EPSC2022 Social Media and Media Internships – Call for Applications

EPSC2022 Social Media and Media Internships – Call for Applications

We’re offering paid in-person internships to support applicants in developing social media and science communication skills. Interns will join the communications team for the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC), the largest annual planetary science meeting in Europe. EPSC2022 will take place in Granada, Spain, from 18-23 September.

Social Media Internships

Successful applicants for the social media internship will support the social media team in covering live sessions during the EPSC2022.

Media Internships

Successful applicants for the media internship will support the press office team in preparing materials for the media.

About EPSC2022

EPSC2022 covers a broad area of science topics related to planetary science and planetary missions. EPSC will this year be jointly organized with the annual EANA (European Astrobiology Network Association) Conference 2022, and will therefore include a large number of sessions with an astrobiology focus. The programme of the congress will contain oral and poster sessions, as well as workshops and panel discussions and provide opportunities for interaction between the participants. EPSC2022 will take place as an in-person meeting.

Apply

If you are interested in taking part in the social media or media internship programme, please complete the application form below.

The deadline for applications is Monday 18 July 2022.

Shortlisted applicants may be contacted for a short interview with the EPSC Communications team via Zoom. Successful applicants will be notified by the end of July. Successful applicants will be paid €750 (as well as travel, accommodation and sustenance costs) and will be required to attend the meeting from Monday 18 – Friday 23 September.

If you have any questions, please contact the Europlanet 2024 RI Communications Manager, Anita Heward.

Download the flyer.

Issue 3 of the Europlanet Magazine is out!

Issue 3 of the Europlanet Magazine is out!


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

We are delighted to share with you the third issue of the Europlanet Magazine. The e-magazine is published twice a year and aims to highlight the range of activities by Europlanet, our partners, and the wider planetary community. If you would like a printed copy of this issue, or the two previous editions, you will be able to pick one up at the Europlanet Society stand at EPSC2022 in Granada.

The third issue highlights the exciting upcoming opportunities for Solar System and exoplanet science with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Our ‘In Focus’ news section reports on recent workshops held through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), a monthly webinar series for members, a new podcast from the Europlanet Early Careers (EPEC) network and resources to support the LGBTQIA+ members of our community. We look at the experiences of participants in the Europlanet Expert Exchange and Mentorship programmes. We also have features on running data challenges, using AI to improve predictions of the impact of solar storms, and a schools outreach programme for meteor detection.

Please check out Issue 3 and share with your networks to help us spread the word.


In this issue:

round up of news from Europlanet 2024 RI, the Europlanet Society, the Europlanet Early Careers (EPEC) network and the planetary community.

MOMSTER, a Mobile Meteor Detection Station for Education and Outreach  

 Karolien Lefever, Stijn Calders and Hervé Lamy (BIRA-IASB) describe how schools are becoming involved in meteor research through the MOMSTER project.

Planetary Perspectives

Gražina Tautvaišienė, Director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy at Vilnius University (Lithuania), talks about her inspirations, the development of astronomy in Lithuania and sharing her passion for science with the next generation in this month’s Planetary Perspectives Q&A.

Support for Ukraine 

We ask for the planetary community’s help to share information and identify support schemes for colleagues in Ukraine and displaced researchers

 JWST: A New Infrared Eye on the Solar System 

Leigh Fletcher, Professor of Planetary Science at the University of Leicester (UK), reveals how the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will provide exciting new opportunities for the exploration of our Solar System

JWST: An Eye on Exoplanets 

Brett Morris and Clémence Fontanive of the Universität Bern/National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS (Switzerland) look at how the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is set to revolutionise exoplanet research

Europlanet Mentorship Programme: Two Years After Launch  

Edita Stonkutė of Vilnius University (Lithuania) and Jen DeWitt, Evaluation Officer for Europlanet 2024 RI (UK), examine how mentoring can support the planetary community.

Taking on the Data Challenge 

Ingo Waldmann of UCL (UK) explains how launching a data challenge linked to the Ariel mission has led to new approaches and collaborations. 

Exchanging Expertise  

 Maria Genzer of the Finnish Meteorological Institute (Finland) reports on how Europlanet’s Expert Exchange Programme is supporting skill-sharing within the planetary community.

Using AI to Predict the Danger of Solar Storms for Earth 

Hannah Rüdisser of the Know-Center (Austria) and Ute Amerstorfer of the Space Research Institute (Austria) show how machine learning and artificial intelligence can help protect us from damage caused by solar storms. 

Inspired by a Contest 

Helen Usher of the Faulkes Telescope Project (UK) describes how a Europlanet arts contest has led to collaborations with a young Lithuanian astronomer, Rytis Babianskas. 

An Interplanetary Journey in Design – Building the Europlanet Brand  

Vix Southgate (Europlanet 2024 RI Communications Team) describes some of the creative steps (and missteps) in nearly two decades of the Europlanet brand

Industry Insights  

Marcell Tessenyi (BSSL Ltd) and Jeronimo Bernard-Salas (ACRI-ST) present results from a community survey on academic-industry collaboration.  

In Memorium – Maria Teresa Capria and Károly Szegő 

The first few months of 2022 has seen the passing of two of the key founder members of the Europlanet programme. Michel Blanc, Coordinator of Europlanet from 2005-2012, reflects on their contribution and legacy

CommKit

The Europlanet Magazine’s column on science communication by Shorouk Elkobros (Europlanet Society/ESF) looks this month at videos for science communication.

The Last Word

Nigel Mason highlights a strategic opportunity for the planetary community.

Pro-Am Comet Community (Hybrid) Workshop – Announcement of Draft Programme

Europlanet 2024 RI logo

Pro-Am Comet Community (Hybrid) Workshop

Draft Programme and Practical Arrangements

10 – 12 June 2022, Prague

In cooperation with Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), the British Astronomical Association, Planetum Prague, and the Czech cometary community SMPH, a Pro-Am Workshop is being organised to bring together professional and amateur members of the cometary science and observational community. The workshop will be held in hybrid format from 10-12 June 2022 at the Stefanik Observatory, Prague, and online.  The workshop will last for two and a half days, starting Friday morning, and will be in English.

We are pleased to announce a draft Programme for the workshop, along with associated Abstract details.  

The programme allows time for detailed discussions on areas important to the comet community, as well presentations.  We will be using Zoom for presentations and real time comment/questions.  We have also set up a Discord server which will host copies of the presentations, and allow discussions both during the workshop and later.  We will (after editing) also upload recordings of the sessions to Youtube.

The workshop has attracted professional and amateur participants from across the world.  A list of attendees is available here.

For those attending in person, our local colleagues have put together some very useful local information.

Our local colleagues are also working on some optional social activities.  

For those who are being funded by Europlanet, you need to ensure you comply with these reimbursement requirements.  (If accommodation costs more than the allowed maximum nightly rate your reimbursement will be capped at that maximum rate.)

We are looking forward to a fruitful and enjoyable time together during (and after) the workshop.


More about the Europlanet Telescope Network.

Registration Open for Workshop #3 on Fireballs and their Detection

Registration Open for Workshop #3 on Fireballs and their Detection

Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 August, University of Glasgow

Convened by: Günter Kargl (Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences; ), Ute Amerstorfer (Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Detlef Koschny (European Space Agency).

In cooperation with Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), a series of four workshops bringing together different networks of fireball observers and machine-learning experts are being arranged over two years. This series is aimed at: 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 next workshop will be held in conjunction with the 85th Annual Meeting of The Meteoritical Society in Glasgow (14–19 August 2022, https://www.metsoc2022.com/).

This is the third workshop of the series, and its main topics are: 

  • continue discussing and exploring the possibilities of a common entry point to all data, reports on recent activities;
  • continue discussing Lunar impact flashes, observation networks and software;
  • Introduce topics of meteorite recovery, strewn field estimation and dark flight calculation;
  • continue discussing and identifying machine learning science cases for fireball observations.

The workshop venue is five minutes´ walk from the welcome reception of the Meteoritical Society conference, which will be held in the Hunterian Museum of the University of Glasgow, starting at 5 pm.

See details of the first and second workshops.

COPCA 2022 Conference

About COPCA 2022

The Collision Physics and Chemistry and their Applications (COPCA) conference will bring together scientific researchers from several interdisciplinary fields to share their research and results. Discussions and lectures will be held on various topics which broadly fall under the theme of ‘collision physics and chemistry’, including: nanotechnology, radiation biology and its application to medicine, plasma and fusion science, battery technology, electron and positron physics, as well as planetary and space science.

This year, the conference will be held at the Grand Hotel Excelsior in Valletta (Malta) and will celebrate the centenary year of the famous Ramsauer-Townsend Experiment, in which physicists Carl Ramsauer and John Sealy Townsend demonstrated the scattering of low-energy electrons by noble gas atoms. A historical plenary on the experiment and its scientific ramifications will be given by Prof. Nigel J. Mason during the conference.

Early career researchers (ECRs), including undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as post-doctoral researchers, are particularly encouraged to attend and to contribute to the success of COPCA 2022. In order to encourage ECRs to showcase their research work, a One-Minute Poster Challenge will be held on the first day of the conference, for which prizes will be awarded to the top posters by judges from industry and academia!

https://copcaconference.wixsite.com/copca2022

The meeting is supported by Europlanet 2024 RI.

Europlanet 2024 RI logo

Looking for clues about water circulation on Mars in the remote Makgadikgadi salt pans of Botswana

Looking for clues about water circulation on Mars in the remote Makgadikgadi salt pans of Botswana

From 18 – 28 October 2021, researchers Erica Luzzi, Jacobs University (Germany) and Gene Schmidt, Università degli Studi Roma Tre (Italy) were funded by the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) Transnational Access (TA) programme to visit the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botsawana. The trip was led by Fulvio Franchi (Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST)) who is responsible for the Botswana Planetary Field Analogue for Europlanet 2024 RI.  In this guest post, Erica Luzzi reports on the field trip.

Our trip to Botswana through the Transnational Access offered by Europlanet has given us an incredible amount of surprises. 

View of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Credit: E Luzzi
Figure 1: View of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Credit: E Luzzi

In addition to the precious data that we collected, we indeed had a life-changing experience visiting one of the most remote places on Earth. From the absolute silence in the desert, to the calm and breath-taking landscapes in the savanna, for some moments we really felt like being on another planet. Among many adventures (and misadventures), we accessed this extraordinary place on Earth, where a lot has been studied but still leaving space for many mysteries: the Makgadikgadi salt pans (Fig. 1). These dry lands  occupy a broad area in the savanna of Botswana, and are characterized by a mixture of clays and sulfates with recurrent morphologies related to desiccation processes, such as mud cracks (Fig. 2). 

Mud cracks in the pan, formed by dessication processes typical of playa environments. Credit: E Luzzi
Mud cracks in the pan, formed by dessication processes typical of playa environments. Credit: E Luzzi

This area once hosted an ancient lake which, due to paucity of water, turned into a playa, namely a dry lake bed. Such dry environments are hypothesized to have occurred also on Mars, where also the same types of minerals have been detected. 

Part of a line in the pan. The deployed cable followed the truck's footprints that were guided by GPS. Credit: E Luzzi.
Part of a line in the pan. The deployed cable followed the truck’s footprints that were guided by the GPS. Credit: E Luzzi.

By studying an analog field site that we can touch with our hands as it is located on Earth, we can get a variety of insights that may help us to better investigate the processes that shaped Mars into the planet we observe today. 

In the region of Arabia Terra, on Mars, light-toned layered deposits often associated with mounds have been widely described in literature, and among other interpretations they were also attributed to playa-like environments. The aim of our work was to analyse the subsurface of the Makgadikgadi salt pans, looking for faults where water could have circulated and then contributed to the hydro-geological cycle that led to the deposition of such deposits.

We performed an Electrical Resistivity Tomography survey in different areas of the pans (Fig. 3).

This particular type of geophysical technique consists of placing a number of electrodes in the ground, carefully spacing them at an equal distance, and then applying a known current. Each material responds to the current in a different way, and many variables can influence the resistivity (e.g. porosity, water content, mineralogy, etc.).
A preliminary version of the resulting images confirmed the occurrence of faults that will be better investigated after a robust post-processing of the data. 

While we are still working on it, for now we can conclude that the survey has been successful and we look forward to linking our observations with the enigmatic deposits occurring in Arabia Terra, Mars.



Read more about Erica’s experiences on this thread on Twitter:

Watch an interview with Erica (in Italian):

20-EPN2-121: Constraining the movement of groundwater and fluid expulsion within playa environments on Mars. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

Find out more about the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access (TA) programme.

Using AI to Predict the Danger of Solar Storms for Earth

Using AI to Predict the Danger of Solar Storms for Earth

This press release has been translated from the original German version by the Know-Center.

Researchers from the Know-Center and the Space Research Institute are developing a prediction tool, funded through Europlanet 2024 RI, that determines the strength of solar storms. Better forecasts could prevent a blackout from a massive solar storm.

While there is a current focus on the energy crisis in Europe, less attention is paid to the danger threatening from space. Solar storms are usually so weak that the atmosphere and the earth’s magnetic field protect the planet sufficiently from them. However, according to experts, a solar storm could hit us at any time and have serious effects on power grids, radio networks and satellites.

Around ten percent of all satellites could fail during such an event, and this would cause problems in areas where precise positioning is required, such as shipping and air traffic. Widespread power outages due to increased transformer voltages and damage to undersea cables, leading to nationwide internet outages, are also conceivable.

Space weather researchers can observe whether a solar storm is heading towards Earth, but it is difficult to estimate how massive the storm will be once it hits Earth. Now, data experts from the Know-Center and the Institute for Space Research, funded by the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), have developed a prediction tool, based on Artificial Intelligence (AI), to better-estimate the strength of solar storms. The results were recently published as part of a study in the peer-reviewed journal, Space Weather.

Magnetic field determines the strength of solar storms

Solar activity fluctuates every eleven years between quiet and active phases. We are currently in an active phase, the maximum of which is expected in 2025. A geomagnetic storm occurs when solar storms interact with Earth’s magnetic field. In extreme cases, solar storms can reach Earth in less than a day. The ability of solar storms to cause extreme geomagnetic storms depends largely on the orientation of their magnetic field, known in technical jargon as the Bz magnetic field component. The relative orientation of this magnetic field component to the Earth’s magnetic field determines how much energy is transferred to Earth’s magnetic field. The larger a southward Bz component  is, the greater the risk of a massive geomagnetic storm. To date, however, the Bz magnetic field component cannot be predicted with sufficient advance warning before the solar storm hits Earth.

Machine learning provides better forecasting

‘It only takes a few minutes for data measured by spacecraft directly in the solar wind to be transmitted to Earth. We first looked at whether information about the first few hours of a solar storm is sufficient to be able to predict its strength,’ explains Hannah Rüdisser from Know-Center.

Using Machine Learning (ML), the researchers developed a program to predict the Bz magnetic field component. The program was trained and tested with data from 348 different solar storms collected by the Wind, STEREO-A and STEREO-B spacecraft since 2007. To test the prediction tool in a real-time experimental mode, the team simulates how solar storms are measured by spacecraft and evaluates how the continuous feeding of new information improves the predictions.

‘Our forecasting tool can predict the Bz component quite well. It works particularly well when we use data from the first four hours of the solar storm’s magnetic  flux rope. New space missions will provide us with even more data in the coming years, further increasing the accuracy of the predictions. Our approach could thus lead to an improved space weather forecast and in the event of a massive solar storm, affected areas could be warned at an early stage and major damage prevented,’ says Rüdisser.

In the next step, the researchers want to use AI methods to automatically detect solar storms in the solar wind. This automation is necessary to be able to use the Bz prediction method in real-time without a human expert having to continuously identify the solar storms.

Innovation for space exploration

The use of AI to analyze and classify planetary data sets is still relatively new, but is becoming increasingly important. ML enables algorithms to be trained to analyze huge amounts of data and derive predictions and new solutions from them. Potential applications of ML in planetary science have exploded over the past decade, but tools tailored to this area of research are still rare.

‘The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure houses a large treasure trove of data that comes from space missions, simulations and laboratory experiments. Our goal is to extract the knowledge contained in this data and make it usable. For this we want to develop a series of ML tools that support researchers in planetary sciences in their work. This allows us to promote a broader use of ML technologies in data-driven space research,’ says Rüdisser.

More information

Machine Learning for Predicting the Bz Magnetic Field Component From Upstream in Situ Observations of Solar Coronal Mass Ejections‘, M. A. Reiss, C. Möstl, R. L. Bailey, H. T. Rüdisser, U. V. Amerstorfer, T. Amerstorfer, A. J. Weiss, J. Hinterreiter, A. Windisch. Space Weather, Volume 19, Issue 12. https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2021SW002859

About the Know Center

Know-Center is one of the leading European research centers for data-driven business and AI. Since 2001, well-known companies have been supported in using data as a success factor for their company. As an integral part of the European research landscape, the center successfully handles numerous projects and contract research at EU and national level. The K1 Competence Center, which is funded as part of COMET, is the leading training center for data scientists in Austria and also offers a range of Al training courses and advice for companies. The majority shareholder of the Know-Center is the Graz University of Technology, a major sponsor of local AI research, whose institutes carry out numerous projects together with the Know-Center. In 2020, Know-Center was the only Austrian center to receive the iSpace Gold Award from the Big Data Value Association, which was only given nine times in the entire EU. https://www.know-center.at

Pro-Am Comet Community (Hybrid) Workshop

Pro-Am Comet Community (Hybrid) Workshop

First Announcement and Call for Applications and Abstracts

10 – 12 June 2022, Prague

In cooperation with Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), the British Astronomical Association, Planetum Prague, and the Czech cometary community SMPH, we are pleased to announce that a Pro-Am Workshop, bringing together professional and amateur members of the Cometary Science and Observational Community, will be held in hybrid format from 10-12 June 2022 at the Stefanik Observatory in Prague (and online).  The Workshop will last for two and a half days, starting Friday morning, and will be in English.

The main aims and objectives of the workshop are:

  • To foster stronger working relationships and cooperation within the professional and amateur comet community, based on a shared understanding of the challenges and opportunities.
  • To take stock of where cometary science stands post-Rosetta and how Pro-Am observations fit into potential future research. 
  • To draw together the various strands of work currently going on within the community, particularly on coordination, techniques, standards and archiving and agree the way forward.
  • To consider how best to encourage, and equip, more people to become involved in the study of comets, whether directly through observation (including access to the Europlanet Telescope Network), or through analysis of online data sources.  
  • To explore how cometary science can be used in outreach and education.

Workshop Details:

We are delighted that the face-to-face meeting will be hosted by colleagues from Czechia in the Stefanik Observatory in Prague.  Given some covid restrictions, the venue capacity will be around 40 people.  We will also make all the sessions available online, and ensure that virtual attendees can also take a full part in formal and informal discussions. Sponsorship by Europlanet and BAA means that there will be no registration fee, and in person participants may apply for assistance with travel costs. 

Europlanet workshop for amateur and professional astronomers.
A happy memory of professional and amateur astronomers, including the much-missed Mike A’Hearn, talking all things comets at a previous Europlanet comet workshop. Credit: H Usher.
Europlanet workshop for amateur and professional astronomers.
Europlanet workshop for amateur and professional astronomers. Credit: H Usher.

The workshop will be a mix of invited and contributed talks and round-table discussions, addressing the following broad topics:  

  • Cometary Science Overview
  • Pro-Am campaigns
  • Imagining equipment, techniques and standards
  • Processing methodologies
  • Standardisation of methodologies and parameters
  • Archiving of data and simplifying access to datasets
  • Broadening participation/outreach/education

This list has been compiled based on the very helpful responses from the community to our questionnaire – thank you to everyone who took the time to submit their views.

Application Process:

We hope to be able to accommodate all those who wish to attend in person, but given the uncertainty about the number of people who may wish to do so and COVID constraints we have decided on an application process to allow us to effectively manage numbers.  

If you would like to attend in person please can you complete the application form by 19 March 2022.  We will notify you if your application has been successful by end March.

If you wish to attend online only, then the deadline is 13 May 2022

The deadline for submission of an abstract for a talk is also 19 March 2022 – please complete the relevant section on the form .

Organizing Committee:

Helen Usher (helen.usher@open.ac.uk)
Colin Snodgrass (csn@roe.ac.uk)
Nicolas Biver (nicolas.biver@obspm.fr)
Nick James (ndj@nickdjames.com)
Jakub Černý (kaos@kommet.cz)
Filip Walter (walter@planetum.cz)
Gražina Tautvaišienė (grazina.tautvaisiene@tfai.vu.lt)
Günter Kargl (guenter.kargl@oeaw.ac.ateuroplanet-iwf@oeaw.ac.at)

Expert Exchange: Raman spectroscopy training

Expert Exchange: Raman spectroscopy training

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Frédéric Foucher of CBM, CNRS, Orléans (France), visited the team of Barbara Cavalazzi at the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Università di Bologna (Italy), from 8-12 November 2021.

Frédéric Foucher delivering training to the team at the University of Bologna. Credit: B Cavalazzi.

The main objective of this Expert Exchange visit was to provide training on theoretical and practical aspects of Raman micro-spectroscopy and imaging, in order to support development of the Bologna lab facility and to reinforce collaboration between the groups.

Raman spectroscopy is a versatile technique used to detect and identify organic molecules and minerals in many fields of research, from biology to Earth sciences. Advances in miniaturisation of components and the development of Raman microscopy imaging has led to its use in multiple space exploration missions. NASA’s Perseverance rover, which has been exploring the surface of Mars since February 2021, is equipped with two Raman spectrometers (SuperCam and SHERLOC) and the future ESA-ROSCOSMOS ExoMars 2022 mission will carry the Raman Laser Spectrometer instrument. Raman spectroscopy is a key instrument for astrobiology to study ancient and active traces of life on Earth, and to detect possible traces of life on Mars.

Recently, a team led by Barbara Cavalazzi at the University of Bologna acquired a WITec Alpha 300 Raman microscope, which will be used to study materials of astrobiological interest as well as for more general geological and biological applications. Frédéric Foucher has been in charge of a WITec Alpha 500RA since January 2009, and was one of the first researchers to use a WITec system in Europe. Now recognized as a specialist, he published several articles and book chapters on this technique during the last decade. 

Frédéric Foucher delivering training to the team at the University of Bologna. Credit: B Cavalazzi.

During the expert exchange, Frédéric gave theoretical and hands on training for 20 researchers, students and technicians.

Read the full report

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

20-EPN2-073: Assessment of the Aeolian Dispersion and Wind Effects on Cryptoendolithic Microorganisms in the Martian Environment

20-EPN2-073: Assessment of the Aeolian Dispersion and Wind Effects on Cryptoendolithic Microorganisms in the Martian Environment

Virtual visit by Lorenzo Aureli, University of Tuscia (Italy) to TA2.4 Planetary Environment Facilities (PEF), AU (Denmark).
Dates of visit: 15-19 November 2021

Report Summary: The hostile current conditions on the surface of Mars entail that, if any form of life exists or ever existed on the planet, it may have adopted survival strategies like those evolved by terrestrial microorganisms inhabiting extremely harsh regions, such as Antarctic deserts. Here, one of the most common strategies observed is the cryptoendolithic growth, defined as the colonisation of the small interstices inside rocks, where microorganisms are protected from external hostile conditions. However, endolithic microorganisms can break down the surrounding rock substratum, thus causing the exfoliation of the external layers of the colonised rocks. Consequently, exposure to wind and saltating sand can cause the dispersal of the shallow rock fragments and endolithic colonies to the environment.

This study aimed to examine the possibility of dispersal of hypothetical rock-dwelling microorganisms on the surface of Mars. To achieve this goal, colonised Antarctic sandstone rocks were exposed to simulated martian and terrestrial windy environments at the Planetary Environment Facility in Aarhus University in four different simulations. Rock, sand and dust samples were collected after each simulation to assess the survival and the variety of dispersed microorganisms in the two scenarios. Although biological data are not available at the moment of the draft of the report, remarkable differences were observed in the dispersal of dust and sand between the different conditions.

Read full report.


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20-EPN-084: Converting one amino acid to the other containing sulfur via ion irradiation: Implication to chemical evolution on Europa surface ices

20-EPN-084: Converting one amino acid to the other containing sulfur via ion irradiation : Implication to chemical evolution on Europa surface ices

Visit by Rahul Kumar Kushwaha, Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad (India) to TA2.11 Atomki Ice Chamber for Astrophysics / Astrochemistry (ICA) (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 8-19 December 2021

Report Summary: The non-equilibrium chemistry driven by the charged particle and photon irradiation processes are responsible for the rich chemistry on the surfaces of icy satellites. Among the icy satellites of the Jovian and Saturnian planetary systems, a few satellites such as Ganymede, Europa, Dione, Rhea, Callisto and Titan that are embedded in their respective planetary magnetospheres were observed to undergo rich chemical processes due to the bombardment of a wide range of energetic atomic and molecular ions that are present in their planet’s magnetospheres, which processes the icy surfaces of satellites by irradiation and implantation. Magnetospheres also help in bringing new species from one satellite to the other. Especially in the Jupiter system of icy satellites, sulfur transfer from Io to the other satellites is quite likely. The sulfur ions from Io are picked up by the magnetosphere and are accelerated towards the other icy satellites; Europa being the closest neighbour to Io will be implanted with sulfur ions. The Jovian satellites, due to the presence of the Jupiter’s magnetosphere, are subjected to highly energetic S ion irradiation which leads to a range of chemical activity on their surfaces. In this project, we have studied the effect of S ion irradiation on Aspartic acid for a range of energies at two different temperatures (100 K, 20 K), where the 100 K experiments are aimed to mimic the conditions of Europa. The irradiated residue was then analysed using an optical microscope, scanning electron microscope and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry.

Full scientific report published by kind permission of Rahul Kumar Kushwaha


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20-EPN2-081: Vis-NIR reflection spectroscopy of ammonium salts relevant for icy planetary surface characterisation

20-EPN-029: Vis-NIR reflection spectroscopy of ammonium salts relevant for icy planetary surface characterisation

Virtual visit by Maximiliano Fastelli, University of Perugia (Italy), to TA2.8 CSS (Cold Surfaces Spectroscopy) at IPAG (France).
Dates of visit: 13 October – 5 November 2021

Report Summary: During this TA visit under Europlanet 2024 RI 2nd call, reflectance VIS-NIR spectra of several ammonium salts were collected at the CSS facility (IPAG laboratory) in Grenoble, France. Different temperature steps were chosen to collect cryogenic data down to 90 K. Samples were characterised by low temperature crystalline phase transitions, and for these reasons, the measurement steps have been increased in the proximity of the expected temperature of mineral transformation. Cooling and heating experiments, using the same cooling/heating rate, were performed to bracket the phase transition and verify its reversibility. All the spectra were collected with three different grain size (150/125 – 125/80 – 80/32 μm) in the spectral range from 1 to 4.6 μm at low T. Typical absorption features due to overtones and combinations of NH4+ groups were identified in the spectral range investigated. Phase transitions, when detected, show an interesting behaviour with change in shape and position of some (sensitive) absorption bands which could be useful for the identification of these phases at non-ambient T. Moreover, the effect of low and different granulometry were observed.

It has been proposed that ammonium minerals are present in varying percentages in icy planetary bodies. The availability of these compounds is linked to the upwelling of ammonium salts (NH4+) with ice from the subsurface of possible oceans resulting from cryovolcanism phenomena. The identification of these minerals on the surface can give information about internal composition/dynamics and potential habitability of icy bodies.


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Issue 2 of the Europlanet Magazine is out!

Issue 2 of the Europlanet Magazine is out!


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

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

The second issue highlights some of the exciting science supported through Europlanet’s Transnational Access programme, including an experimental project to recreate martian flows in the lab, field campaigns in Botswana and Greenland, and virtual access to facilities in Korea. Niklas Nienass MEP shares his vision for Europe’s role in the new Space Race, and we report on the science presented and community events at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 in September. As the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) passes a major milestone, we look at some of the outcomes of the projets to date, and we have an insight into the long pathway that’s led to the recent selection of three missions to Venus. We also have features on designing meetings in pandemic and post-pandemic times, outreach initiatives, an industry database with links to planetary science, and searching for evidence of the earliest forms of life on Earth.

Please check out Issue 2 and share with your networks to help us spread the word.


In this issue:

round up of news from Europlanet 2024 RI, the Europlanet Society, the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 and the planetary community.

Celebrating Science at EPSC2021 

Stavro Ivanovski (INAF) and Akos Kereszturi (Konkoly Thege Miklos Astronomical Institute), Co-chairs of the Scientific Organising Committee (SOC), review the second virtual Europlanet Science Congress.

Spotlight on Diversity at EPSC2021 

The Europlanet Diversity Committee describes events at EPSC2021 to highlight equity, diversity and inclusion

Early Career Events at EPSC2021 

Noah Jäggi, Chair of the EPEC@EPSC Working Group, reports on a packed programme at EPSC2021 organised by the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) network

Designs on Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Meetings: Learning with the EPSC 2021 Team 

Amy Riches (University of Edinburgh, UK, and SETI Institute, USA) describes her experiences as a planetary geochemist diving into the EPSC2021 Media Internship Programme.

Planetary Perspectives

Lena Noack, Incoming Chair of EPSC2021, talks about her career, inspirations, and her experiences with Europlanet in this month’s Planetary Perspectives Q&A.

Finding New Ways of Envisioning Venus 

Jörn Helbert (DLR) looks forward to three new missions to investigate Earth’s mysterious twin

Connecting Communities Across the Industry – Academic Divide 

Marcell Tessenyi (Blue Skies Space Ltd) and Jeronimo Bernard-Salas (ACRI-ST) report on a survey and new database to support industry-academia collaborations

Europe and the New Space Race 

Following the Industry-Policy Session at EPSC2021, Livia Giacomini (INAF) spoke to Niklas Nienass, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Germany in the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, about his vision for space science in Europe.

FANTASTIC ACCESS 

As we emerge from nearly two years of restricted travel, Gareth Davies (VUA, Netherlands) gives an update on Europlanet’s Transnational Access (TA) programme, which provides free access to facilities and field sites around the worldLonneke Roelofs (Utrecht University, Netherlands), Daniel Toledo (INTA, Spain), Costanza Rossi (INAF, Italy), Denice Borsten and Jochem Sikkes (VUA, Netherlands) share their expriences of participating in TA visits.

The Animated Universe of James O’Donoghue 

Federica Duras and Livia Giacomini (INAF) talk to the Europlanet Prize 2021 winner, James O’Donoghue, about his motivations for creating animations to communicate challenging scientific concepts and his advice on a career in planetary science 

Evaluating the Impact of Europlanet 2024 RI 

 Project Evaluator, Jennifer DeWitt, and Communications Manager, Anita Heward, report on outcomes of the first review of Europlanet’s flagship research infrastructure

Looking for the earliest forms of life on Earth 

Barbara Cavalazzi (University of Bologna) describes how an international effort has identified some of the earliest examples of life on Earth

The Bolivian San Agustin Remote Observatory 

Gabriel Andres Jaimes Illanes, the IAU National Education Coordinator for Bolivia and member of the San Agustin Educational Foundation (FESA), reports on plans to develop a remote observatory to support astronomy outreach in Bolivia

CommKit

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

The Last Word

Nigel Mason reflects on a challenging year in Beyond Borders.

Geology & Planetary Mapping Winter School

Geology & Planetary Mapping Winter School

The next Geology & Planetary Mapping Winter School will be held online 7th – 11th February 2022. The school will be dedicated to the process of creating planetary geologic maps on the Moon, Mercury and Mars.

The registration is now open. The registration deadline is January 15th 2022

The registrations is free. We will try to accomodate as many participants as possible, while keeping a reasonable participant/instructor ratio. The school will cover all the topics that are necessary to produce high-quality planetary cartography:

  • Introduction to features and processes specific to Solar System objects.t
  • Basics of remote sensing and multispectral data exploitation
  • GIS usage, based on QGIS Open Source software (project creation, and layout)
  • Practical collaborative mapping with dedicated instructor on each planetary body (1 full day each)
  • Principles of crater counting
  • Geologic cross section and stratigraphic sections creation
  • Seminars and talks from invited international guests
  • The school will include frontal lectures, practical demonstrations and group-work activities for practicing mapping on the Moon, Mercury and Mars.

Find out more at: https://www.planetarymapping.eu/

Europlanet Telescope Network Science Workshop

Europlanet 2024 RI logo

Europlanet Telescope Network Science Workshop

9-11 February 2022 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project and the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy of Vilnius University are pleased to announce the international conference: ‘Europlanet Telescope Network Science Workshop

The Europlanet Telescope Network, launched in 2020,  is a network of small telescope facilities to support planetary science observations by professional and amateur astronomers. The Europlanet Telescope Network currently comprises 16 observatories with 46 telescopes ranging from 40 cm to 2 m in size. The network can be accessed free of charge to carry out projects on a wide variety of scientific studies about the Solar System and exoplanets, as well as related astronomical investigations. 

The goal of this workshop is to encourage community-led proposals and to highlight scientific results achieved with the Europlanet Telescope Network and other medium size and small telescopes. We invite interested astronomers and amateurs to participate, to learn more about  the instruments offered, their capabilities, and scientific potential. The Europlanet Telescope Network is operated by the Europlanet 2024 RI project which is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

Sessions will be distributed over three half days. They will be dedicated accordingly: 

  • Day 1 –  Solar System planets
  • Day 2 –  Exoplanets
  • Day 3 –  Minor Solar System Bodies

The sessions will be followed by brainstorming meetings on the Discort platform.

Registration is free of charge and with no deadline.

Participants are encouraged to submit a short abstract describing the science questions and topics they would like to address with the Europlanet Telescope Network. We anticipate a talk length of 12+3 min for contributed presentations and by 2-3 min for poster presentations.

The deadlines for abstract submissions:

  • Oral presentations  – 7 January 2022 23:59:00 UTC  (notification of acceptance by 14 January 2022)
  • Poster presentations – 21 January 2022 23:59:00 UTC

For Application form follow this link

For more information and registration see: http://mao.tfai.vu.lt/europlanet2022/.

Virtual Fireballs Workshop #2 on Fireball Databases, Lunar Impact Flashes and Machine Learning

Europlanet 2024 RI logo

Virtual Fireballs Workshop #2 on Fireball Databases, Lunar Impact Flashes and Machine Learning

4 February 1:00 pm – 5. February  @ 7:00 pm UTC+2

In cooperation with Europlanet, a series of four workshops bringing together different networks of fireballs observers as well as machine learning experts is taking place over 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 second of these workshops will take place virtually on 4-5 February 2022 and aims towards:

  1. introduce and continue discussing the different fireballs networks, databases and data formats with a strong focus on its technical aspects;
  2. continue discussing and exploring the possibilities of a common data format and/or a common entry point to all data, reports on recent activities;
  3. introduce Lunar impact flashes, observation networks and software;
  4. continue 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 third workshop of the series is intended to be organized in autumn 2022.

Workshop Details

Date: 4-5 February 2022
Workshop Program: https://bit.ly/EPNFireballs2
Registration: https://bit.ly/EPNFireballs2Registration

The registration is open until 16 January 2022.

Organising Committee:

Workshop #1 presentations: Link (click here)

Europlanet Satellite Workshop Series blasts off in Botswana

Europlanet Satellite Workshop Series blasts off in Botswana

Press Release

A workshop that aims to kickstart the creation of a network for planetary science in Africa is being held at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) this week.  Over 40 people are joining the hybrid meeting virtually, with 25 participants attending the meeting in-person in Palapye. The workshop is organised by the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure, with funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, under the umbrella of the Europlanet Strategic Plan for Global Collaboration.

The workshop on ‘Satellites for Space Science and Technology in Africa’ brings together space technology specialists, scientists and students to discuss current topics in the rapidly developing field of space. Space has become an attractive frontier for African countries that have launched satellites based on scientific, technological or political ambitions. Satellites are used for Earth observation, communication, navigation atmospheric studies, astronomical observations and military applications, and more. 

The workshop aims to support scientists and engineers at all career stages working to design satellite missions tackling scientific themes and specific target objects. 

The workshop includes lectures, discussion panels and sessions for the exchange of ideas on research relating to satellites, satellite subsystems, aerospace engineering, orbital and attitude dynamics of spacecraft, and spacecraft-environment interactions.

Dr Fulvio Franchi of BIUST said: “We are happy to welcome so many participants to this workshop from across Africa and Europe. We hope that the outcomes of the workshop will lead to sustainable, mutually productive collaborations that will support space and planetary science in Africa for decades to come.”

Prof. Barbara Cavalazzi, of the University of Bologna, who leads the Global Collaboration activities for Europlanet 2024 RI said: “This Training school aims to drive revolutions in thinking, as well as science and technology, at all levels from observations, to mission concept design, to instruments, where the impact must advance our knowledge and accessibility to space at a fundamental level.”

Images

Contacts

Dr Fulvio Franchi
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST)
Private Mail Bag 16, Palapye
Botswana
franchiF@biust.ac.bw

Prof. Barbara Cavalazzi
BiGeA Department
University of Bologna
Via Zamboni 67
Italy
barbara.cavalazzi@unibo.it

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

20-EPN-078: Abrasion test to understand aeolian grain surface evolution on Mars versus Earth – suggestions for ExoMars rover mission

20-EPN-078: Abrasion test to understand aeolian grain surface evolution on Mars versus Earth – suggestions for ExoMars rover mission

Virtual visit by Zsuzsanna Kapui, Eötvös Lorand University ̷ Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences (Hungary) to TA2.4 Planetary Environment Facilities (PEF), AU (Denmark).
Dates of visit: 2-6 August 2021

Surface microtextures on quartz grains provide good information of the transport medium (ice, river, wind) on Earth, as shape and surface micromorphological features strongly depend on them. A well-developed system has been already used for the quartz grains, but similar detailed studies of basaltic grains have not been conducted before, although this could be relevant for Mars. We aim to develop such a system for olivine grains (main basalt forming mineral). Between 2-6 August 2021, a quartz and an olivine sand grain group (both sized 1 – 2 millimetre) were analysed by wind transport at the AWTSII Wind tunnel facility in Aarhus, Denmark.

A special, self-built box (wind tunnel section with a relatively small cross section) was designed and produced in Hungary to allow periodic transport of the sand grains from one end to the other by a motor driven rotation system. The test started with difficulty because the sands movement did not start, a combination of factors meant that even at the highest fan rotation rate of the AWTSII facility active sand transport was not achieved. Finally, the solution became that the sand holder box in the wind tunnel was also tilted by 24 degrees. The quartz and olivine sands were transported by a mixture of gravitational avalanching and wind driven transport at around 1 bar pressure. Altogether two tests were performed during around four hours to see the attrition process related to grain shapes and surface microstructures. Microscope and webcam videos as well as wind flow data (pitot tube) were collected.

Currently, microscopic analysis with Morphology instrument is underway on the returned particles. The obtained results will be included in an article in progress and in my doctoral dissertation.

Report Summary:

Read full report.


Back to TA main page.

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20-EPN2-121: Constraining the movement of groundwater and fluid expulsion within playa environments on Mars

20-EPN2-121: Constraining the movement of groundwater and fluid expulsion within playa environments on Mars

Visit by Gene Schmidt, Università degli Studi Roma Tre (Italy) and Erica Luzzi, Jacobs University (Germany) to TA1.5 Makgadikgadi Salt Pans (Botswana).
Dates of visit: 20-27 October 2021

Across the surface of Mars there is evidence of past lacustrine and evaporitic environments found within basins and craters, where often layered sedimentary deposits and hydrated minerals are observed. However, the intensity, duration and precise phases of water cycle activity during this period remain unresolved. Although several geological processes and locations on Earth have been previously proposed as examples to describe these deposits on Mars, we lack a strong visualisation of what water activity might have looked like during evaportic stages within basins and craters. The Makgadikgadi Salt Pans of Botswana, where once the Makgadikgadi Lake existed, is a present evaporitic environment rich in hydrated minerals and water activity. It is a depression located at the southwestern end of a northeast-southwest set of graben. Faults have been previously proposed to have been pathways for groundwater to enter basins and craters on Mars, which then contributed to both the deposition and alteration of the sedimentary deposits. Thus, imaging the subsurface of a similar environment on Earth can help us to better understand how water processes on Mars might have continued as the Martian global climate became drier.

By using the already established locations of the faults to the north of the pans, we used remote sensing techniques to trace the best location of the faults underneath the pans (Figures 1 and 2). We then used electrical resistivity surveys to image 70 – 150 m of the pans’ subsurface where the faults were deemed most likely to occur. This work allows us to better understand the possibilities of what the underlying lithology of rocks within filled basins and craters might look like. Furthermore, it demonstrates the scientific importance of future missions to employ subsurface imaging techniques on Mars.

Report Summary:

Read full report.


Back to TA main page.

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20-EPN-034: Calibration of the Al-in-olivine thermometer: Insight into the thermal history of type II chondrules

20-EPN-034: Calibration of the Al-in-olivine thermometer: Insight into the thermal history of type II chondrules

Visit by Thomas van Gerve and Kat Shepherd, KU Leuven (Belgium) to TA2.9 Ion Probe Facility (IPF), CRPG (France).
Dates of visit: 18-22 October 2021

Report Summary:

Chondrites are the most primitive agglomerates formed in the solar system. In this project, we want to develop a thermometer based on Al-in-olivine/spinel equilibrium to calculate the temperature of formation of chondrites. or this project, we have performed a large number of new low- to high-pressure (1 atm – 10 GPa) experiments relevant to chondrule formation at the KU Leuven.

Experiments were run at high temperature (1200-1800°C), under variable oxygen fugacity conditions (IW+1 to IW+5, IW = iron-wustite). From 18-22 October 2021, Thomas van Gerve and Kat Shepherd (KU Leuven) worked with the Cameca IMS 1270 E7 ion probe at CRPG, Nancy, under the supervision of Dr. Johan Villeneuve and M. Nordine Bouden. We have measured the following masses: 12C, 16O1H, 18O, 19F, 27Al, 30Si, 32S and 35Cl in olivine, glass and glass inclusions. During our analytical session, we measured ~ 150 points in olivine and glass in addition to the standards. Results are extremely reproducible and show a trend of slightly increasing Al content in olivine as a function of the Fo content (molar Mg/(Mg+Fe)) of olivine. Using our new SIMS results, we are in the process of developing a thermodynamically rooted model taking into account major components in spinel and olivine.

Read full report.


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Dust Devil Diary

Dust Devil Diary

From 29 September – 6 October 2021, researchers Daniel Toledo and Victor Apestigue (Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA), Spain) were funded by the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) Transnational Access (TA) programme to visit the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botsawana. The trip was led by Fulvio Franchi (Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST)) who is responsible for the Botswana Planetary Field Analogue for Europlanet 2024 RI. Ignacio Arruego, Javier Martinez-Oter and Felipe Serrano (INTA) also participated in the field trip. In this guest post, Daniel Toledo reports on the field trip.

The main goal of the field campaign in the Makgadikgadi Salts Pans was to study how dust is lifted into the air. For our investigation, we used the spare units of the Radiation and Dust Sensor (RDS) from the NASA Mars 2020 mission and the Sun Irradiance Sensor (SIS) from the ExoMars 2022 mission (see Figure 1), which are designed to study dust carried in the atmosphere of Mars by measuring how sunlight is scattered by the dust particles.

In addition to giving information about the properties of airbourne dust, these instruments are also sensitive to the presence of dust devils – swirling columns of sand and dust that are a common feature of desert areas on Mars and on Earth. RDS and SIS can detect the changes over time in the sky brightness produced by a dust devil, and this offers a unique opportunity for monitoring and studying such events during the Mars 2020 and ExoMars 2022 missions. However, to be able to characterise and interpret dust devil observations on Mars, we first need to understand how dust devils affect SIS and RDS signals by thorough testing and evaluation of the instruments in Mars-like conditions on Earth. 

Figure 1. (Left) RDS instrument: two sets of eight photodiodes. One set is pointed upward, with each photodiode covering a different wavelength range between 250-1000 nanometres. The other set is pointed sideways, 20° above the horizon, and they are spaced 45° degrees apart in azimuth to sample all directions at a single wavelength; a zenith-pointed camera (Skycam) with special optics is designed to measure column optical depth.(Right) SIS instrument: Five detectors pointed at zenith and with different spectral bands and Fields of View (FOVs); twelve lateral detectors (six in the ultraviolet range and six in the near infrared range) pointed sideways; a micro-spectrometer pointed directly upwards (at zenith) with a spectral resolution of 10 nanometres in the 340-780 nanometres range. 
Figure 2. Dust devils observed in Makgadikgadi Salt Pans (left panel) and on Mars (right panel). A typical dust devil on Mars spans from hundreds of metres to thousands of metres in diameter, with a height one-eight times as large. Dust devils of Mars are thought to account for the ~50% of the total dust budget, and they represent continuous source of lifted dust, active even outside the dust storms season. For these reasons, they have been proposed as the main mechanism able to sustain the constantly-observed dust haze in the martian atmosphere.

To achieve this goal, we planned a field campaign from 29 September to 6 October in the southern part of Makgadikgadi Salt Pans (see Figure 3), in the Pan near Mopipi town. This location is characterised by frequent dust devil events and conditions that promote the lifting of high levels of aerosols (dust and particles) into the atmosphere.

Each day of the campaign, we set up RDS and SIS at two different locations from sunrise to sunset, separated by about 25 m, along with:

  1. Two cameras to record panoramic videos during the campaign period.
  2. A Vaisala weather station to perform measurements of pressure, wind direction and intensity, temperature and relative humidity.
  3. A ZEN radiometer to measure how much light was absorbed by the dust at different wavelengths.

The objective of having the two main instruments at two different locations was observe the dust lifting events from different perspectives.

During the campaign, we observed a large number of dust devils (many more than 10) and dust lifting events produced by wind gusts (over 10). For each dust lifting, we recorded the dust devil distance, the size, duration and direction. To do this, we marked out concentric circles with radii of 25, 50, 75, 100, 125 and 150 m on the ground. This information along with the videos made by the cameras, helped us to establish the amount of dust lifted by the dust devil as well as their distances from the instruments. All the data collected for each event was key to establish the RDS and SIS capabilities for dust lifting characterisation on Mars.

The first two days of the campaign were characterised by high dust-loading conditions and frequent formations of dust lifting events produced by dust devils or wind gusts. During these two days, each dust lifting event registered by the cameras was also detected by RDS and SIS, with signals showing a sharp peak at the time when the event passed within the sensors field of view. Preliminary analysis suggests that we can infer from RDS and SIS signals the difference between dust lifting events produced by dust devils and those produced by wind gusts – an important result for the observations on Mars.

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Credit: Google
Figure 3. Map indicating the location selected for carrying out the field campaign in the southern part of Makgadikgadi Salt Pans (red square) and the village Rakops (black square) where different lodges are available.

The third day of campaign had to be cancelled due to rain. This resulted in a lower dust-loading conditions in the following days, and thus the amount of dust lifted by vortices or wind gusts was smaller compared to the first two days. 

Upon return to BIUST in Palapye on 6 October, we held a seminar for staff and students titled Atmospheric science on Mars: from Earth analogues to future planetary networks.

In summary, the campaign was a complete success. Our observations have demonstrated the capability of the RDS and SIS sensors to detect and characterise dust devils on Mars. The analysis of the signals along with the information acquired by the other instruments will allow us to quantitatively establish the sensors limit of detection. In addition, the rainy episode offered us the chance to study dust lifting events in different aerosol loading conditions.

Makgadikgadi Salt Pans TA Field Trip, 29 September - 7 October (Spanish Trip - Daniel Toledo)

20-EPN2-065Characterizing dust lifting events using the ground-based Mars-2020-RDS and ExoMars-2022-SIS radiometers. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.