Cosmic Ray Counts Hidden in Spacecraft Data Highlight Influence of Solar Cycle at Mars and Venus

Cosmic Ray Counts Hidden in Spacecraft Data Highlight Influence of Solar Cycle at Mars and Venus

Europlanet and Swedish Institute of Space Physics Joint Press Release

EMBARGOED for 11:00 UTC / noon CET on Monday, 5 December 2022

Measurements by ESA’s long-serving twin missions, Mars Express and Venus Express, have captured the dance between the intensity of high-energy cosmic rays and the influence of the Sun’s activity across our inner Solar System. 

A comparison of data from the ASPERA plasma sensor, an instrument carried by both spacecraft, with the number of sunspots visible on the surface of the Sun shows how cosmic ray counts are suppressed during peaks of activity in the 11-year solar cycle. The international study, led by Dr Yoshifumi Futaana of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, has been published today in the Astrophysical Journal.

Cosmic rays are particles travelling at almost the speed of light that originate outside our Solar System. They are a dangerous form of high energy radiation that can cause electronic failures in spacecraft and damage the DNA of humans in space.

As well as the decadal-long relationship with the solar cycle, the researchers also looked at how cosmic ray detections varied over the short timescales of an orbit. Surprisingly, they found that the area protected from cosmic rays behind Mars is more than 100 kilometres wider than the planet’s actual radius. The cause of why this blocked area should be so large is not yet clear.

“The study shows the range of valuable insights that can be derived from what is actually background count information collected by the ASPERA instruments. Understanding the various relationships between cosmic rays and the solar cycle, the atmospheres of planets and the performance of spacecraft instrumentation is very important for future robotic missions and human exploration,” said Dr Futaana.

Launched in 2003, Mars Express remains in service around the Red Planet, while Venus Express operated from 2006 until 2014. The researchers compared the 17-year dataset from Mars and eight-year dataset from Venus with Earth-based cosmic ray measurements from the Thule neutron monitor in Greenland. Scientists took median value of cosmic ray counts over three-month periods to minimise the influence of sporadic solar activity, such as flares or coronal mass ejections. The databases of background radiation counts extracted for the study have been published and can be accessed through the Europlanet SPIDER planetary space weather service (http://spider-europlanet.irap.omp.eu/).

All the datasets showed a decrease in the number of cosmic ray detections as the peak in activity for Solar Cycle 24 was reached. In particular, the Mars Express data and the observations from Earth showed very similar features. However, there was an apparent lag of around nine months between the maximum number of sunspots and the minimum in cosmic ray detections at Mars.

“Previous studies have suggested that there is a delay of several months between solar activity and the behaviour of cosmic rays at the Earth and at Mars. Our results appear to confirm this and also provide further evidence that Solar Cycle 24 was a bit unusual, perhaps due to the long solar minimum between Cycle 23 and 24, or the relatively low activity during Cycle 24,” said Dr Futaana.

The analysis of the Venus Express data has been complicated by changes in the way onboard processing was carried out from 2010 onwards. In addition, while the ASPERA instruments carried by Mars Express and Venus Express were based on a common design, they were each tailored to the very different planetary environments in which they operated. This means that a direct comparison of cosmic ray fluxes at Mars and Venus is not possible using the available datasets. 

“The use of background counts to study the interaction of cosmic rays and high energy particles with planetary missions is relatively new. However, obtaining this information shows potential as a powerful tool, for example, in protecting the upcoming JUpiter Icy moon Explorer (JUICE) mission of the European Space Agency, which will explore the harsh environment around Jupiter’s icy moons,” said Nicolas Andre of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP) in Toulouse, France, coordinator of the Europlanet SPIDER service and co-author of this study.

Publication details

Futaana et al. Galactic Cosmic Rays at Mars and Venus: Temporal Variations from Hours to Decades Measured as the Background Signal of Onboard Micro-Channel Plates. The Astrophysical Journal. 2022. DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ac9a49

Images

Artists’ impressions of Mars Express (left) and Venus Express (right). Credit: ESA/D Ducros/AOES Medialab.

Artists' impressions of Mars Express (left) and Venus Express (right).
Artists’ impressions of Mars Express (left) and Venus Express (right). Credit: ESA/D Ducros/AOES Medialab.

Artistic representation of galactic cosmic rays. Credit: M Eriksson/IRF.

Artistic representation of galactic cosmic rays.
Artistic representation of galactic cosmic rays. Credit: M Eriksson/IRF

Video

Interview with Dr Yoshifumi Futaana. https://youtu.be/5ZdwAEivOtY

Science Contacts

Dr Yoshifumi Futaana
Swedish Institute of Space Physics
Kiruna
Sweden
futaana@irf.se

Dr Nicolas André
Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP)/OMP
Toulouse
France
nicolas.andre@irap.omp.eu

Media Contacts

Martin Eriksson
Information officer
Swedish Institute of Space Physics
Kiruna
+46 72 581 33 33
martin.eriksson@irf.se

Anita Heward
Press Officer
Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI)
+44 7756 034243
aheward@europlanet-society.org

Further Information

About IRF

The Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) is a governmental research institute under the Ministry of Education. IRF conducts basic research and postgraduate education in space physics, space technology, and atmospheric physics.

IRF has over 60 years of experience in developing instruments for space research projects and participates in several major international collaborative projects using satellites and ground-based equipment.

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

Expert Exchange: Training on Molecular and Computer-based techniques

Expert Exchange: Training on Molecular and Computer-based techniques

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). 

Ermias Balcha from Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, visited Karen Olsson-Francis and Dr Michael Macey at the Open University, UK, from 18-24 October 2022.

The purpose of expert exchange was for Ermias Balcha to receive training in a combination of molecular and computer-based techniques to catalogue the diversity of microbes in samples collected from hyper-saline environments in the Afar Depression in Ethiopia. Ermias’s studies aim to identify the presence and diversity of novel antimicrobial and their associated production pathways, and potentially identify novel antibiotics within these extreme environments. This is the first time that these microbial communities, which often host unique metabolic adaptations due to their extreme nature, have been characterised in terms of the potential medical applications.

The visit was very successful: the data analysed will contribute to two or three data chapters of Ermias’s PhD thesis, and training has reinforced the exchange of experience between scientific communities in Europe and Africa.

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Early Career Support, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Visiting the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and the Esrange Space Center

Expert Exchange: Visiting the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and the Esrange Space Center

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). 

András Illyés of Wigner Research Centre for Physics, Budapest, Hungary, visited Mats Holmström of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna, Sweden, from 27 June – 1 July 2022.

András is a Mechatronics Engineering student at Budapest University of Technology and Economics, and a Research Assistant at Wigner RCP, working on atmospheric magnetic research and involved in the commissioning of a SERF magnetometer for future experiments.

The objective of the visit was to further expand knowledge on ESA-certified development processes and experiments at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF).

During the Expert Exchange, András visited and gained a better knowledge about the test facilities used at IRF, especially the thermo-vacuum chamber and other mechanical test instruments. He learned more about the IRF’s quality insurance system, their CAD/CAM systems and PCB design softwares and about soldering and its quality assurance in workshop. He also gained a better understanding of the usage of SERF magnetometers.

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Early Career SupportWidening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: New collaborations between Australia and Botswana for the investigation of terrestrial extreme environments

Expert Exchange: New collaborations between Australia and Botswana for the investigation of terrestrial extreme environments

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). 

Andrea Borsato and Silvia Frisia of the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, visited Fulvio Franchi at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Botswana, from 5-16 September 2022.

The visit was intended to initiate a new collaboration between Australia and Botswana and provide training for the academic and research staff in how to select, collect, preserve and analyse specimens of astrobiological and microbiological interest and set up an environmental monitoring program.

The first 4 days of the visit were dedicated to the field trip to Gcwihaba cave (Kwihabe, Ngamiland), which preserves thousands of years of climate and environmental history and can be utilised as an analogue to detect traces of ancient microbial life on Earth.

The following part of the visit took place at BIUST’s geochemical laboratories in Palapye, which include stable isotope MS and the trace element ICP-MS and ICP-OS facilities. The visitors discussed with technical and academic staff strategies and approaches in order to optimise the micro-sampling techniques and geochemical analyses. They also explored opportunities to analyse the trace element concentration of some Botswana continental carbonates samples at the X-ray fluorescence beamline at the Australian Synchrotron, as well as the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

During the visit, Dr Borsato and Dr Frisia delivered a workshop and lecture series attended by academic and technical staff as well as post-graduate candidates of the Earth and Environmental Science Department of BIUST. The lectures and workshop sessions were followed by Q&As. Attendees were given pratical and theoretical training in microscopy techniques.

Read the full report from Dr Borsato and Dr Frisia.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Early Career Support.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Collaboration Between Brazilian Exoss and Romanian MOROI Networks

Expert Exchange: Collaboration Between Brazilian Exoss and Romanian MOROI Networks.

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). 

Marcelo De Cicco, from INMETRO, Brazil visited Iharka Csillik at the Astronomical Observatory of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, from 1-10 July 2022.

The aim of the visit was to develop code to model grazing meteors, attend the International conference on ‘Theory, Observations and Data Processing in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space and Planetary Sciences’ and explore collaborations between the Brazilian EXOSS project, Romanian MOROI networks, FRIPON international network and a Hungarian meteor observations project.

This Expert Exchange visit came about through the Europlanet Mentorship programme, as Iharka is supporting Marcelo to develop skills in meteor science dynamics and publishing. The mentor-mentee pair were featured as a case study in a poster on the mentorship programme at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022 (Stonkute et al. 2022).

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Early Career Support, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Improving the Laboratory of Electron Induced Fluorescence

Expert Exchange: Improving the Laboratory of Electron Induced Fluorescence

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). 

Dr Juraj Orszagh and PhD student, Barbora Stachova, from the Laboratory of Electron Induced Fluorescence (LEIF), Department of Experimental Physics, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia visited Dennis Bodewits at Auburn University in Alabama, USA, from 26 June – 3 July 2022.

The aim of the visit was to deepen the existing scientific collaboration between the LEIF group at Comenius and the Department of Physics at Auburn, and to plan future cooperations. The overlap and common interests of the experimental research between the groups are extensive and provide many possibilities for further cooperation in the field of astrophysics and in wider molecular physics. In particular, LEIF output data serve as a reference for analysing astrophysical observations and are useful as input for various models of atmospheres and comas.

As well as visiting facilities and learning more abou the research carried out at Auburn, Juraj and Barbora participated in a colloquium where they introduced the Department of Experimental Physics, their research, and latest experimental results. This led to led to a rich discussion and a proposal for deeper collaboration in the near future, including cooperations to strengthen the capacity of LEIF to produce output data in a format most useful for astrophysical research and make the facility’s contribution to Europlanet efforts more valuable.

Prof Bodewits and Dr Steven Bromley were preparing for a Transnational Access to LEIF later in July 2022, so considerable time was spent discussing the details of the planned experiments aimed at electron-induced fluorescence of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

A further outcome of the visit is support by Auburn University in developing a more progressive teaching methods and active learning techniques to support teachers and students at Comenius University.

Read the full reports by Juraj Orszagh and Barbora Stachova.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Early Career Support.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Study of Technical Background in Space Development at IRF, Kiruna, Sweden

Expert Exchange: Study of Technical Background in Space Development at IRF, Kiruna, Sweden

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). 

Dr Janos Nagy of the Centre for Energy Research at the Central Research Institute for Physics (KFKI) in Budapest, Hungary, visited Mats Holmstrom at the Swedish Institute for Space Research (IRF) in Kiruna, Sweden from 26 June – 1 July 2022.

The KFKI Campus in Hungary houses two entities, the Wigner Research Centre for Physics and the Centre for Energy Research, which are interested in space physics and space instrument development. The IRF has longstanding experience in instrument development and engineering activities gained from participating in 39 space missions in recent decades. In the past, IRF and Wigner have cooperated in research and space instrument development projects including for Venus Express, BepiColombo, as well as the ongoing work for the Particle Environment Package (PEP) on the upcoming Juice mission to Jupiter’s icy moons.

The development of Juice-PEP involved stricter requirements by ESA than for the previous projects that the KFKI teams had been involved in. To insure fulfillment of these requirements, KFKI aims to strengthen capacity in technology, labs, workshops and quality assurance.

Janos Nagy participated in a Europlanet Expert Exchange visit to give a presentation about KFKI’s activity in developing Direct Current Converter (DCC) for Juice, learn from the experiences and experimental set-up at IRF and to see the thermo vacuum test of the Data Processing Unit (DPU) and DCC designed by KFKI in operation.

A particular area of interest was the cooperation at IRF of researchers, electrical, mechanical, software engineers and technicians. The science/engineering ratio is about 50%, and IRF involves PhD students in the ongoing tasks, who get to know the institute well. Several PhD students continue their career in IRF after finishing their studies. KFKI aims to follow this practice by improving cooperation between scientists and engineers and involving students through topical projects during university diplomas.

Following the visit, the KFKI team plan to apply for funding to purchase a Nanovac TVC025 Thermal Vacuum Chamber (TVAC), similar to the one used by IRF in Juice project. 

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Mass spectrometry of Arctic Ice

Mass spectrometry of Arctic Ice 

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). 

Fulvio Franchi, Botswana International University of Science & Technology (Palapye, Botswana) visited Dr Zoltán Juhász, Atomki (Debrecen, Hungary) from 24 – 30 May 2022 to trial techniques to characterise methane concentrations in Arctic ice as a potential analogue for studies of icy moons in the Solar System

The study of natural methane content in ice from the Arctic will have a strong relevance as an analogue for the study of Icy Moons such as Europa and Enceladus. Preliminary observation on these celestial bodies have reportedly shown the presence of methane. However, how the methane was produced and what relationship exists between the methane and potential habitability of this celestial bodies is still matter for speculations. The only way to get closer to the truth is by testing natural materials on Earth that resemble the conditions hypothesised on these icy moons.

Ice formed above and/or in proximity of methane seeps in the Arctic sea might provide the right substratum to characterise methane occurrences elsewhere in the Solar System.

Fulvio Franchi visited Zoltán Juhász at the spectroscopy laboratory at Atomki in Debrecen in Hungary through the Europlanet Expert Exchange programme. The aim of the visit was to start to develop a method to prepare natural ice from the Arctic for analysis and run mass spectroscopy for the characterisation of the methane contents. The work will continue back in Botswana where the lessons learnt will help improve the spectroscopy labs.

The main goals of this visit were as follows:

  1. Initiate a new collaboration between Botswana and Hungary for the investigation of potential analogues of Icy Moons;
  2. Train the applicant on the practical aspects on how to run a successful spectral facility in view of the development of a spectroscopy lab at BIUST.
  3. Widening the participation in Europlanet activities by creating a new collaboration between Africa and underrepresented country in EU;
  4. Involve into Europlanet project new potential stakeholders currently active in the study of climate but with potential interest in the field of planetary science.

This visit kick-started a new collaboration between BIUST and Atomki and has benefitted from the collaboration of Prof Panieri at CAGE institute of The Arctic University of Norway, which is active in the field of climate studies, and has shown interest in planetary science.

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Europlanet Impact Case Study #2: Atomki – A Facility’s Story

Europlanet Impact Case Study #2: Atomki – A Facility’s Story

The Institute for Nuclear Research (Atomki) is Hungary’s national centre of accelerator-based nuclear and atomic physics.

At present, Atomki employs 200 persons. It is a non-profit institution funded from national and European sources with a track record of extensive international collaboration and hosting numerous (100’s) foreign visitors. The Atomki Accelerator Centre (AAC) incorporates five ion beam facilities with various particle, charge and intensity applied to diverse issues from cultural heritage to modelling the solar system.

Atomki’s association with Europlanet originated through a personal contact between Bela Sulik, head of Atomki’s Section of Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Europlanet’s coordinator, Nigel Mason, who worked together in the early 2000s on an EU-funded research infrastructure project for small accelerators and a COST action studying radiation on living things. Bela and Nigel maintained contact over the next 15 years or so, through discussions on atomic collisions.

When Atomki installed a new Tandetron accelerator in 2018, Nigel and other members of the Europlanet team visited Hungary. This visit resulted in a plan to build an astrophysics/astrochemistry beamline that could provide irradiation measurements on analogue Solar System ices for ion energy and ion species over the range of the solar wind and low energy tail of galactic cosmic rays.

The Ice Chamber for Astrophysics/Astrochemistry (ICA) at Atomki was installed in 2019, and was ready for the first TA visits in 2020. Europlanet researchers (from senior members of staff to students) supported the Atomki team by sharing expertise and training. Due to the pandemic, several of the first visits were virtual, but physical visits have also resumed as travel restrictions have lifted. It is now the Europlanet 2024 RI’s most over-subscribed facility.

A second chamber, supplied by from Queens University Belfast, was installed through a Europlanet 2024 RI Joint Research Activity in 2021, and this is also now open for TA visits.

“When I leave the field, I feel that in Atomki we have something which is on the European scale, an active laboratory. And we are going to become really a hub in this field of astrophysics/astrochemistry.”

Bela Sulik

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Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access page

Europlanet Impact Case Study #1: Barbara Cavalazzi – A Researcher’s Story

Europlanet Impact Case Study #1: Barbara Cavalazzi – A Researcher’s Story

Barbara Cavalazzi is a planetary geologist who studies life under extreme conditions. Her research focuses on the emergence of life on Earth, as well as astrobiology – finding out where life might evolve elsewhere in the Solar System.

Barbara first encountered Europlanet through the Transational Access (TA) programme in 2010, which supported her to visit the Hamar Laghdad carbonate mud mounds in Morocco, a Mars analogue for geological and exobiological studies.

As Europlanet looked to expand its suite of planetary analogue field sites, Barbara proposed the Dallol geothermal system in Ethiopia for characterisation as a new analogue for Mars. This characterisation was carried out as a Joint Research Activity in the Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure (RI) project, which was funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme between 2015 and 2019, and the site was offered for Transnational Access from 2018 onwards. The Europlanet team, led by Barbara, published an overview in the journal Astrobiology highlighting the importance of Dallol as a field analogue for Mars and for astrobiological studies.

Barbara now leads the TA field site programme in Europlanet 2024 RI project (2020-2024), as well as the Global Collaboration and Integration Strategy and Global Ambassadors’ Programme.

She is committed to creating more research collaboration opportunities in Africa and for Africa, and is coordinating the Europlanet Workshop Series, which aims to inspire and encourage planetary science and space technology development across borders in developed and developing countries and across the spectrum of academia, industry and civil society. 

The programme “SPACE: Speaking Planet to Teachers Community in Ethiopia” was born in 2013 and was developed as part of the AlmaEngage project, with support from Europlanet 2020 RI. The objective has been to work with local communities, especially in rural areas, to create opportunities, for example by creating training courses for discovering the region in respect and harmony with local communities and their culture. The focus is on teacher training and the implementation of projects and courses in the school environment. Find out more:

Article in the Europlanet Magazine Issue 2

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Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access page

Europlanet Impact Case Study #3: KBSI – A National Institute’s Story

Europlanet Impact Case Study #3: KBSI – A National Institute’s Story

Since 2020, Europlanet’s Distributed Planetary Laboratory Facility (DPLF) has offered Transnational Access to 13 facilities of the Korean Basic Science Institute (KBSI). Up to 10 teams of European researchers can visit the KBSI facilities per call, with reciprocal access to Europlanet’s field sites and laboratories offered to Korean researchers.

KBSI, established in 1988, is a government-funded research institution that conducts R&D, research support and joint research related to high-tech research equipment as well as advanced analytical science technology.

The National Research Facilities & Equipment (NFEC), established by the Framework Act on Science and Technology, sits within KBSI. The role of NFEC is to provide systematic support for research infrastructure for the development of science and technology. NFEC identifies the needs and the domestic and global environmental changes required to support the advancement of research infrastructure in Korea. Its goal is to maximise R&D productivity by strategic investment in research infrastructure, promotion of co-utilisation of research infrastructure, nurturing of technical staff, and overall operational management.

The MoU and reciprocal arrangement with Europlanet 2024 RI has enabled KBSI and NFEC to provide opportunities for transnational use of facilities, widening their user communities, and to draw on Europlanet’s experience of building an international platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration. Through the pandemic, European and Korean researchers have also worked together to develop an effective programme for virtual Transnational Access visits.

By providing access to non-European facilities and analogue sites in Africa (Botswana and Ethiopia), Asia (China and South Korea) and South America (Argentina), Europlanet 2024 RI is developing collaboration with communities not necessarily used to interact with European scientists (and vice-versa). The reciprocal arrangement with Korea has demonstrated that a co-funded Transnational Access programme can operate sustainably and efficiently, strengthening the planetary science community and research institutions around the world. 

Interview with Dr Keewook Yi about KBSI’s participation in Europlanet’s Global Collaboration task (EPSC2022 morning briefing, Tuesday 20 September).

Article in the Europlanet Magazine Issue 2

Article in the Europlanet Magazine on virtual transnational access between KBSI and the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VUA).

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Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access page

Europlanet Impact Case Study #4: Venus – An International Community’s Story

Europlanet Impact Case Study #4: Venus – An International Community’s Story

For around 30 years, Venus was neglected in terms of missions, with just two missions to our ‘twin’ planet compared to 22 attempted to Mars over the same time period.

In recent years, driven by the need to interpret data from exoplanet atmospheres, interest in Venus has grown. In 2021, three venusian missions were selected by international agencies (EnVision by the European Space Agency (ESA), and VERITAS and DaVinci by NASA).

A key factor for the missions has been the ability to study the surface of Venus through its opaque atmosphere.

ESA’s Venus Express, which launched in 2005, was designed as an atmospheric mission. However, a team led by DLR proposed that a small spectral window around one micrometre could be used to study the surface. This approach proved highly successful, but there was no spectral library available to interpret data.

A Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure (RI) Joint Research Activity, funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, constructed a Venus Chamber at the Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory (PSL), which provided experimental evidence that it is indeed possible to learn about the surface of Venus from orbit. The Venus Chamber at PSL is available for Transnational Access through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) programme.

Interview with Jörn Helbert, DLR

In this interview, Jörn Helbert explains how funding from the Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure project supported the development of a new Venus Chamber at the Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory (PSL) at DLR in Berlin.

Article in the Europlanet Magazine Issue 2

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Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access page

3rd Call for Applications for Free Access to Laboratories and Field Sites – Reminder

3rd Call for Applications for Free Access to Laboratories and Field Sites – Reminder

The 3rd call for applications for the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) Transnational Access (TA) programme is now open!

If you are interested in submitting an application, you can check the call page to find more information about the call and how to submit your application. Please note that you will need to discuss the implementation plan for with the host institute of the TA facility or field site before submitting your application. The call will close on 20 October 2022.

The TA programme supports all travel and local accommodation costs for European and international researchers to visit and conduct research at 24 accredited laboratory facilities in Europe and 6 planetary analogue field sites. The TA programme can support up to two researchers for each visit and can cover a time-period ranging from a few days to a maximum of 10 days. In addition, the Korea Basic Science Institute (KBSI) is offering access to 13 facilities in South Korea.

Please note that although the Europlanet 2024 RI TA programme is designed to primarily support planetary science and Earth science, applications from other research disciplines are also eligible and will be considered based on innovation and potential scientific and technological impact.

Resources to help you with your application

More about the TA programme

Europlanet 2024 RI main page

21-EPN-FT1-026: Biogeochemical cycling in the lake systems of the Argentinian Puna

21-EPN-FT1-026: Biogeochemical cycling in the lake systems of the Argentinian Puna: Biogeochemical cycling in the lake systems of the Argentinian Puna: An investigation into the microbial communities of an exceptional Hesperian martian analogue

Visit by Ben Tatton, The Open University (UK) to TA1.6 Argentinian Andes (Argentina).
Dates of visit: 17-26 April 2022

Report Summary: Fieldwork undertaken as part of the Europlanet fast track funding call took place between 16/04/22 and 26/04/22 as part of an international team of scientists from The Open University, The Università degli Studi della Tuscia, and The Universidad Nacional de Córdoba.

Fieldwork was conducted at two high-altitude Andean Lake (HAAL) sites, Laguna Negra, and Laguna de Antofagasta. The focus of the research was to collect sediment cores and water samples from Laguna de Antofagasta to assess how microbial communities change as a factor of depth within the sediment. During the trip, a total of 5 x 30 cm cores, 5 x 250 ml of lake water for culturing, and 15 x lake water samples for geochemical analysis were collected. Furthermore, environmental variables were taken with pH, temperature, conductivity, redox potential, and UV monitored. The trip was a resounding success with enough samples taken to permit the progression of my PhD. The data gained from the trip will contribute to two or three data chapters. These chapters will focus on the geochemical characterisation of the site, the microbiology of the site, and potentially simulation experiments which will focus on Noachian/Hesperian Mars relevant metabolisms. We expect to find that LDA is a suitable geochemical analogue for Gale Crater during the Noachian Hesperian transition. We also expect that the types of metabolisms found within the sediments are similar to those predicted to have been present on Noachian/Hesperian Mars.


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20-EPN2-020: Towards prospecting ore deposits on Mars

20-EPN2-020: Towards prospecting ore deposits on Mars: remote sensing of the planetary field analogue in the Rio Tinto mining area, Spain.

Visit by Jakub Ciazela and Dariusz Marciniak, Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences (Poland) to TA1.2 Rio Tinto (Spain).
Dates of visit: 17-27 March 2022

Report Summary: The Rio Tinto area hosts the largest known volcanogenic massive sulfide deposits on Earth. We have investigated 614 sites along a river bed (Fig. 1) located 3 m from each other. At each site, we investigated 5 random samples for pyrite content. The pyrite content was always estimated by 2 to 4 researchers, and the average for each site was computed. The average pyrite content in the entire investigated area is 7.0 vol.% (12.6 wt.%). We have observed two fields, 30 x 30 m, and 30 x 60 m, with average pyrite contents >50 wt.%, which should be suitable for its detection from the orbit, both with Sentinel-2 (field resolution of 10 m) and Landsat (30 m). Principle Component Analysis of the obtained spectra from Sentinel-2 (Fig. 2) gives similar results to mineralogical data we have retrieved in the field during our geological mapping.

By establishing our test field for remote sensing of sulfide deposits in a planetary field analog on Earth, we will be able to determine abundance thresholds for the detection of major sulfide phases on Mars and identify their key spectral features. Our results will help in 1) more efficient use of the current NIR Martian spectrometers to detect ore minerals and 2) designing new space instruments optimized for ore detection to include in future missions to Mars such as one developed at the Institute of Geological Sciences and the Space Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences called MIRORES (Martian far-IR ORE Spectrometer).

Read full scientific report with kind permission of Jakub Ciazela.


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20-EPN2-015: In-situ measurement and sampling of biosignature-hosting products in support of organics detection in the context of ExoMars 2022

20-EPN2-015: In-situ measurement and sampling of biosignature-hosting products in support of organics detection in the context of ExoMars/2022: In-situ measurement and sampling of biosignature-hosting products in support of organics detection in the context of ExoMars 2022

Visit by Marco Ferrari and Simone De Angelis, IAPS-INAF (Italy) to TA1.2 Rio Tinto (Spain).
Dates of visit: 11-16 July 2022

Report Summary: This project aims at sampling and performing a wide set of VIS-NIR field measurements of weathering products (e.g., sulfates, clays), rocks with hydrothermal origin, and deposits showing evidence of biosignatures. To achieve this goal, during our visit we performed 195 measurement spots with the FieldSpec 4 portable spectrometer in the range of 0.35-2.5 µm and collected 47 samples in different forms. Among all the collected samples, three of them are consistent rock blocks. This is because they will be used as a test for the laboratory model of the Ma_MISS instrument that will be able to drill them and perform the spectroscopic measurements in the borehole wall.

This campaign will also allow us to confirm the capability of the Ma_MISS instrument to detect spectral signatures of organics in geological samples containing bi_osignatures. With the spectroscopic data obtained in the field and the laboratory on the collected samples, we will build a spectral database that will be useful to the scientific community.

These activities on terrestrial analogs have proven useful for understanding life in extreme conditions and how these can be preserved in the form of biological signatures and detected by the scientific instruments that will be on board future missions to Mars.

In addition, this work helps in acquiring crucial preparation for the exploitation and interpretation of the scientific data that the Ma_MISS instrument will provide during the active phase of the mission.

Read full scientific report with kind permission of Marco Ferrari.


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20-EPN-008: Characterisation of a new type of extraterrestrial material through the study of Cumulate Porphyritic Olivine cosmic spherules

20-EPN-008: Characterisation of a new type of extraterrestrial material through the study of Cumulate Porphyritic Olivine cosmic spherules

Virtual visit by Steven Goderis, Vrije Universiteit Brussels (Belgium) to TA2 Facility 21 – OU NanoSIMS 50L (UK).
Dates of visit: 4-25 October 2021

Oxygen isotopes are a powerful tool to determine the parent bodies of cosmic spherules, which are the entirely melted endmember of micrometeorites. After considering the fractionation processes affecting their original oxygen isotope signatures, >90% of cosmic spherules larger than 200 μm appear to be related to chondrite clans established studying chondritic meteorites.

About 10% of cosmic spherules that show clear chondritic major element compositions display unusual 16O-poor oxygen isotopic compositions that are not linked to chondritic material present in present-day meteorite collections. Simultaneously, a subset of porphyritic (Po) cosmic spherules labelled Cumulate Porphyritic Olivine (CumPo) particles exhibits textures testifying to the settling of olivine crystals during atmospheric deceleration. This unusual texture suggests these particles entered the Earth’s atmosphere at velocity of ⁓16 km s-1 , which corresponds to orbital eccentricities >0.3 and is considered higher than most asteroidal dust bands. 

By establishing a potential link between the CumPo particles and a subset of the 16O-poor spherules and characterising relict mineral grains in a selection of particles from the Sør Rondane Mountains and Larkman Nunatak micrometeorite collections using the Open University NanoSIMS, a parentage with the newly defined CY carbonaceous chondrite group is proposed. This implies that about 10% of the cosmic spherules reaching the Earth’s surface have a near-Earth origin. As such connection is rare in the meteorite collection, demonstrating the importance of fully characterising the flux of micrometeorites to understand the composition of the Solar System.

Read the full scientific report, with kind permission from Steven Goderis.


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20-EPN2-030: The O-isotope signatures of aqueously altered micrometeorites – probing the CO-CM gap and the diversity of C-type asteroids

20-EPN2-030: The O-isotope signatures of aqueously altered micrometeorites – probing the CO-CM gap and the diversity of C-type asteroids

Virtual visit by Jacopo Nava, University of Padova (Italy) to TA2 Facility 21 – OU NanoSIMS 50L (UK).
Dates of visit: 6-26 July 2022

Report Summary: The flux of extraterrestrial material falling to Earth is dominated by micrometeorites. They originate from asteroids and comets and their analysis provides a complementary perspective to the insights obtained from the study of larger meteorites and from space mission sample returns. Oxygen isotope compositions can be used to match micrometeorites to parent body sources based on distinctive δ17O and δ18O ratios.

We studied a population of seven giant Antarctic micrometeorites using high-precision, spatially resolved oxygen isotope analyses to measure the composition of fine-grained matrix in hydrated and dehydrated micrometeorites. 

A characteristic feature of all micrometeorites was large intrasample isotopic variation (>15‰ in δ18O). In addition, most particles could be matched to known meteorite groups, including identification of CM, CV, CR and, potentially CY parentage. This is consistent with petrographic studies which conclude that the micrometeorite flux is dominated by material from hydrated carbonaceous chondrite asteroids. One particle (TAM5-30) has petrographic characteristics intermediate between the CO and CM chondrite groups. Oxygen isotope analyses of its fine-grained matrix plot either in the CO or CM chondrite fields. This particle is interpreted as a CO-like C2 ungrouped chondrite and may represent material from an otherwise unsampled parent body.


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20-EPN2-018: Structure of the radiocarbon calibration curve around Miyake effect in 660 BC, AD 775 and AD 994

20-EPN2-018: Structure of the radiocarbon calibration curve around Miyake effect in 660 BC, AD 775 and AD 994

Visit by Andrzej Rakowski, Silesian University of Technology (Poland) to TA2 Facility 16 – Carbon-14 Dating AMS Laboratory (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 6-26 July 2022

Report Summary: Evidence of a rapid increase in the radiocarbon concentration of the tree rings for the year 775 CE was initially presented by Miyake et al in 2012 (henceforth called M12). Since then, other events similar to the M12 have been confirmed for different periods. This project aims to provide new information about the increase in concentration of radiocarbon in the period of abrupt solar activity. For the study we have chosen the periods in XIth and XIIIth century CE and in VIIth century BCE, in which increase of radiocarbon concentration was noted. The samples have been collected from dendro-chronologically dated trees, and the annual rings has been extracted for measurement.

During the Europlanet TA visit in the Isotoptech Zrt. AMS laboratory, all the samples were prepared to be measured using MICADAS AMS system. Each set of measurement was accompanying with standardsamples (of known radiocarbon concentration) to control the quality of the measurement. To obtain high precision (<2 ‰) the measurement time was extended. The results show occurrence of Miyake events in analyzing periods. For the analyzing period in VIIth century we were able to determinate the occurrence during the year, by dividing the annual ring into three parts early-wood, early-late wood and late wood. During the TA visit we have possibility to learn about the procedures used in the laboratory to prepare samples (of different kinds) for radiocarbon measurement using AMS system. We had a fruitful discussion on possible future cooperation, including joint submission of a research project proposal.

Read full scientific report, with kind permission by Andrzej Zbigniew Rakowski.


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20-EPN2-025: Determining the C-14 ages of offshore groundwater by analysing fluid samples with small quantities

20-EPN2-025: Determining the C-14 ages of offshore groundwater by analysing fluid samples with small quantities

Visit by Nai-Chen Chen, University of Stockholm (Sweden) to TA2 Facility 16 – Carbon-14 Dating AMS Laboratory (Hungary).
Dates of visit: 14-25 March 2022

Report Summary: Submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) has been shown to be an important mechanism in transporting solutes from the terrestrial to the marine environment. Despite being a well-documented process, our knowledge about the timing of offshore groundwater emplacement is extremely scarce. We aim to develop an age-dependent numerical model in our study area to investigate the relationship between SGD and the carbon cycle, whereby the obtained 14C age of the groundwater is used as a constraint. Our goal is to analyze all the carbon pools present in our cores (i.e. TIC, TOC, DIC and CH4) for 14C, so that we can correct for possible interference with the 14C-DIC signal (used for groundwater age). This is a challenge however, as the carbon content for some of these samples is extremely low.

During this two-week visit, we not only learned about the 14C preparation methods and operation of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS), but also discussed and exchanged ideas with Isotoptech AMS C-14 group scientists. Preliminary 14C results indicate that 14C depleted DIC is observed closer to the sediment-water interface for cores with anticipated SGD. This can be explained by the advective upwards transport of older groundwater. The discrepancy between the TIC and TOC 14C content at similar core depths was found to be very large, indicating that these carbon pools are affected by different processes. This mismatch might be a result of the precipitation of authigenic carbonates or microbial activity. 


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20-EPN2-033: An experimental study of bromine partitioning between olivine, orthopyroxene and silicate melt

20-EPN2-033: An experimental study of bromine partitioning between olivine, orthopyroxene and silicate melt

Visit by Bastian Joachim-Mrosko, University of Innsbruck (Austria) to TA2.15 ETH Zurich Geo- and Cosmochemistry Isotope Facility (Switzerland).
Dates of visit: 04-18 February 2022 and 13-21. April 2022

Report Summary: The heavy halogens are excellent tracers for volatile transport processes in the Earth’s mantle. Our understanding of their budget and distribution is, however, very limited due to their extremely low abundances in the most abundant upper mantle minerals and a lack of well-defined partition coefficients that describe their behaviour during partial melting of the Earth’s mantle.

In this project, we analysed the bromine concentration in minerals and melts of samples, which were produced during high-P-T experiments that simulated partial melting of the Earth’s mantle at Mid-Ocean-Ridge-Basalt and Ocean-Island-Basalt source regions. For this, the neutron irradiation technique was applied, which produced 80,82Kr from 79,81Br. This technique results in unmatched detection limits below the ppm-level for the determination of bromine concentrations in nominally anhydrous minerals. During the analysis, regions of interest in the respective samples were ablated with a UV-VIS-Laser at a 10s of micrometer scale. Afterwards, the noble gases were separated and analysed with the “Albatros” mass spectrometer at ETH Zürich. This allowed us to determine bromine concentrations in the melt and in individual olivine and orthopyroxene crystals.First results show that bromine indeed behaves very incompatible with first estimates of bromine partition coefficients between minerals and melt being well below 10-3. In addition, olivine seems to be the main carrier for the heavy halogens in the Earth’s upper mantle.


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