We just launched the Europlanet Magazine!

We just launched the Europlanet Magazine!

The official magazine of Europlanet, the European community for planetary science.

We are delighted to share with you the first issue of the Europlanet Magazine. The e-magazine will be published twice a year and aims to highlight the range of activities by Europlanet, our partners, and the wider planetary community.

This first issue has a strong focus on Mars, including European contributions to current missions, experimental research in labs and in the field, and outreach initiatives to engage the next generation. We look back at the origins of Europlanet and its links to the Cassini-Huygens mission at the beginning of this century. We also have updates on the Winchcombe meteorite and on several new partnerships to support planetary science.

Please check out Issue 1 and share with your networks to help us spread the word.

In this issue:

In Focus

round up of news from Europlanet 2024 RI, the Europlanet Society, the Regional Hubs and Committees, and the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021.

Memories of Europlanet’s birth

Michel Blanc (IRAP), coordinator of the first Europlanet projects, looks back on the origins and evolution of Europlanet

Planetary Perspectives

Q&A with Henrik Hargitai, Editor of the Pocket Atlas of Mars 36

Europlanet Society Joins International Planetary Data Alliance

Stéphane Erard (Observatoire de Paris) reports on Europlanet’s participation in international consortia that manage access to planetary data.

Searching for Answers to Life’s Big Questions

Fernando J Gomez and Mateo Martini (CICTERRA-CONICET) introduce the new Europlanet 2024 RI planetary analogue field site in Argentina

RoadMap to Understanding Atmospheric Dust on Mars

Ann Carine Vandaele (BIRA-IASB) addresses open questions about dust and clouds in the martian atmosphere through the H2020 RoadMap project

All Eyes on Mars

A round up by the editor on European involvement in Mars missions and lab-based research on Mars exploration, including the MEDA, SuperCam and MOXIE instruments on Perseverance and spiders on Mars.

My Journey to Mars by Maria Hieta (FMI), a personal viewpoint on working on Perseverance’s MEDA instrument and ExoMars,

The Fall of the Winchcombe Meteorite

Sara Russell (NHM) describes the first UK meteorite fall recovery in thirty years and the most exciting week of her life.

Building a Community for Planetary Geological Mapping

Angelo Pio Rossi (Jacobs University) describes Europlanet’s new geological mapping activity, GMAP

Mobilising Planetary Science in Africa

Fulvio Franchi (Botswana International University of Science and Technology) introduces a new network to support planetary science in Africa.

Industry Engagement

Marcell Tessenyi (Blue Skies Space Ltd) and Jeronimo Bernard-Salas (ACRI-ST) discuss the mutual benefits for industry and academia in developing collaborations.

CommKit

The Europlanet Magazine’s column on science communication by Shorouk Elkobros (Europlanet Society/ESF).

EPEC Corner

News from the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Network

Melissa Mirino  (EPEC Communications Working Group) on how EPEC can support early career professionals, and the 2021 edition of the #PlanetaryScience4All video contest

3rd EPEC Annual Week
Erica Luzzi on the EPEC Annual Week, held as a virtual meeting this week

The Last Word

Nigel Mason on Europlanet: Moving Forward Together

‘NIGeL’ isotope geochemistry laboratory awarded 4.85M Euros

‘NIGeL’ isotope geochemistry laboratory awarded 4.85M Euros

The Vrije University’s Department of Geology and Geochemistry, which leads the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access (TA) Programme, has been awarded €4.85 million from the Dutch Research Council (NWO) to set up and equip a new laboratory for isotope geochemistry analysis. The facility, which will be called the Netherlands state-of-the-art Isotope GEochemistry Laboratory (NIGeL), is led by Prof Gareth Davies of VU, and involves partners from University of Groningen, Utrecht University, Leiden University, the Rijksmuseum, and the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI).

Prof Gareth Davies, TA Coordinator for Europlanet 2024 RI, introduces the NIGeL facility.

The new infrastructure will be used by national and international research groups from Earth and planetary sciences, archaeology, forensic research, and cultural heritage. The facility will open in 2023.

New mass spectrometry methods in NIGeL will enable analysis of extremely small samples (<10 ng) and in-situ measurements, essential capabilities for research where sample size is a limiting factor but high precision is required e.g. in the analysis of meteorites and samples returned from planetary missions.

Other planetary research that will be enabled through NIGeL includes studies of the origins of habitability on Earth and other planetary bodies in the Solar System, as well as research into terrestrial element cycles resulting from plate tectonics and volcanism, and their influence on climate.

Multidisciplinary research supported by the facility includes archaeological studies of the diet and mobility of animals and humans, cultural heritage research into the development of artistic methods and preservation strategies for artworks, and forensic applications in the identification of unknown human remains.

NIGeL was ranked first of seven projects that are being funded through the ‘NWO Large Investments’ programme, which is providing 19.5 million euros to support innovative scientific infrastructure in the Netherlands.

Prof Nigel Mason, Coordinator of Europlanet 2024 RI said: “The success of NIGeL is clearly very good news. Many congratulations to Gareth and the team behind this project. The Geology and Geochemistry Isotope Facility at VU Amsterdam is an important part of Europe’s planetary science infrastructure. This investment to upgrade the instrumentation to state-of-the-art and provide more capacity will secure its world-leading status for many years to come. We look forward to being able to offer access to NIGeL, once it is complete, through the Europlanet TA programme.”

Europlanet Launches Expert Exchange Programme

Europlanet Launches Expert Exchange Programme

A new Expert Exchange Programme, funded through Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), has been launched to support the mobilisation of the planetary community and transfer of knowledge. The scheme aims to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services for integration into the RI.

The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). Due to travel restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual visits are also supported through the Europlanet Expert Exchange programme.

Objectives for an Europlanet Expert Exchange might be:

  • To improve infrastructure facilities and services offered to the scientific community by Europlanet 2024 RI laboratories or institutes.
  • To provide training on theoretical or practical aspects of the laboratory/fieldwork required to plan a future TA application.
  • To foster cooperation between academia and industry (SMEs).
  • To support early career professionals to develop skills to use or manage RI facilities or services.
  • To widen participation from Under-Represented States in RI activities and services.
  • To support the inclusion of amateur communities in European planetary science campaigns.
  • To support engagement with wider society e.g. through the involvement of outreach providers, educators, journalists, artists etc.

For more details, see the Expert Exchange Call Page.

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!


Asteroid Photometry – Europlanet Virtual Summer School

Asteroid Photometry – Europlanet Virtual Summer School

16-27 August 2021

Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure is pleased to announce the virtual summer school Asteroid Photometry that will take place virtually hosted by Vilnius University (Lithuania) and A. Mickiewicz University, (Poland): 16-27 August 2021.

The aim of the course is to give participants a thorough, multidisciplinary introduction into the ground-based and space observations of asteroids. Participants will be given remote hands-on experience in CCD photometry of asteroids using the wide field Maksutov type telescope of the Molėtai Astronomical Observatory and in analysing the observational data. The hands-on sessions will be accompanied by lectures of leading astronomers. The participants will also be trained in writing and submitting observing proposals to different facilities of the Europlanet Telescope Network, mentorship possibilities between professional astronomers and amateurs will be introduced. 

The course is open to doctoral candidates, master’s students, early career scientists, and amateur astronomers. Activities of professional astronomers and amateur astronomers will be merged in order to achieve more understanding between groups. The level of the school is orientated to PhD students and early career scientists, however amateur astronomers will be provided with the additional scientific support during lectures and observations. 

Participants that show acceptable results on their assignments will get a diploma with 2.5 ECTS credits, which may be used as part of their degree studies at their home universities.

The school is financed by the European Commission HORIZON 2020 project Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure.

The deadline for application is 15 June 2021 23:59:00 UTC.

Notifications of acceptance by 30 June 2021 23:59:00 UTC.

For more information and registration on the website http://mao.tfai.vu.lt/europlanet2021/.

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 7. pH of Mars

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 7. pH of Mars

In this lesson, we will be looking at the pH of certain environments of Mars and how this can affect its potential habitability.

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

Overview

Activity Outline: Understand how the pH of the Mars may affect the habitability of the Red Planet. 

Age Range:

10-14

Equipment Needed:

  • Computer
  • Projector

Lesson Time:

45 Minutes (including 1 video)

Topics Covered:

  • Chemistry (pH)
  • Biology (life in extremes)
  • Astronomy (Mars surface conditions)

Learning Outcomes

After completing this activity, pupils will:

  • Understand pH scales
  • Describe how factors on Mars can affect pH
  • Discuss how pH affects habitability.

Download presentation

PowerPoint (4.5 MB)

PDF (2.1 MB)

Download teachers’ resource

Word (365 KB)

PDF (272 KB)

Video experiments

Italian versions of the resources with video lessons produced by EDU INAF are now available at: Terra chiama Marte.  

Join our SuperLuna! Observing Challenge

Join our SuperLuna! Observing Challenge

Share your pictures and you could win a prize

Spring 2021 is a season of ‘supermoons’, with the Full Moon in April and May coinciding within 10% of the closest lunar orbital distance to Earth. These luminous supermoons, which are about 7% bigger and about 15% brighter than a typical Full Moon, provide a remarkable opportunity for engaging the public.

We thought it would be fun to gather images, or artwork, of the Moon in its different phases between the April Supermoon and the May one.  Making these observations is a great way to see how the Moon changes during the month: look for how the Moon rises and sets later each night, and how the illumination and so shape we see changes too.

The supermoon on 26th May will be the closest Full Moon of the year. Facilities from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) are joining forces to carry out a live event on EduINAF’s social channels. 

During the Italian streaming, aired on the 26th on EduINAF’s main social channels from 9.30pm to 11pm (CET), there will be an opportunity to learn much more about the Moon.  INAF astronomers will guide the audience through the live observations of the moon seen by the various observatories involved with images and insights from guests.

You have the chance for your images to be shown during this broadcast too – as images from our SuperLuna! Observing Challenging will be included in the live broadcast.  We will also be putting a gallery on our website.  This is not a competition, we would just like as many people to participate as possible, so we will make a random selection from the entries to receive an ESA goody bag.  

Join the SuperLuna Campaign!

If you are up for the challenge, upload your pictures to this Flickr group and post them on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #SuperLuna    If you do not use Flickr, you may submit your pictures via the form below.

SuperLuna!

Resources for observing the Moon

We have put together some resources to help you observe, photograph and find out more about the Moon. Read more.


If you have an image or animation that is too big to upload, you can send it by WeTransfer to aheward@europlanet-society.org.

See all the images on the Flickr Group.

Banner image © Valeriano Antonini – EduINAF – Associazione AstronomiAmo

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 6. Evaporation and States of Matter

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 6. Evaporation and States of Matter

In this lesson, we will be looking at the development of salt beds and the potential for their habitability.

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

Overview

Activity Outline: Understand the formation of salt pans via the mechanism of evaporation. 

Age Range:

10-14

Equipment Needed:

  • Computer
  • Projector

Lesson Time:

45 Minutes (including 1 video)

Topics Covered:

  • Chemistry
  • Biology (life in extremes)
  • Astronomy (Mars surface conditions)

Learning Outcomes

After completing this activity, pupils will:

  • Critically examine evaporation
  • Understand states of matter
  • Describe how salinity and desiccation affect the habitability of an environment.

Download presentation

PowerPoint (3.5 MB)

PDF (3 MB)

Download teachers’ resource

Word (366 KB)

PDF (266 KB)

Video experiments

Italian versions of the resources with video lessons produced by EDU INAF are now available at: Terra chiama Marte.  

Results of Call 2 for Transnational Access

Results of Call 2 for Transnational Access to Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) facilities

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Transnational Access (TA) programme offers researchers the opportunity to apply to visit planetary analogue field sites, planetary simulators and sample analysis facilities. The successful projects that will be funded through the second TA Call for applications have now been announced.

Following an anonymous peer review process, 76 projects will be funded, of which 17 will be for visits to planetary field analogue sites and 57 to laboratory facilities. The successful projects include eight led by researchers from under represented states and eight led by international researchers from Asia and North America. 

The successful projects include the first visits to Europlanet 2024 RI’s new field sites at Kangerlussuaq on the west coast of Greenland. For the first time, two applicants will also be funded to travel to laboratory facilities offered by the Korea Basic Science Institute (KBSI) in South Korea. 

The number of Korean facilities available for visits in the next call will be significantly expanded (further details coming soon). The suite of field sites offered in TA Call 3 will also include two environments in the high Argentinian Andes: 

  1. Cold dry glacial and lacustrine environments 
  2. Wet cold environments of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego 

Full details can be found on the TA1 Facility 6 – Argentinian Andes page.

Plans are underway to include access to an additional Mars field analogue site in the Qaidam Basin in the Qinghai Province, China

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, implementation time for successful applicants to conduct a TA visit has been extended from 12 to 20 months.

The next call is scheduled to open at the end of this year, with results announced in April 2022.

Back to TA main page.

Back to Europlanet 2024 RI homepage.

Virtual Workshop on the use of the Europlanet Telescope Network for amateur astronomers

May 15 2021 @ 11:00 am – May 16 @ 1:00 am UTC+1

The Europlanet 2024 RI project funds access to and use of a network of telescopes (the Europlanet Telescope Network) for the astronomical observation of Solar System objects and exoplanets. One of the objectives of this network is to train and support amateur astronomers in the observations of Solar System objects (planets, asteroids, comets…), encouraging their participation in pro-am collaborations within the scientific fields of Solar System and exoplanets research.

On May 15, 2021 (Saturday) we will organise a virtual workshop dedicated to the amateur community which aims to demonstrate the use of the telescopes within the Europlanet Telescope Network to amateur astronomers. The workshop will be held in Spanish and will use the Calar Alto 1.23m telescope for practical demonstrations showing its remote use.

Further information can be found on the dedicated workshop website.

International Spring School: Hydrothermal Vents

EANA International Spring School: Hydrothermal Vents

17-21 May 2021

Application deadline: 14 May 2021 at 23:59 CEST. Registration form

Hydrothermal systems are crucial environments for astrobiology: they are thought to be the theatre of life’s origins, host unprecedented polyextremophilic biodiversity, and are key targets in the search for life throughout the Solar System, especially on Mars and icy moons.

Join the first EANA online school to learn about hydrothermal systems from interdisciplinary perspectives at the interfaces of geology, biology and chemistry. From May 17th–21st, 2021, there will be one or two talks each day on a particular aspect of hydrothermal systems.

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

The school is free of charge and is an ideal opportunity to discover or deepen your understanding of these unique environments. For more information about the lecturers and to register for the school, please visit http://www.eana-net.eu

The workshop is supported by Europlanet 2024 RI.

Organising Committee

Barbara Cavalazzi, EANA and EUROPLANET
Ruth-Sophie Taubner, EANA and AbGradE
Lena Noack, EANA
Anita Heward, EUROPLANET
Nina Kopacz, AbGradE
Keyron Hickman-Lewis, AbGradE
Frederic Foucher, EANA

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 5. Brines on Mars

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 5. Brines on Mars

In this lesson, we will be be delving into how saturated brine solutions affect the habitability of Mars.

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

Overview

Activity Outline: Understand super-saturated salt solutions and how they can affect the habitability of another planetary body.

Age Range:

10-14

Equipment Needed:

  • Computer
  • Projector

Lesson Time:

45 Minutes (including 1 video)

Topics Covered:

  • Geology
  • Chemistry
  • Biology (life in extremes)
  • Astronomy (Mars surface conditions)

Learning Outcomes

After completing this activity, pupils will:

  • Understand how crystallisation works.
  • Be able to explain how we get saturated and super-saturated solutions.
  • Be able to reason how saturated salt solutions affect habitability.

Download presentation

PowerPoint (3 MB)

PDF (2 MB)

Download teachers’ resource

Word (355 KB)

PDF (246 KB)

Video experiments

Italian versions of the resources with video lessons produced by EDU INAF are now available at: Terra chiama Marte.  

Supermoons rising

Supermoons rising

Spring 2021 is a season of ‘supermoons’, with the Full Moon in April and May coinciding within 10% of the closest lunar orbital distance to Earth. These luminous supermoons, which are about 7% bigger and about 15% brighter than a typical Full Moon, provide a remarkable opportunity for engaging the public.

The supermoon on 26th May will be the closest Full Moon of the year. Facilities from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) are joining forces to carry out a live event on EduINAF’s social channels. Amateur observers and observatories from the Europlanet Telescope Network are invited to join to make the event even more interesting and to be able to observe the moon from different European skies.

During the Italian streaming, aired on the 26th on EduINAF’s main social channels from 9.30pm to 11pm (CET), INAF astronomers will guide the audience through the live observations of the moon seen by the various observatories involved with images and insights from guests.

Join the SuperLuna Campaign!

If you want to collaborate with the Italian Hub before or during the event please click here and contact us.

Resources for observing the Moon

We have put together a list of resources to help you observe, photograph and find out more about the Moon. Read more.

Future plans

We hope to hold follow up events for the public during EPSC2021 in September and during International Observe the Moon Night 2021 on 16th October.

Virtual Fireballs Workshop #1 on Fireball Databases and Machine Learning

Virtual Fireballs Workshop #1 on Fireball Databases and Machine Learning

11 June 2021 @ 1:00 pm – 12 June 2021 @ 7:00 pm UTC+2

In cooperation with Europlanet, a series of four workshops that will bring together different networks of fireballs observers as well as machine learning experts is planned over the next two years. This series aims to culminate into i) the development of a common data format and/or common entry point to the observational data of the different fireballs networks, and ii) machine learning science cases for meteor observations.

The first of these workshops will take place virtually on 11-12 June 2021 and aims towards

  1. introducing and discussing the different fireballs networks, databases and data formats with a strong focus on its technical aspects;
  2. discussing and exploring the possibilities of a common data format and/or a common entry point to all data;
  3. discussing and identifying machine learning science cases for fireball observations.

The workshop will also introduce and discuss Europlanet, its Virtual Observatory for planetary sciences (VESPA; vespa.obspm.fr) and the support it can offer to the fireballs community. Through EPN-TAP services, VESPA currently provides access to more than 50 decentralised databases worldwide, and it might be one option for a common entry point to the different fireballs networks that will be explored over the course of the workshop. In addition, Europlanet also provides support for the development of machine learning science cases, and the fireballs community is invited to discuss potential use cases during the second half of the first meeting. As an outcome, this workshop intends to provide an outline for the next months and to define first tasks towards the overarching meeting goals. The second workshop of the series is intended to be organized in autumn 2021.

Workshop Details:

Date: 11-12 June 2021
Workshop Program: bit.ly/3w5kyvg
Registration: bit.ly/3szo1jp

The registration is open until 31 May 2021.

Organizing Committee:
Manuel Scherf (manuel.scherf@oeaw.ac.ateuroplanet-iwf@oeaw.ac.at)
Ute Amerstorfer (ute.amerstorfer@oeaw.ac.ateuroplanet-iwf@oeaw.ac.at)
Detlef Koschny (detlef.koschny@esa.int)
Günter Kargl (guenter.kargl@oeaw.ac.ateuroplanet-iwf@oeaw.ac.at)

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 4. Martian Chemistry

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 4. Martian Chemistry

In this lesson, we will be looking at the chemistry of Mars and how this can affect its potential habitability

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

Overview

Activity Outline: Understand how the chemistry of the Martian soil may affect the habitability of the Red Planet. This involves taking a closer look at how temperature and salinity can affect the chemistry of Mars.

Age Range:

10-14

Equipment Needed:

  • Computer
  • Projector

Lesson Time:

45 Minutes (including 2 videos)

Topics Covered:

  • Chemistry (Solubility, Saturation, Compound Structures)
  • Biology (Life in extremes)
  • Astronomy (Mars surface conditions)

Learning Outcomes

After completing this activity, pupils will:

  • Understand what effect temperature has on the chemistry of Mars.
  • Be able to explain how salinity affects freezing points.
  • Review how all of the above affects habitability.

Download presentation

PowerPoint (3.6 MB)

PDF (1.2 MB)

Download teachers’ resource

Word (214 KB)

PDF (254 KB)

Video experiments

Italian versions of the resources with video lessons produced by EDU INAF are now available at: Terra chiama Marte.  

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 3. Volcanoes Mars

Europlanet Mars Collection: 3. Volcanoes on Mars

In this lesson, we will be looking at the volcanoes of Mars and how they may have contributed to the habitability of the Red Planet over its history.

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

Overview

Activity Outline: Understand how volcanoes form, both on Earth and Mars, and how they may have affected Mars’s habitability in the past.

Age Range:

10-14

Equipment Needed:

  • Computer
  • Projector

Lesson Time:

45 Minutes (including 2 videos)

Topics Covered:

  • Geology
  • Biology (Life in extremes)
  • Astronomy (Mars surface conditions)

Learning Outcomes

After completing this activity, pupils will:

  • Understand how volcanoes form.
  • Be able to explain what convection is and why we would find it inside a volcano.
  • Determine, with reasoning, the likelihood of volcanic areas being habitable.

Download presentation

PowerPoint (7.4 MB)

PDF (1.9 MB)

Download teachers’ resource

Word (211 KB)

PDF (248 KB)

Video experiments

Italian versions of the resources with video lessons produced by EDU INAF are now available at: Terra chiama Marte.  

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 2. A Brief History of Mars

Europlanet Mars Collection: 2. A Brief History of Mars

2. A Brief History of Mars

For this lesson, we will be looking through the history of Mars to find out if it may have ever been a suitable home for life, as we know it here on Earth. 

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

Overview

Activity Outline: Investigate how Mars has changed over its history and how that might affect the habitability of the Red Planet.

Age Range:

10-14

Equipment Needed:

  • Computer
  • Projector

Lesson Time:

45 Minutes (including 1 videos)

Topics Covered:

  • Chemistry
  • Geological time
  • Biology (Life in extremes)
  • Astronomy (Mars surface conditions)

Learning Outcomes

After completing this activity, pupils will:

  • Understand how Mars has changed over time.
  • Hypothesise how this has affected its habitability.
  • Draw a conclusion as to which era of Mars’ history was most likely to be able to support life.

Download presentation

PowerPoint (8 MB)

PDF (1.1 MB)

Download teachers’ resource

Word (365 KB)

PDF (255 KB)

Video experiments

Italian versions of the resources with video lessons produced by EDU INAF are now available at: Terra chiama Marte.  

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: Support for Educators

Mars Collection of Educational Resources: Support for Educators

To support educators in using the new Europlanet Mars Collection of teaching resource packs, we are releasing a series of short videos that introduce the collection as a whole and the individual resources.

Introduction

The video provides support for educators using the Europlanet Mars Collection of Educational Resources. The first resource pack (1. Extremophiles) gives an introduction to life found in extreme environments, exploring the kind of stresses we may find on Mars and how life can adapt to survive these.

References: ‘The Gateway Science: a Review of Astronomy in the OECD School Curricula, Including China and South Africa.’ Saeed Salimpour et al, Research in Science Education, 2020. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11165-020-09922-0

1. Extremophiles

Go to the teaching resource pack on Extremophiles.

2. A Brief History of Mars

Go to the teaching resource pack on A Brief History of Mars.

3. Volcanoes on Mars

Go to the teaching resource pack on Volcanoes on Mars.

4. Martian Chemistry

Go to the teaching resource pack on Martian Chemistry.

Videos to support the other teaching resource packs in the series will be published here weekly.

Back to the Mars Collection main page.

Introducing the Mars Collection of Educational Resources: 1. Extremophiles

Europlanet Educational Resources – The Mars Collection

Europlanet 2024 RI has produced a set of school resources exploring the possibilities of life on the Red Planet. The resources have been produced to be easily translatable in order to facilitate ease of dissemination across Europe and beyond.  The resources link areas of the curriculum with research into past and present conditions on Mars and how we can study these conditions via analogue sites here on Earth.  The project covers a range of topics, from geoscience and volcanoes, to pH and even mineral deposition viewed through an astrobiological lens.

Italian versions of the resources with video lessons produced by EDU INAF are now available at: Terra chiama Marte.  

1. Extremophiles

The first set of resources in the Mars Collection gives an introduction to life found in extreme environments, exploring the kind of stresses we may find on Mars and how life can adapt to survive these. 

Please wait while flipbook is loading. For more related info, FAQs and issues please refer to DearFlip WordPress Flipbook Plugin Help documentation.

Overview

Age Range:

10-14

Equipment Needed:

  • Computer
  • Projector

Lesson Time:

45 Minutes (including 2 videos)

Topics Covered:

  • Biology (Life in extremes)
  • Astronomy (Mars surface conditions)

Learning Outcomes

After completing this activity, pupils will:

  • Understand that cells can change to adapt to extreme environments.
  • Be able to explain the function of a cell membrane.
  • Assess how stresses on Mars might affect its habitability.

Download presentation

PowerPoint (4.8 MB)

PDF (1.3 MB)

Download teachers’ resource

Word (201 MB)

PDF (246 KB)

Video experiments

Find out more about the other resources. Italian versions of the resources with video lessons produced by EDU INAF are now available at: Terra chiama Marte.  

Europlanet Partners Present… The Open University

Europlanet Partners Present… The Open University

Beneficiaries of the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project used the forum of the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020 to present their activities and research on planetary topics. In this series, we have compiled playlists of EPSC2020 video presentations to showcase the contributions to Europlanet 2024 RI and wider research by our project partners.

This month, we feature presentations involving researchers from The Open University, UK.

Grace Richards won the EPEC-EPSC #PlanetaryScience4All Video Contest 2020 with her video VOC analysis unlocking the secrets of Enceladus’ surface. Grace is a PhD student at The Open University. The title of her PhD is ‘The feasibility of in situ VOC analysis on icy moons’.

The following playlist features EPSC2020 scientific oral video presentations involving researchers from The Open University:

Details of the presentations:

Poster presentations

See video presentations from other institutions in the Europlanet Partners Present… series.

Find out more about Europlanet 2024 RI and the project participants.

All Eyes on Mars

All Eyes on Mars

Three missions are converging on Mars this week to study the Red Planet from orbit and explore its surface. With the United States, United Arab Emirates and China all sending missions to Mars, we look at how Europe’s planetary research community is contributing to Mars exploration in 2021 and at its plans for the next few years.

 First image of Mars from Hope. Credit: MBRSC / UAE Space Agency / CU-LASP/EMM-EXI 

It’s a busy time at Mars. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Agency’s first mission to Mars, Hope, performed a successful manoeuvre to enter a capture orbit on 9 February 2021. Once in its final science orbit, Hope will study dynamics in ​the martian atmosphere on a global scale, giving a more complete understanding of interactions between the atmospheric layers, and answering questions about how oxygen and hydrogen escape into space.

On 10 February, the Chinese Tianwen-1 (‘questioning the heavens’) mission, joined Hope in orbit around Mars.  Tianwen-1 will analyse the chemical composition of rock and dust and search for pockets of ice and liquid water and organics. Following three or four months of study of the surface, and a detailed survey of the proposed landing site, Tianwen-1 will release a lander and rover. If all goes to plan, the rover will explore Utopia Planitia, a flat plain within a large impact basin in the northern hemisphere of Mars. The region is covered by extensive sedimentary materials, with features that indicate that ice or water are present. 

Tianwen-1 carries 13 instruments, two of which have a small European involvement: The Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), France, has contributed to the calibration of the LIBS spectrometer on the Tianwen-1 rover’s Mars Surface Composition Detector. The Space Research Institute (IWF-Graz) has contributed to the calibration of the magnetometer on the main satellite.

Completing the trio, NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will arrive at Mars on 18 February. Mars 2020 mission will look for signs that there were habitable conditions on Mars in its early geological history, and seek evidence of past microbial life. The Perseverance rover and its helicopter partner, Ingenuity, will explore the terrain of Jezero Crater on Mars, which contains the remains of an ancient, partially-eroded river-delta. Jezero’s rocks date back to around the time that we think that life first arose on Earth. Perseverance will characterise its geological setting and collect a few core samples of the most promising rocks and soils. These will be set aside in a cache for collection and return to Earth by missions later this decade.

Annotated image of NASA Perseverance Rover
The instruments carried by NASA’s Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA

Of the seven primary scientific instruments carried by the Perseverance rover, three include significant European contributions: the weather station MEDA (provided by Spain with contributions from Finland), the remote-sensing laser micro-imaging SuperCam (provided by France/Spain) and the ground-penetrating radar RIMFAX (provided by Norway).

Although not part of the flotilla arriving at Mars this year, the ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars mission will set off in the late summer or autumn of 2022 and land in the spring of 2023. The ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Rover is equipped with a drill that will sample the subsurface in places that are most likely to have habitable conditions preserved in ancient rocks.

The first ExoMars mission, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which arrived at Mars in 2016, carries a suite of instruments to study traces of methane and other atmospheric gases. TGO will also act as a data relay for Perseverance (a service it already provides for the Curiosity and Insight missions) and, later, for the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover. ESA’s highly successful first mission to the Red Planet, Mars Express, which has been in orbit since 2003 and is still making important contributions to studies of the martian surface, atmosphere and ionosphere, is also playing a part in monitoring local conditions at Jezero Crater.

To find out more about Europe’s contribution to Mars missions, watch this EPSC2020 Session Showcase TP16 – European Exploration of Mars: From Mars Express to ExoMars and Beyond:

Europlanet 2024 RI and Mars Exploration

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) Transnational Access field sites (TA1) include terrestrial analogues that are relevant to both the areas of Mars that will be explored by Tianwen-1 and Perseverance. Terrestrial analogues play a vital role in understanding where and how life exists under extreme conditions on Earth, such as in hydrothermal systems in Iceland and Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, extreme acidic conditions at Rio Tinto in Spain and extreme salty conditions at Danakil’s Dallol volcano and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana.  In turn, this informs the mission teams searching to identify where life might have arisen on Mars.

Europlanet 2024 RI’s TA2 laboratory facilities also support the exploration and the search for biomarkers on Mars. The Centre for Microbial Life Detection in Graz provides expertise in extracting and sequencing DNA from microbial samples collected in extreme environments on Earth, as well as quantifying bacteria, archaea and fungi, and cultivating specialist microbes (e.g. anaerobes) that survive under these conditions.

Simulations and calibration measurements carried out at the spectroscopy laboratories at DLR and Grenoble will be used to interpret the spectroscopic data obtained by the Tianwen-1 orbiter. The Aarhus Mars Wind Tunnel and Open University’s Mars Chamber also include facilities capable of simulating Martian atmospheric conditions.

Early life on Mars may have been destroyed after the loss of its atmosphere, which provided a shield against harmful ultraviolet radiation. This means that finding evidence for past life may be through indirect means, for example by identifying chemical changes to minerals or specific reactions that are only induced by life. Samples taken from terrestrial analogues and analysed in laboratories can help interpret data from in-situ missions and refine techniques. However, within the limitations of what it is possible to launch into space, it is likely to be difficult for robotic missions operating on the surface of Mars to provide conclusive evidence of whether life has ever existed there. 

TA1.2: Iron precipitates in acidic conditions in Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto in Spain is a terrestrial analogues of Mars. Image credit: F Gomez.

NASA and ESA are collaborating on a Mars Sample Return campaign involving three missions stages: a sample collection rover (Perseverance); a Mars lander carrying a small ESA-led rover to ‘fetch’ and load the samples into NASA’s ‘Mars Ascent Vehicle’ that will launch them into Mars orbit; and a Mars orbiter to capture the sample container (led by NASA) and fly it the rest of the way to Earth (led by ESA).

The samples collected by Perseverance will contain martian rocks, soil, dust and atmosphere and are expected to be about 15 g of material each and be roughly the size of a stick of chalk. Bringing carefully selected rocks from Mars back to Earth for detailed study will enable much more complex and complete studies using state-of-the-art lab equipment. This will give a better quantitative understanding of whether the returned samples formed in environments where life could have existed and whether they may contain biosignatures

Europlanet 2024 RI Joint Research Activities (JRAs) involving the Natural History Museum, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, ETH Zurich and the Open University are supporting the development of techniques for non-destructive or minimally invasive characterisation and analysis of precious returned samples.

Europlanet 2024 RI is also offering virtual services to support observations and analysis.

A successful landing depends heavily on site selection and characterisation, tasks that are strongly tied to geologic mapping. Europlanet 2024 RI’s new geological mapping service, GMAP, fosters and supports mapping of the geology of all suitable Solar System bodies. In the case of the Moon and Mars this will include specific geologic and geomorphic mapping of past, proposed and future landing sites.

The virtual observatory for Solar System data, VESPA, hosts several data services from past Mars missions, including Mars-Express (OMEGA, HRSC, SPICAM), CRISM data from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a Martian craters database, simulated atmospheric profiles (derived from the Mars Climate Database), Hubble Space Telescope observations, significant data about the magnetosphere, as well as access to the Planetary Science Archive (PSA). 

Mars image from PVOL database. Image taken on 8 February 2021 by Mike Hood in Kathleen, Georgia, USA.
Mars image from PVOL database. Image taken on 8 February 2021 by Mike Hood in Kathleen, Georgia, USA. Credit: M Hood.

VESPA tutorials support researchers in working with the data, for example to compare measured and simulated profiles in the martian atmosphere or in plasma data, to analyse spectral cubes or to identify overlapping datasets in surface maps and images. 

The Planetary Virtual Observatory and Laboratory (PVOL) data service includes nearly 4000 observations of Mars contributed by amateur astronomers, which are used for research purposes by several professional and amateur teams.

Finally, Europlanet is developing educational resources that draw on missions and the latest research in laboratories and field sites to bring Mars into classrooms across Europe. Those students inspired by the missions in 2021 may one day have the opportunity to handle and analyse the samples collected and brought back from Mars by future missions.