Dancing around Venus

Dancing around Venus

A close flyby of the planet Venus between 9 and 10 August, led to an (almost) meeting of the Euro-Japanese BepiColombo and the Euro-American Solar Orbiter (SOLO) spacecrafts. Venus isn’t the final destination of either mission but the approach to the planet made it possible to collect valuable data for future studies.

The almost-contemporary flyby at Venus of Solar Orbiter is a great opportunity to have more data and an additional point of view of the Venus environment. We’ll take advantage of it!” says Valeria Mangano, coordinator of the ESA working group on Venus flybys of the BepiColombo mission. 

SOLO will use Venus’s gravity multiple times to get closer to the Sun and to change direction to get a good look at the Sun’s poles (a first for a spacecraft), while BepiColombo needs gravitational help from Earth, Venus and Mercury itself to reach its destination.  BepiColombo, named after the Paduan mathematician, physicist, astronomer and engineer Giuseppe Colombo, is the result of the collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) with European leadership. The aim of the mission is to unveil the deepest secrets of Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun and one of the least explored in the Solar System. Four out of the sixteen instruments and experiments on board BepiColombo were built by Italian industry and the Mercury Planetary Orbiter carries onboard the Italian instruments ISA, SERENA and SIMBIO-SYS, and the MORE radio-science experiment.

ESA’s SOLO spacecraft encountered Venus at an altitude of 7995 km 33 hours earlier than BepiColombo and on the opposite face of the planet. Its main mission is to observe the surface of the Sun and study the changes that occur in the solar wind that is emitted at high speed by our star. Among its ten instruments, SOLO carries Metis, the innovative coronagraph born through an international collaboration led by the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and supported by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), involving several universities in Italy and research institutes in the world. 

Approaching Venus has allowed the two spacecraft to make several science investigations of the planet’s atmosphere and its induced magnetosphere and ionosphere. During its flyby, the Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) was able to capture a view of the planet Venus’s nightside, which appeared as a dark semicircle surrounded by a gleaming, bright crescent of light. The day after and a few minutes after BepiColombo’s closest approach of 552km, the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2 took this beautiful black-and-white snapshot with the high-gain antenna and part of the body of the spacecraft visible in front of Venus.

Beautiful view of Venus on 10 August 2021 as bepiColombo passed the planet for a gravity assist manoeuvre.

The Venus Flybys Working group (VFBWG, here the relative ESA webpage), Valeria tells us, aims to promote discussion on Venus science as related to the BepiColombo passages nearby the planet, and also by taking advantage of some of the complementary observations from Earth-based telescopes and by amateur astronomers. Europlanet 2024 RI is actively involved in this, by supporting and encouraging the amateur observations through a campaign coordinated by Ricardo Hueso and Itziar Garate-Lopez from UPV/EHU in Spain. You can find some of the images collected after the first BepiColombo Venus flyby last October on the Planetary Virtual Observatory and Laboratory (PVOL) website. The working group also supports coordination of Venus observations by BepiColombo and other spacecraft. JAXA’s Akatsuki spacecraft, for instance, is now in orbit around Venus and joint observations of the plasma environment surrounding the atmosphere of Venus will enable, again, new insights concerning the planet that were not previously achievable.

Apparently the data for the public will be coming through and continuously being uploaded to the ESA’s dedicated webpage but it will take some time.

Now that the flyby at Venus has passed, we are all working hard at the data analysis, interacting among the teams to gain the most comprehensive view of what we measured. This is at the same time the most stressful and exciting moment of the flyby, when you realise if all the efforts we did of planning the ‘best possible measurements’ really worked and will bring us results or not,” Valeria Mangano continues.

Even more exciting is that all the data collected during the flybys will provide useful inputs to ESA’s future Venus orbiter, EnVision, which is scheduled to launch to Venus in the 2030s.

It seems that the heavens will continue to give us great, emotional highlights in the years to come and we can do nothing but wait, anxiously, for the next planetary dance. The next appointment is for the night of 1-2 October, when BepiColombo will finally see its long dreamed-of destination, making its first of six flybys of the planet Mercury.

EPSC2021: aperte le domande per richiedere il rimborso della quota di partecipazione

Entro il 23 Luglio 2021 è possibile applicare per richiedere il rimborso della quota di iscrizione al congresso EPSC2021 (nel caso di registrazione anticipata), nonché della quota per l’Abstract Processing Fee.

Possono richiedere il rimborso:
-professionisti a inizio carriera (entro 7 anni dall’ultima laurea)
-studenti di dottorato
-astronomi amatoriali
-divulgatori
-educatori
-ricercatori da Paesi sotto-rappresentati

E’ necessario che i candidati abbiano un abstract accettato per per la conferenza (per presentazione orale o poster).

Per applicare è sufficiente compilare il form online. I candidati prescelti riceveranno comunicazione nella settimana del 26 luglio, per consentire loro di registrarsi prima della scadenza della quota di registrazione anticipata del 3 agosto.

Worskshop virtuale “Ricerca & Sviluppi Tecnologici per In-Situ Resources Utilization”

L’Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) chiama la comunità scientifica e industriale nazionale a presentare, in un evento interamente virtuale, lo stato dell’arte delle proprie attività di ricerca e sviluppo di tecnologie per lo sfruttamento delle risorse in situ (ISRU) su Luna, Marte ed asteroidi. L’appuntamento è per il 6 Ottobre 2021 al workshop “Ricerca & Sviluppi Tecnologici per In-Situ Resources Utilization”.

La partecipazione è libera, ma è necessario registrarsi entro il 10 settembre 2021 attraverso il modulo online.

Le proposte e gli interventi possono riguardare uno dei seguenti argomenti:

Acquisizione, preparazione, classificazione delle risorse

• Tecnologie per la produzione di consumabili (es. acqua, ossigeno, propellenti)

• Tecnologie per la produzione di risorse per manufacturing

• Generazione e storage di potenza in-situ

• Estrazione e storage materiale per sample return mission

• Facility per testing e validazione a terra di tecnologie

Ulteriori informazioni sul workshop nella brochure di presentazione.

Call for a PostDoc Research Fellowship on EXOMARS/Ma_MISS, DAWN, ROSETTA/VIRTIS

The INAF-Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology (Rome, Italy) is seeking applicants for one “Postdoctoral Research Fellowship” in the context of the research project “Modelling of surfaces of solid bodies of the Solar System and comparison with data from space probes and terrestrial analogues in the laboratory”.

Deadline30 June 2021.

The grant is based on the project “EXOMARS Ma_MISS”, “DAWN” and “Rosetta/VIRTIS” and will be carried out under the scientific supervision of dr. Maria Cristina De Sanctis and dr. Fabrizio Capaccioni.

The expected start date is September 2021, with a duration of 12 months and the potential of renewal.

The successful candidate is expected to work on the surface and subsurface modelling; data analysis from space instrumentation (VIR instruments on DAWN, Ma_Miss on ExoMars 2022, VIRTIS on Rosetta) and laboratory data analysis (analogous materials and meteorites).

More information with the complete description of the position and the documents to fill out here.

Il Cielo in salotto: superLuna!

Wednesday 26 May, starting at 21:30, the largest and most spectacular full moon of the year will be the main character of the first episode of the new EduINAF’s format “Il cielo in salotto“.
Meaning “the sky in your living room”, it aims at bringing science and astronomy closer to the public with live astronomical observations. For this specific occasion, the supermoon will be observed, weather permitting, by the astronomers of some INAF Observatories scattered throughout Italy, (Trieste, Asiago, Rome and Palermo). To comment on the beauties of the sky, Sandro Bardelli, from Bologna, will be our guide on this journey on the Moon, between astronomical curiosities and the latest scientific missions and discoveries, accompanied by guests such as Maria Cristina De Sanctis and Francesca Altieri, researchers at the INAF IAPS in Rome, the geologist Matteo Massironi of the University of Padua, Caterina Boccato, in charge of the INAF Teaching and Outreach, Simone Iovenitti, PhD student at INAF and University of Milan and together with many other partners and guests who will help us to look at the Moon with new eyes.

Special guest of the evening is Samantha Cristoforetti, who will tell us, in a video, her point of view on the Moon and its exploration, and who will receive as a gift the collective portrait of the asteroid 15006 Samcristoforetti made as a tribute to our astronaut in the recent astrophotography challenge, organised by EduINAF in collaboration with the community of italian amateurs.

The appointment is on the EduINAF’s YouTube channel: go here to find all the information!

Happy SuperLuna!

From Italy to Mars through Rio Tinto

From Italy to Mars through Rio Tinto

The second call for applications for the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access (TA) programme returned a positive response to the Ma_Miss (Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies) team for a geological and spectroscopic field analysis campaign at the Rio Tinto site in Spain.
The main objective of the project is to collect spectral data and samples useful for testing the ExoMars2022/Ma_MISS spectrometer. Ma_MISS is the miniaturized visible and near-infrared (VIS-NIR) spectrometer, integrated into the drilling system of the ESA ExoMars/2022 Rosalind Franklin rover, dedicated to the Martian subsurface exploration.
The Rio Tinto represents an example of how life can adapt to extreme environments: this may give us clues as to what kind of life may have once developed on Mars” says Marco Ferrari from the INAF/IAPS in Rome, “and scientific results from previous work with other drilling equipment and scientific instruments show that the Rio Tinto site has ideal mineralogical/biological characteristics to test the Ma_MISS spectrometer also in the context of Oxia Planum, the selected landing site of the ExoMars/2022 mission“.

During the field campaign, the team plans to perform a series of VIS-NIR measurements collecting a representative sample of each mineral that will be subsequently measured with the breadboard Ma_MISS at the INAF/IAPS laboratory. All the efforts focused on any spectral signature related to the presence of biomarkers in the collected data with the aim of understanding whether the Ma_MISS instrument can be of any help in detecting traces of life in the Martian subsurface, which is one of the main scientific objectives of the ExoMars/2022 mission.

The findings of this study will be published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at major planetary science-related international congresses, as well as during scientific public outreach events.

We can’t wait to find out more!


90th SGI Conference

90th SGI Conference

WHEN: 14-16 September 2021
WHERE: Virtual
DEADLINE: 28 May 2021

Geology Without Borders“: this is the theme of the 90th edition of the Italian Geological Society’s Conference, which will take place virtually on 14-16 September 2021. The conference wants to be a wish for an exchange of knowledge among researchers, not only Italian, to promote and strengthen the Earth Sciences, which should be considered not only as a necessary tool for the best understanding of the interior of planet Earth but also as a defense of the society from dangerous geological events, for the understanding of climate variations, the planning and use of geo-resources in an ethical way and with the respect and preservation of the environment.
The event will be of great interest for the whole international planetary community, which is invited to participate by registering here and submitting an abstract before 28 May 2021 – 7:00 p.m. CET. A list of the fees is reported in detail on the related page. Two different planetary sessions are indeed planned, both held in English, with two international keynote speakers, one per session:
P26. The cosmic challenge: from interplanetary dust to the bricks of life
Conveners: Lidia Pittarello, Cristian Carli
P27. The contribution of geology to the knowledge of Solar System bodies
Conveners: Valentina Galluzzi, Alice Lucchetti

During the conference the awards ceremony of the competition “On the rocks” will be held. This competition asks students, PhD students, researchers, professionals and geology enthusiasts of any age to describe their research or new ideas on Earth in a creative and absolutely informal way, by producing short films of any kind. More information on the competition, which will close on 25 July 2021, on the dedicated page.

A conference and a competition through which to have fun and learn at the same time: what more could you ask for?

An Asteroid For Samantha

Are you an amateur astronomer, a professional or a simple sky enthusiast? Get involved with An Asteroid for Samantha, the astro-photography campaign dedicated to the return to orbit, in 2022, of Samantha Cristoforetti.

Edu INAF, in collaboration with the Italian Association for Astronautics and Space, the Astronomical Observatory of the Autonomous Region of Valle d’Aosta and with the support of the Italian Amateur Astronomers Union, invites you to hunt 15006 Samcristoforetti, the main belt asteroid dedicated to Samantha, take a picture and share it with the Edu INAF editorial team. Your image, along with the others that will arrive, will be given as a gift to Samantha to accompany her on her journey to the International Space Station!

Use the hashtags of the event #UnAsteroidePerSamantha #Samcristoforetti #AnAsteroidForSamantha.

More information here.