanet Society, EPEC, DLR_School_Lab Berlin, MINToring program and Freie Universität Berlin. During the two weeks of 9th-20th September 2024 get ready to explore the planets of our solar system, to learn the latest in planetary science, but also to ask your questions to early career researchers in chats and more.

Would you like to participate in EPSC Goes Live for Schools 2024 as a scientist?

Tick the box to express interest when you submit your abstract for the meeting.

Would you like to join EPSC24 with your classroom?

If your school is located in Berlin you have the opportunity for a scientist to visit you and even host an art-workshop after the scientist’s visit and create a stop-motion movie on the spot (STEAM Lecture).

Some of the organised activities include:

“Cosmic interviews” where students meet researchers in person (on-site) | STOP-motion movie creation with berliner artist Carolina Boettner (on-site) | Presenting educational resources developed by Europlanet to teachers (online) | Asychronous Q&A in online chats on planetary science with early carreer researchers (online) | Planetary science webinars (online) | Arts contest #Inspiredbyotherworlds (online)

The Art Contest #inspiredbyotherworlds is already open for registration to students in all locations. Learn more on the Europlanet webpage.

Languages supported:

The events will be held in German or English.

Register here* and become part of a lively community this September!

*According to your location (in Berlin or elsewhere) we will send you the on-site or online programme of activities.

BepiColombo Spies Escaping Oxygen and Carbon in Unexplored Region of Venus’s Magnetosphere

BepiColombo Spies Escaping Oxygen and Carbon in Unexplored Region of Venus’s Magnetosphere

A fleeting visit of the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission to Venus has revealed surprising insights into how gases are stripped away from the upper layers of the planet’s atmosphere. 

Detections in a previously unexplored region of Venus’s magnetic environment show that carbon and oxygen are being accelerated to speeds where they can escape the planet’s gravitational pull.  The results have been published today in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Lina Hadid, CNRS researcher at the Plasma Physics Laboratory (LPP) and lead author of the study said: “This is the first time that positively charged carbon ions have been observed escaping from Venus’s atmosphere. These are heavy ions that are usually slow moving, so we are still trying to understand the mechanisms that are at play. It may be that an electrostatic ‘wind’ is lifting them away from the planet, or they could be accelerated through centrifugal processes.”

Unlike Earth, Venus does not generate an intrinsic magnetic field in its core. Nonetheless, a weak, comet-shaped ‘induced magnetosphere’ is created around the planet by the interaction of charged particles emitted by Sun (the solar wind) with electrically charged particles in Venus’s upper atmosphere. Draped around the magnetosphere is a region called the ‘magnetosheath’ where the solar wind is slowed and heated.

On 10 August 2021, BepiColombo passed by Venus to slow down and adjust course towards its final destination of Mercury. The spacecraft swooped up the long tail of Venus’s magnetosheath and emerged through the nose of the magnetic regions closest to the Sun. Over a 90-minute period of observations, BepiColombo’s instruments measured the number and mass of charged particles it encountered, capturing information about the chemical and physical processes driving atmospheric escape in the flank of the magnetosheath.

Early in its history, Venus had many similarities to Earth, including significant amounts of liquid water. Interactions with the solar wind have stripped away the water, leaving an atmosphere composed mainly of carbon dioxide and smaller amounts of nitrogen and other trace species. Previous missions, including NASA’s Pioneer Venus Orbiter and ESA’s Venus Express have made detailed studies of the type and quantity of molecules and charged particles that are lost into space. However, the missions’ orbital paths left some areas around Venus unexplored and many questions still unanswered.

Data for the study were obtained by BepiColombo’s Mass Spectrum Analyzer (MSA) and the Mercury Ion Analyzer (MIA) during the spacecraft’s second Venus flyby. The two sensors are part of the Mercury Plasma Particle Experiment (MPPE) instrument package, which is carried by Mio, the JAXA-led Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter.

“Characterising the loss of heavy ions and understanding the escape mechanisms at Venus is crucial to understand how the planet’s atmosphere has evolved and how it has lost all its water,” said Dominique Delcourt, researcher at LPP and the Principal Investigator of the MSA instrument. 

Europlanet’s SPIDER space weather modelling tools enabled the researchers to track how the particles propagated through the Venusian magnetosheath.

“This result shows the unique results that can come out of measurements made during planetary flybys, where the spacecraft may move through regions generally unreachable by orbiting spacecraft,” said Nicolas André, of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP) and lead of the SPIDER service.

A fleet of spacecraft will investigate Venus over the next decade, including ESA’s Envision mission, NASA’s VERITAS orbiter and DAVINCI probe, and India’s Shukrayaan orbiter. Collectively, these spacecraft will provide a comprehensive picture of the Venusian environment, from the magnetosheath, down through the atmosphere to the surface and interior.

“Recent results suggest that the atmospheric escape from Venus cannot fully explain the loss of its historical water content. This study is an important step to uncover the truth about the historical evolution of the Venusian atmosphere, and upcoming missions will help fill in many gaps,” added co-author, Moa Persson of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics.

Publication details:

Hadid et al. BepiColombo observations of oxygen and carbon ions in the flank of Venus induced magnetosphere. Nature Astronomy, 12 April 2024.


DOI: 10.1038/s41550-024-02247-2


Schematic view of planetary material escaping through Venus magnetosheath flank. The red line and arrow show the region and direction of observations by BepiColombo when the escaping ions (C+, O+, H+) were observed.
Schematic view of planetary material escaping through Venus magnetosheath flank. The red line and arrow show the region and direction of observations by BepiColombo when the escaping ions (C+, O+, H+) were observed. Credit: Thibaut Roger/Europlanet 2024 RI/Hadid et al.

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Science Contacts

Dr Lina Hadid
Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas (LPP)

Dr Dominique Delcourt
Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas (LPP)

Dr Moa Persson
Institutet för Rymdfysik (IRF)
Swedish Institute of Space Physics

Dr Nicolas André
Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP)

Media Contacts

Anita Heward
Press Officer
Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI)
+44 7756 034243

Thibaut Roger
Press Officer
Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI)

Further Information


In October 2003, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was established as an independent administrative institution, integrating the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL). ISAS became one of four principal sections within the newly established organization. Its mission is to advance space science – scientific research conducted in outer space – in Japan, mainly by collaboration with universities. It also actively contributes to JAXA’s and Japan’s entire space development. 

ISAS’s new efforts and results in space science are published in Japan and shared with the international community, thus promoting JAXA’s status and enhancing Japan’s intellectual reputation in the world.

Web: https://www.isas.jaxa.jp/en/

Twitter: @ISAS_JAXA_EN

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet 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 project builds on a €2 million Framework 6 Coordination Action (EuroPlaNet), a €6 million Framework 7 Research Infrastructure (Europlanet RI) and a €10 million Horizon 2020 Research Infrastructure (Europlanet 2020 RI) funded by the European Commission. 

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 Society’s aims are:

  • To expand and support a diverse and inclusive planetary community across Europe through the activities of its 10 Regional Hubs
  • To build the profile of the sector through outreach, education and policy activities
  • To underpin the key role Europe plays in planetary science through developing links at a national and international level. 

Europlanet 2024 RI project website: www.europlanet-2024-ri.eu

Europlanet Society website: www.europlanet-society.org   

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia

Apply to host EPSC in 2026 and 2027!

Apply to host EPSC in 2026 and 2027!

Deadline for applications extended to 15 May 2024

We are delighted to announce the call to host the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) in 2026 or 2027. EPSC is the major European meeting on planetary science, regularly attracting 1000-1200 participants from around the world, and is the annual meeting of the Europlanet Society. 

Top level requirements: EPSC 2026 and 2027 should be hosted in a European city under the responsibility of a very motivated and very capable LOC (Local Organisation Committee) led by a research institute/research organisation with close links to the local planetary science community. The proposed venue should be able to accommodate 1200+ participants onsite and offer options to allow hybrid access for virtual participation.  

Facilities should include a large auditorium for 350-400 participants, a large lecture hall for 160-200 participants, 2-3 rooms for up to 100 participants, and 2-3 rooms for up to 70 participants, as well as several smaller rooms for splinters, workshops, press conferences etc. The venue should include areas for coffee breaks, seating and working spaces, as well as the capacity to display 300 posters (300 single sided or 150 double sided) and to accommodate 10-20 exhibition booths. All facilities, including venues for proposed social event(s), should be of high-quality and accessible to all attendees, including those with reduced mobility and wheelchair users.  

The venue should be in a safe and attractive location with excellent transport links (at both an international and local scale). Low-cost transportation and suitably priced accommodation for students should be available.  

Process: Candidate host Institutes/organisations are welcome to apply for either or both 2026 and 2027. The preferred timing for EPSC 2026 is early-mid September, avoiding holidays (e.g. Yom Kippur). The dates for EPSC 2027 should ideally be 19-24 September to allow for reciprocal joint hybrid activities with the AAS Division of Planetary Sciences (DPS), which will take place that week in Providence, RI, US. 

To respond to this call, please download the application pack from the call page on the Europlanet Society website: https://www.europlanet-society.org/epsc/call-for-hosting-epsc-2026-and-epsc-2027/. The application pack contains a detailed summary of the venue requirements, as well as a set of guidelines that draw on the experience of past EPSC hosts.  

Applicants should fill in the application form on the call page to submit: 

  • A document setting out your proposal in full, addressing all the areas listed in the venue requirements. 
  • A completed EPSC Proposal Budget Template (Excel spreadsheet in the application pack). 
  • A completed EPSC Room Requirements Template (Excel spreadsheet in the application pack). 

Tentative calendar:  

  • Deadline for applications: 19 April 2024 15 May 2024
  • Early site visit: June-July, (to be confirmed) 
  • Proposal evaluation: July/August
  • Host selection: Announced at EPSC2024. 

Any questions should be addressed to epsc@europlanet-society.org. We look forward to receiving your proposals. 

Lena Noack, EPSC Executive Committee Chair
Anita Heward, EPSC Executive Committee Acting Vice Chair
Ann Carine Vandaele, President of the Europlanet Society and Europlanet Association
Didier Moreau, Treasurer of the Europlanet Society and Europlanet Association
Mario Ebel, Copernicus Meetings

Winners of 2024 Best Iberian Thesis Prize Announced

Winners Announced of the 2024 Europlanet Early Career Prize for Best Iberian Thesis in Planetary Sciences

The Europlanet Iberian Hub is proud to announce the winners of the first planetary early-career prizes in Spain & Portugal: 

  • Abraham Zacut” Award: Best Iberian PhD Thesis in Planetary Sciences & Exploration
    • Winner: Jennifer Huidobro
    • Thesis Title : Exploring Martian and Lunar Geochemistry through the study of meteorites, analogs, laboratory simulation, and mission data analysis”.
    • Tutors: Juan Manuel Madariaga Mota and Julene Aramendia Gutiérrez
    • University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU)
  • Pedro Nunes” Award: Best Iberian Master’s Thesis in Planetary Sciences & Exploration
    • Winner: Vasco Cardoso
    • Thesis Title: Collisional Evolution of Jupiter Trojans
    • Tutors: Nuno Peixinho and Paula Benavidez
    • University of Coimbra and University of Alicante

Find out more

Juice Science Webinar Series: Juice One Year After Launch

Juice Science Webinar Series: Juice One Year After Launch – News and Outlook

Webinar: 12 April 2024, 14:00 CEST

On the 14th April 2023, JUICE was launched from Kourou by the last but one Ariane 5 rocket. It will spend around 8 years travelling before reaching its destination: the Jupiter system and its icy moons. One year after launch, and it is time to discuss what has been done with the JUICE team and what is the prospect for the coming years. The cruise phase from Earth to Jupiter could be perceived as eventless, we will show that this is far from the case!

This series is organised in collaboration with the Europlanet Society.

Register now!

EPSC2024 – Call for Abstracts

EPSC2024 – Call for Abstracts

We invite the world-wide community of planetary scientists to submit an abstract for presentation of their recent work at the EPSC2024 meeting, which will take place at the Henry Ford Building of the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, 8–13 September 2024. EPSC2024 will be organized as a fully hybrid meeting and will allow virtual access to all oral and poster sessions.

We are looking forward to meeting everyone in person this year in Berlin. The ethos for EPSC2024 is to create a simple, flexible, and inclusive meeting that provides multiple opportunities for interaction, scientific discussion, and networking. The programme of the congress will contain oral and poster sessions, as well as workshops and panel discussions.

The current list of sessions is organized around the following Programme Groups:

• Terrestrial Planets (TP)
• Outer Planet Systems (OPS)
• Missions, Instrumentation, Techniques, Modelling (MITM)
• Small Bodies (comets, KBOs, rings, asteroids, meteorites, dust) (SB)
• Exoplanets, Origins of Planetary Systems and Astrobiology (EXOA)
• Outreach, Diversity, Amateur Astronomy (ODAA)

The scientific programme and the abstract submission tool are accessible at: https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EPSC2024/sessionprogramme

Please browse the list of sessions and identify the session that most closely matches your area of interest; your abstract can be submitted directly to that session.

The abstract submission deadline is 13:00 CEST, 15 May 2024.

You may see all deadlines & milestones of the conference at the following website: https://www.epsc2024.eu/information/deadlines.html

Information on registration and social events, as well as a separate online form for requesting splinter meetings & workshops will also be available soon on the meeting web site.

Lena Noack & Anita Heward (on behalf of the EPSC committee)
Stavro Ivanovski & Ákos Kereszturi  (on behalf of the Scientific Organizing Committee)
Mario Ebel (on behalf of Copernicus Meetings)

Tonight: Join Us for a Special Watch-Together Movie Session on Discord!

Tonight: Join Us for a Special Watch-Together Movie Session on Discord!

Join us tonight for a special watch-together movie session hosted by the Europlanet Society on Discord. This event promises to be an enriching experience for all space enthusiasts, featuring Maarten Roos-Serote’s film on the JUICE mission.

Film Screening: Maarten Roos-Serote’s film ‘The Making of Juice

Date and Time: Wednesday 20th March, at 18:00 CET

Location: Discord

Introduction: We will begin with a brief introduction to the film and the significance of the JUICE mission.

Movie Screening: Following the introduction, we will watch the film together on Discord.

Q&A Session: After the screening, we will have a live Q&A session with members of the JUICE team who participated in the mission. This is a fantastic opportunity to gain insights directly from those involved in this groundbreaking project. Notably, we are pleased to announce the presence of Olivier Witasse, the Juice Project Scientist, who will be among the members of the JUICE team attending this event.

We encourage you to join us on Discord for this event. Additionally, we invite you to host physical get-togethers within your Hubs to enhance the experience for the Europlanet community!

To join our Discord server and participate in this watch-together movie session, simply follow this link.

Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to delve into the world of space exploration and connect with fellow enthusiasts, only on the Europlanet Society Discord. We look forward to seeing you there!

20-EPN2-116: Hypervelocity Impacts for DISC Calibration

20-EPN2-116: HIDISCC (Hypervelocity Impacts for DISC Calibration)

Visit by Vincenzo Della Corte, Osservatorio Astronomico Capodimonte Napoli, INAF (Italy), to TA2.7 Light Gas Gun Laboratory, University of Kent (UK)
Dates of visit: 27-29 March 2023

Report summary: The Comet Interceptor space mission is to launch in 2029 to study a dynamically new comet. Two of the three spacecraft involved will host copies of the Dust Impact Sensor and Counter
(DISC), which will measure the physical properties of cometary dust. The spacecraft’s velocity (7-70 km/s) will result in hypervelocity dust impacts on DISC. Combined with the range of dust particle sizes, this will create a wide range of impact momentum (10-11–10-3 kg/m/s). To cover the upper part of the momentum range, DISC calibration will be performed with hypervelocity simulated impacts induced by lasers. To perform DISC characterization and calibration in the lower momentum range, we carried out experiments at the Light Gas Gun Impact Facility at the University of Kent (UK).
To calibrate DISC and check the sensing element formed by the aluminum plate and the
piezoelectric transducers:

  • We performed 9 shots at the Light Gas Gun Impact Facility at the University of Kent.
    We used different particle sizes and materials and different speeds, utilising different
    approaches, i.e. single particles with diameters down to 400 nm and buck-shots of a
    mixture of minerals and very light hollow spheres.
  • The signals from the piezoelectrics will be used to verify DISC estimated
    performance and enable a generally-valid impact sensor calibration procedure.
    All 9 shots provided signals, this was for both single impacts and multiple buck- shot impacts.
    The results of the experiment confirmed the capability of the instrument to measure the
    momentum of particles impacting in the hypervelocity range.

Read the full scientific report, with kind permission from Vincenzo Della Corte.