Fast Track Call for Transnational Access Applications Launched
The first “Fast Track” call for applications for the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) Transnational Access (TA) programme opens on 1 October 2021. If you are interested in submitting an application, please consult the call page. You will have until 14:00 CET on 3 November 2021 to submit your application.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the TA facilities and field sites from the Europlanet 2024 RI accumulated a large backlog of TA visits and the next official TA call for applications will thus be delayed to Easter 2022.
In the meantime, “Fast Track” TA calls for applications will be implemented to support “emergency applications” only, such as high impact science, career impact (PhD & post docs contracts) or field work only possible over summer 2022. Applicants will be required to first discuss their implementation plan with the TA host facility before submitting their application.
Please note that while 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.
Report Summary: All isomers of C2H4O2, i.e. glycolaldehyde (HCOCH2OH), acetic acid (CH3COOH) and methyl formate (HCOOCH3), have been observed abundantly around the Galactic center, in dark clouds, and hot cores of the interstellar medium (ISM), as well as in some minor ice objects of the Solar System. However, their exact gas-grain formation and destruction pathway is still under debate. According to El-Abd et al. (2019), the observed column densities of methyl formate and acetic acid are well-correlated, and are likely simply tracking the relative total gas mass in star forming regions. Methyl formate and glycolaldehyde, however, display a stark dichotomy in their relative column densities. The latter findingsuggests that different formation/destruction routes are at play for the three isomers. To date, there is a strong laboratory evidence for an efficient production of glycolaldehyde, methyl formate, and acetic acid in the ISM (Gerakines et al. 1996; Bennett and Kaiser 2007; Modica et al. 2012).
During the TA 20-EPN-016 at the ion accelerator facility Atomki in Debrecen (Hungary), we have performed a systematic set of experiments using the novel ultrahigh vacuum ICA end station to investigate the formation and destruction pathways of C2H4O2 isomers and a variety of other interstellar complex organic molecules. The experimental campaign revealed to be successful as all the planned experiments were performed. Results aided the design of new potential key experiments that will be included in a future follow-up beamtime bid at the facility.
Glacial systems are interesting for studying habitability and limits of life. They are extreme environments where indigenous microorganisms may survive prolonged exposure to sub-zero temperatures and background radiation for geological timescales. Glaciers and the surrounding cryo-environments (permafrost, glacial lakes, or melting streams) arise as relevant scenarios for studying the development of functional microbial cryo-ecosystems and may have implications in the search for past or extant life in icy worlds beyond the Earth. In the Solar System, Europa and Enceladus have been recognized as the icy worlds with highest likelihood to harbor life, largely because liquid water could be in contact with rocks. Both satellites are believed to contain a global ocean of salty water under a rigid icy crust that would provide the scenario for an interaction between briny water and rocks, and the conditions for life to arise.
The permanent Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) represents a possible analog of such icy worlds, constituting an important long-term repository of psychrophilic microorganisms. Around the GrIS, different formations such as glacial lakes, permafrost, or further peat soils represent diverse degree of succession upon the influence of the GrIS and its thermal destabilisation.
We propose investigating molecular and isotopic lipid biomarkers of microorganisms inhabiting different cryo-ecosystems at and around the GrIS to obtain clues of a potential life development on analogous extraterrestrial cold environments (ice sheet), and learning how ecosystems evolves (biological succession) when the ice cover retreats and gets exposed to the atmosphere (glacier-melting streams, bedrock-erosion sediments, lake sediments, glacial soils).
Chondrules are a major component of chondritic meteorites whose time and mechanism of formation are still debated. Inconsistencies in formation ages of chondrules have been found between ages determined by the absolute Pb-Pb chronometer or using the relative 26Al-26Mg chronometer. While the Pb-Pb ages suggest that chondrules formed continuously for about 4 Ma from the time of CAI formation, the 26Al-26Mg data show evidence that chondrules did not form until about 1.8 Ma after CAIs. One possible explanation could be a heterogeneous distribution of 26Al in the solar nebula.
To evaluate this hypothesis, we used secondary ionization mass spectrometry (SIMS) to date chondrules and clasts from unequilibrated ordinary chondrites with the 26Al-26Mg chronometer. Three chondrules from ordinary chondrites show resolvable excesses in 26Mg due to the decay of 26Al and formed around 2 Ma after CAI formation, consistent with previous studies. Analysis of a large igneous inclusion from Paposo 004 supports a formation age within 1 Ma after CAI. The presence of a relict olivine chondrule in this inclusion provides contextual evidence that chondrule formation must have taken place prior to this time.
EPSC2021: European facility prepares for haul of samples returning from planetary bodies
The Institute of Planetary Research at DLR (German Aerospace Center) is starting construction of a new Sample Analysis Laboratory (SAL) dedicated to the study of rock and dust samples from planetary bodies such as asteroids and the Moon. The first phase will be operational by the end of 2022, on time to welcome samples collected by the Hayabusa2 mission, and fully ready by 2023. A status report will be presented today at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021.
The 2020s promise a bounty of new missions returning planetary samples to Earth for analysis. Scientists can learn a huge amount about planetary bodies by sending remote sensing orbiters, and even more by ‘in situ’ exploration with landers and rovers. However, sensitive laboratory instruments on Earth can extract information far beyond the reach of current robotic technology, enabling researchers to determine the chemical, isotopic, mineralogical, structural and physical properties of extra-terrestrial material from just a single, tiny sample.
‘The SAL facility will allow us to study samples from a macroscopic level down to the nanometric scale and help us answer key question about the formation and evolution of planetary bodies,’ said Dr Enrica Bonato from DLR. ‘Sample return provides us with “ground truth” about the visited body, verifying and validating conclusions that can be drawn by remote sensing. SAL will unlock some really exciting science, like looking for traces of water and organic matter, especially in the samples returned from asteroids. These are remnants of “failed” planets, so provide material that gives insights into the early stages of the Solar System and planetary evolution.’
The establishment of SAL has taken three years’ planning and the facility will see its first instruments delivered in summer 2022. The state-of-the art equipment will allow researchers to image the rock samples at very high magnification and resolution, as well as to determine the chemical and mineralogical composition in great detail. The laboratory will be classified as a “super-clean” facility, with a thousand times fewer particles per cubic metre permitted than in a standard clean room. Protective equipment will be worn by everyone entering in order to keep the environment as clean as possible, and SAL will be equipped with glove boxes for handling and preparation of the samples. All samples will be stored under dry nitrogen and transported between the instruments in dry nitrogen filled containers.
Together with other laboratory facilities within the Institute of Planetary Research (including the Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory and Planetary Analogue Simulation Laboratory), the new SAL will be open to the scientific community for “transnational access” visits supported through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure.
The first studies at SAL will relate to two small, carbonaceous asteroids: Ryugu, samples from which were returned by JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission in late 2020, and Bennu, from which NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will deliver samples back to Earth in 2023.
‘Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx are in many ways sister missions, both in the kind of body being visited, and in the close cooperation of scientists and the sponsoring agencies. International collaboration is an important part of the sample return story, and becomes even more key when it comes to analysis,’ said Bonato. ‘We are also looking forward to receiving (and potentially curating) samples from Mars’s moon, Phobos, returned by JAXA’s Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission late in the decade. We also hope to receive samples at SAL from the Moon in the early part of the decade from China’s Chang’E 5 and 6 missions.’
A collaboration with the Natural History Museum and the Helmholtz Center Berlin in Berlin aims to establish an excellence centre for sample analysis in Berlin within the next 5-10 years. In the future, SAL could be expanded into a full curation facility.
‘Returned samples can be preserved for decades and used by future generations to answer questions we haven’t even thought of yet using laboratory instruments that haven’t even been imagined,’ added Jörn Helbert, Department Head of Planetary Laboratories at DLR.
Bonato, E., Schwinger, S., Maturilli, A., and Helbert, J.: A New Facility for the Planetary Science Community at DLR: the Planetary Sample Analysis Laboratory (SAL)., Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-561, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-561, 2021.
Equipment to be installed in SAL:
Field Emission Gun Electron Microprobe Analyser (FEG-EMPA)
Field Emission Gun Scanning Electron Microscope (FEG-SEM) equipped with:
EDX detector for chemical mapping
X-ray Diffraction (XRD):
Measurements of powders
μ-XRD for in situ analysis and mapping
Non-ambient stage for dynamic experiments
Polarized light microscope
Supporting equipment for sample preparation and handling
Europlanet 2024 RI has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.
SAL follows the approach of a distributed European sample analysis and curation facility as discussed in the preliminary recommendations of EuroCares (European Curation of Astromaterials Returned from Exploration of Space) project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 640190.
The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.
Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) 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 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 Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).
DLR is the Federal Republic of Germany’s research centre for aeronautics and space. We conduct research and development activities in the fields of aeronautics, space, energy, transport, security and digitalisation. The German Space Agency at DLR plans and implements the national space programme on behalf of the federal government. Two DLR project management agencies oversee funding programmes and support knowledge transfer.
Climate, mobility and technology are changing globally. DLR uses the expertise of its 55 research institutes and facilities to develop solutions to these challenges. Our 10,000 employees (as of February 2021) share a mission – to explore Earth and space and develop technologies for a sustainable future. In doing so, DLR contributes to strengthening Germany’s position as a prime location for research and industry.
This first Europlanet WorkshopSeries on Satellite for Space Science and Technology in Africa will bring together space tech specialists, scientists and students to discuss current topics in this rapidly developing space field. This workshop format is focusing on content and collaboration, and targets to create an African network in planetary science.
Europlanet WorkshopSeries 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.
Physical participation is open to applicants from Botswana only. Virtual participation is open to all, but there will be a limit on participation and priority will be given to African participants.
The Europlanet WorkshopSeries links travel grants to selected applicants who intend to physically attend the workshop. However, due to Covid-19, the physical presence can only be allowed to applicants from Botswana, and can not be guaranteed due to current Covid-19 regulations.
Not just a travel grant! The Europlanet Workshop Series grants will provide opportunities for leveraging on established research networks to directly contribute to the applicant’s current research and career.
Observational alerts issued for NA2 during Reporting Period 1.
The observational alerts issued through PVOL for NA2 were followed by over 200 active observers. The alerts are also sent through the hstjupiter list on groups.io, which has 64 members including highly active astro-photographers. Each of these alerts has generated new observations by observers., i.e.:
31st March 2020: Storm Activity on Saturn’s North Polar Region. Active follow-up by Trevor Barry (Australia), Clyde Foster (South Africa) and Christopher Go (Philippines).
31st May 2020: Jupiter Storm in the South Temperate Belt. Active follow-up by many observers over June-July.
3rd July 2020: Amateur Support to Venus Research. Active follow-up with tens of images by amateur astronomers: J. Camarena (Spain), M. Kardasis (Greece), L. Morrone (Italy).
18th August 2020: New Storm in the North Tropical Zone-North Temperate Belts Jetstream. This was a major event in Jupiter atmospheric dynamics and attracted large interest from the amateur community. Follow-up observations were obtained by several observers with initial coordination from PVOL later, with analysis by multiple active observers from many different countries, resulting in hundreds of observations uploaded into PVOL.
18th September 2020: Jupiter’s North Temperate Belt Plume and Turbulent Wake Interaction. This was a continuation of the previous alert.
13th October 2020: BepiColombo Flyby of Venus: Request for observations. Active follow-up by amateur astronomers: J. Camarena (Spain), M. Kardasis (Greece), L. Morrone (Italy).
29th July 2020: The possible detection of a volcanic plume at Io by J.-L. Dauvergne (France) could, If proven true, be the first detection of a volcanic plume in Io from ground-based observations although hot volcanic spots are regularly detected with large (8-m) telescopes with Adaptive Optics and volcanic plumes have been observed from space with HST. Three further observations by amateur astronomers following our observational alert on 5th August 2021 may indeed show some signatures of the volcanic plume with lower quality, but further scientific assessment will be needed and performed in September 2021.
Banner image: Jupiter GRS and STB outreach. Credit: Christopher Go.
Report Summary: The principal aim of the project was a dedicated study of generic effects induced in pure astrophysical ice analogs due to their bombardment by cosmic rays with energies E in the vicinity of the maximum of electronic stopping power. It is known that the energy of ejected electrons, which are produced in primary ionization events, has a significant dependence on E in this energy range.
Thus, by selecting pairs of beam energies on both sides of the Bragg peak, such that the corresponding stopping-power values are equal, we were able to probe the effect of electron-impact excitations of ice molecules. We selected CO films as the best irradiation target, for which the biggest variety of radiolysis products was expected and the most detailed predictions of chemical models were available.
We found that the first radiolysis products, detected at the astrophysically relevant values of ion fluence, are very different from predictions of chemical models. At the same time, the reaction kinetics shows no statistically significant difference between ion beams of same stopping power. This rules out the importance of electron-impact excitation in radiolysis chemistry of CO, and suggests that this process may generally be negligible compared to the chemistry driven by CR heating (determined by the stopping power value). On the other hand, by comparing the sputtering yields measured for beams of same stopping power, we discovered a significant asymmetry, with the yield at lower energies being up to a factor of two larger that at higher energies.
Report Summary: The aim of this field campaign was to investigate the dynamics of aeolian mineral dust activity and organic carbon burial in western Greenland. Dust is an important component of the global climate system, and investigating its mobilisation, transport and deposition can reveal important information about regional climate and environmental development during the Holocene. Carbon burial in permafrost is one of the main mechanisms by which carbon is sequestered from the atmosphere, and may be linked to dust activity in high latitudes. The work focused on the area between the Greenland Ice Sheet margin and Kangerlussuaq, which represents a range of environmental conditions depending on distance from the ice sheet. We collected modern analogue samples of terrestrial windblown dust (loess) deposits to test and compare the performance of optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon dating. These samples were taken at a high-resolution from the surface of the deposits and thus represent recent aeolian activity. Furthermore, we targeted aeolian deposits containing palaeosol layers to be able to independently compare radiocarbon and luminescence ages, and to identify climate phases which were favourable for soil formation and carbon burial. In addition to purely aeolian sediments, peat bogs were also sampled.
These highly organic deposits complement the nearly purely minerogenic loess deposits because they effectively capture and preserve fine-grained wind-blown sediments. Further analysis of these samples and the use of different climate and carbon burial proxies will reveal important details of the regional climate history, dust-carbon burial dynamics, and provide insights into ice-proximal wind dynamics.
Report Summary: The Isunguata Sermia and Russell glaciers represent optimal analogues for the study of deformation in glacial environments and their comparison with deformation that affects the icy satellites of Jupiter and Saturn. The aim of UPSIDES project concerns the relation of tectonic structures from the outcrop to the regional scale with multi-scalar investigation which can provide significant support for planetary analysis. The collection of field data has been significant to find scaling laws between tectonic structures in glaciers and in icy satellite surfaces, and the behaviour at depth of their tectonic structures.
The successful fieldwork in the Kangerlussuaq area enabled the identification of tectonic structures in representative areas of the Isunguata Sermia (southern margin) and Russell glaciers (northern margin and terminus). More than 250 data have been collected from 31 field measurement stations including high dip- and low dip-structures, originated by different stress fields caused by the westward flow of both glaciers. We recognized high dip-extensional fractures approximately E-W and NE-SW trending at the Russell glacier. On the other hand, NNW-SSE trending fractures and low-angle faults, such as compressional thrusts/shear planes, have been detected at the Isunguata Sermia. From satellite imagery and aerial photos, we detected consistent structural orientations with the structures identified in outcrop. A similar correlation will be applied to the structures recognised by remote sensing on the icy satellites. Additionally, at the outcrop scale we identified structures acting as preferential way of fluid circulation. We performed measurements also in rock outcrops near the glacier to understand the relationship between bedrock morpho-tectonics and ice drainage that in turn control the measured glacial deformation.
Report Summary: Young, active orogens often retain an intact sedimentary cover that is composed of marine sequences, which can host large volumes of carbonate and sulfuric acid-producing minerals, such as pyrite. Unlike silicate weathering, which is responsible for CO2 drawdown over geologic timescales, sulfuric acid weathering of carbonates has the potential to release CO2 into the atmosphere that was previously trapped in rock. The goals of this study are to calculate the overall carbon budget for the Central Apennines, a young, active orogen, and to understand the mechanisms for the release and drawdown of CO2 in this landscape. Compiling a representative assessment of chemical weathering fluxes requires an understanding of the possible variability between seasons. To this end, the objective of my TA visit to the CRPG in Nancy, France was to process riverine water samples collected in winter of 2021 for δ34SSO4, δ18OSO4, and δ13CDIC. These samples are replicate analyses of samples from summer 2020, and provide a direct comparison of isotopic signatures between the hot and dry summer versus the wet and cool winter. Preliminary results show that δ34S signatures are similar between winter and summer for spring and groundwater samples, whereas river samples are more enriched in summer. Further analysis and results from other isotopic systems will help elucidate the major sources of variability that we observe in the river samples.
Report Summary: We have implanted 290 keV S+ ions in a variety of simple oxide ices, including CO, CO2, H2O, N2O, O2, and CO:N2O at 20 K, as well as CO2 and H2O at 70 K. Our aim was to determine whether such implantations could result in the formation of sulfur-bearing product molecules, particularly SO2 which has been detected at the surfaces of several icy Solar System moons.
The performed experiments suffered from initial setbacks in the form of unexpected and significant sputtering of the astrophysical ice analogues during irradiation. In order to mitigate this sputtering, we made use of two different experimental techinques; (i) via simultaneous deposition and irradiation of the ice analogue in cases where we knew gas phase chemistry to be negligible, and (ii) via creation of a very thick (~3-5 μm) ice and a slow rate of implantation. Once these initial problems were solved, we were able to successfully carry out implantations into the six ices mentioned above.
Our work has indicated that although sulfur-bearing molecules (such as OCS and H2SO4 hydrates) may form as a result of such implantations, SO2 formation was not detected in most experiments, except at high fluence (~1016 ions/cm2) implantations in CO. Such results have important implications for the icy Galilean satellites of Jupiter, suggesting that the SO2 present there may be formed by endogenic processes at the lunar surfaces.
20-EPN-017: LITRASV – Life in TRAvertine-Sinter Veins: a possible key to recognize extra-terrestrial life in tectonically-driven depositional systems.
Visit by Enrico Capezzuoli, University of Florence and Andrea Brogi, University of Bari (Italy) to TA1 – Iceland Field Sites, MATIS Dates of visit: 04-10 July 2021
Report Summary: Detailed study of travertine and sinter depositional systems and related feeder conduits (veins) in cold desertic setting (Lýsuhóll and Hveravellir sites- Iceland), as possible repository of subsurface life to be observed in extra-terrestrial setting. The performed field activity allows reconstruction of the structural control in these sinter/travertine depositional systems, with stratigraphic-sedimentological characterisation of the travertine-sinter lithofacies. 16 travertine/sinter samples were collected from the two sites, together with the basic physical characterization of the thermal springs (T, pH, Cond). Due to the local conditions, all the collected samples derive from fossil/inactive systems (veins and crusts samples). Among these, one sample derives from a sinter vein recognized in the Lýsuhóll site, while all other derive from fossil vents or close surroundings.
Samples returned to Italy for future petrographic and geochemical characterization in order to detect and define possible organic presence in such an extreme environment.
Report Summary: Complex molecules (including amino acids and nucleobases) can be formed in cold space environments conditions (e.g. dense molecular clouds, outer solar system) by e.g. UV irradiation and ion bombardment of ices containing simple molecules. Consequently, the radiation resistance of such complex molecules in order to determine their survival times in space should be investigated. We therefore studied the radiolysis and radio-resistance of the purine nucleobase (Adenine, two aromatic rings) in solid phase as a function of temperature (20-300 K) with H (0.8 MeV) and He (3.2 MeV) beams at ATOMKI. This first systematic study of the influence of the temperature revealed that Adenine is found to be significantly (of the order of 50%) more radio-resistant at high temperatures. At low temperatures T < 50K, Adenine is more radiosensitive (higher cross sections).
The results are preliminary and analysis is ongoing. Furthermore, we found that the destruction cross sections scales with the electronic stopping stopping following a power law with a stronger than linear dependence.
Report Summary: The visit at CRPG aimed at better assessing the origin of dissolved CO2 found in naturally sparkling groundwater springs from the east of Belgium. Previous analysis on δ13C had shown that the carbon could be either from mantellic or sedimentary (dissolved carbonates) origin, but a clear distinction between both could not be made. The goal of the stay at CRPG was then to focus on the analysis on other dissolved gases, in particular He and Ne. The combination of their isotopic signature, together with the isotopic composition of carbon is a powerful tool to highlight degassing from either crustal or mantel origin.
The results were really clear. The majority of the 4He/20Ne ratios stands between 50 and 500, indicating that more than 99% of the helium is not atmospheric and result from a mixture of crustal and mantellic gaz. Moreover, the ratio between CO2/3He (~109) versus δ13C (from -8 to -2 ‰) clearly shows that the dissolved CO2 in theses springs is from mantellic origin.
A few samples from non-carbogazeous springs from the same area were also collected and analysed and present a very different signature, with more negative δ13C values, and lower 4He/20Ne ratios. The measured value could be compared to different samples from the literature, particularly gas samples from the Eifel volcanic fields, at the border with Germany, showing very similar signatures. We can hence conclude with a high confidence level that the gases dissolved in the naturally sparkling spring from eastern Belgium come from the degassing of the Eifel mantellic plume, at a distance of about 100 km.
Report Summary: In this project different bright areas of Haulani crater (e.g. Southern floor, i.e. ROI3 and North-east crater wall, i.e. ROI4) on Ceres have been studied by arranging different analogue mixtures and comparing them with Dawn VIR data. The end-members have been identified based on previous studies (Tosi et al. 2018, 2019) and the analogue mixtures have been produced with grain size 50-100µm for two bright crater regions. The two initial mixtures have been acquired in the VIS-NIR spectral range (0.35-4.5µm) at low temperature, i.e. from 200K to 300K similar to Haulani by using Cold Spectroscopy Facility (CSS) (IPAG, France).
By comparing the spectral parameters (Band Center, Band Depth and FWHM of absorption bands at 2.7, 3.1, 3.4µm, spectral slope in the 1.2-1.9µm range and reflectance level at 2.1µm) with the obtained spectra of mixtures and VIR data, the best candidate to reproduce Haulani’ bright areas is the mixture A3-8. That mixture exhibits values for the 2.7BD (Antigorite, Illite), 3.1BD (NH4-Montmorillonite), 3.4 BD (NaCO3) and the 3.1 µm FWHM very close to Haulani ROI3 and ROI4. In order to better reproduce Haulani areas some improvements may be performed in the next future, e.g., by changing the dark component with a mixture of graphite plus magnetite to better reproduce the spectral slope of Haulani or by adding hydrous natrite in low percentage to the mixture, e.g. 2-8% to assess the role of this component found in Haulani bright areas and how is the contribution to 2.7 µm spectral band.
Report Summary: In the frame of the Europlanet 2024 1st TA call, reflectance VIS-NIR spectra were collected. Ten different temperature steps were chosen to collect cryogenic data: 270-245-220-180-160-140-120-100-90-270 up K.
For the samples characterized by a low temperature phase transitions (mascagnite (NH4)2SO4, sal-ammoniac NH4Cl, ammonium phosphate (NH4)H2PO4, tschermigite (NH4)Al(SO4)2·12(H2O) and ammonium nitrate NH4NO3), 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 break the phase transition T. In particular, mascagnite, sal-amoniac and ammonium phosphate monobasic samples showed clear and very interesting spectral bands variations during cooling, indicating that a phase transition occurred. Spectra were collected with three different grain size (150/125 – 125/80 – 80/32 μm) in the spectral range from 1 to 4.8 μm.
The collected data will help on the interpretation of VIR remote spectra from Europa, Pluto’s moons, Enceladus and other icy celestial bodies surface where NH4 minerals have been supposed to occur. Moreover, the study of ammonium bearing minerals and their behavior at very low temperature might give information on how the phase transition affects the bands position and shapes inside the reflectance spectra. Overtones and combinations of NH4 bands are in the 1-3 μm range, whereas fundamental vibrational modes (ν1 and ν3) are present in the ~3 μm area.
Report Summary: We planned to acquire reflectance spectra of anhydrous carbonates in the infrared range (3.2-4.6 μm), at high spectral sampling/resolution and at different cryogenic temperatures in the range 60-270K.
The analysed materials were calcite, dolomite, siderite, natrite, malachite and magnesite; all the minerals were prepared and measured at fine powders, d<50 μm. These measurements provide new spectral data in the IR that will be useful in the interpretation of remote-sensing spectroscopic observations of Solar System rocky bodies such as Mars, Jovian satellites and minor bodies by current and future missions (Mars 2020, ExoMars-2022, JUICE, Europa Clipper, OSIRIS-REx).
Transnational Access Insight: Digging into the Story of Dust in Greenland
In this guest post, Ramona Schneider of Uppsala University describes her recent trip to Europlanet 2024 RI’s Kangerlussuaq Planetary Field Analogue Site in Greenland to understand the story of wind-blown particles of mineral dust and its role in arctic climate change since the end of the last Ice Age. Video by Petter Hällberg (edited by Luca Nardi) .
Our team of researchers from Uppsala University and Stockholm University visited the Kangerlussuaq Planetary Field Analogue site in Greenland through the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access programme from 19-29 July 2021. Our project was to study deposits of Greenlandic loess – wind-blown dust that accumulates as sediment – in order to understand its role in the arctic climate change.
These sediment deposits are archives of past dust activity and allow us to investigate how dust and climate have developed during the current warm period, the Holocene, which began around 11,650 years ago.
Mineral dust in the atmosphere can have a big impact on climate change yet its role is not very well understood. This is critical to resolve, particularly in the Arctic, where the rate of current climate change is the fastest in recorded history.
Our work focused on the area between the Greenland Ice Sheet margin and Kangerlussuaq in western Greenland, which represents a range of different environmental conditions depending on distance from the ice sheet. We collected samples of loess deposits to test and compare the performance of different dating techniques, which allow us to date the timing of past dust deposition. Analysis of the chemical and physical properties of these sediments also help us to reconstruct climate changes in the past in Greenland.
We also sampled peat bogs – deposits of dead plant material – in order to understand how much dust has accumulated in these environments too.
Our investigations will enable us to attempt to reconstruct how much carbon was buried in these permafrost deposits in the past, and compare this result to the climate and dust records.
In doing so we hope to understand both regional climate history and dust dynamics close to the margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet, but also how dust and climate change may affect rates of carbon burial in permafrost more generally. This carbon burial in turn has an impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and climate change.
All photos from the trip
The Transnational Access visit (20-EPN2-046) was supported by Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastrucutre and received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.
The VESPA activity in the Europlanet 2024 RI programme aims to make Planetary Science and Solar System data accessible and searchable through an interoperable system following the principles of Open Science.
In the combined 2020-21 VESPA Open Call, up to 10 projects will be selected to enlarge the data content accessible via the VESPA interface.
A workshop will be organised with the selected participants to help them design and set up their project, and to open it to the user community. This workshop will be held online (over three half days from 29 November to 1 December 2021, with a follow-up period from 1-9 December), and organised by IRAP/CNRS Toulouse and Jacobs University, Bremen.
The project submission form will be available later in the summer – please check the VESPA call page for updates.
Relevant deadlines and milestones:
Call closes: 7 October 2021
Selection of teams by 20 October 2021
Telecons with selected teams from 22 November 2021
Workshop: We are planning to schedule an initial period of common activities (29 November – 1 December) with support from the organising personel, followed by a finalisation period when specific issues will be handled asynchronously (spanning 1-9 December).
Post-workshop telecon, December 2021
A finalisation review performed with the proposers in December 2021
Service delivery date: the aim is to have the new services published by January 2022
Transnational Access Insight: Investigating Fingerprints of Life on the Greenland Ice Sheet
In this guest post, Laura Sánchez García of the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB, CSIC-INTA) describes her recent trip to Europlanet 2024 RI’s Kangerlussuaq Planetary Field Analogue Site in Greenland to investigate molecular and isotopic fingerprints of life on Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) cryo-ecosystems with astrobiological interest for icy worlds.
Glacial systems are interesting for studying habitability and the limits of life. They are extreme environments where microorganisms may survive prolonged exposure to sub-zero temperatures and background radiation over millions or billions of years. Glaciers and the surrounding icy “cryo” environments (permafrost, glacial lakes, or melting streams) can be used to study the development of microbial cryo-ecosystems and may have implications in the search for past or current life in icy worlds beyond the Earth.
In the Solar System, Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus have been recognised as the icy worlds with highest likelihood to harbour life, largely because liquid water could be in contact with rocks. Both moons are believed to contain a global ocean of salty water under a rigid icy crust that would enable interaction between briny water and rocks, and allow the conditions for life to arise.
The permanent Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is a potential analogue for such icy worlds, constituting an important historical record of microorganisms that can survive in extreme cold environments. Around the GrIS, different formations such as glacial lakes, permafrost, or further peat soils represent diverse stages of evolution of the GrIS and its thermal destabilisation.
We submitted a proposal to the second Transnational Access Call of Europlanet 2024 RI to visit the Kangerlussuaq Planetary Field Analogue Site in Greenland. In April 2021, we received the news that it had been successful, and our team’s visit took place from 19-29 July 2021.
Our project is an investigation of molecular and isotopic lipid biomarkers of microorganisms inhabiting different cryo-ecosystems at and around the GrIS. Through our results, we hope to obtain clues of a potential life development at an analogue site (ice sheet) of icy moons in our Solar System, and learn how ecosystems evolve (biological succession) when the ice cover retreats and gets exposed to the atmosphere (resulting in glacier-melting streams, bedrock-erosion sediments, lake sediments, glacial soils).
We searched for organics to study the molecular and isotopic composition of lipid biomarkers in environmental samples collected from different ecosystems in the Kangerlussuaq region on the west coast of Greenland, including:
The ice sheet cryo-environment,
Nearby glacier-influenced ecosystems in and around glacial lakes
Longer time-exposed and further-developed lake and soil ecosystems.
Ice sheet cryo-environment
For the ice sheet study,we chose an ice sheet region in the Issunguata Sermia glacier system. There, we spotted four sites for sampling ice cores:
One near the glacier front, where ice is relatively older and carries plenty of dark, grey, fine material from the bedrock erosion during the glacier advance.
Two a bit further northeast in the ice sheet, where the ice is relatively younger and looked like slightly cleaner (i.e. whiter).
One further north, in the highest height, where the ice looked cleanest (i.e. whitest).
In the four sites, ice cores were retrieved down to 50-80 cm depth with a manual ice driller and, when the driller didn’t go deep enough, we dug a surface of about 35×35 cm2 with a geologist’s hammer to collect as much ice as possible down to the deepest depth reached by the drill.
Together with the ice drills, we also collected additional samples from:
Melt water from a glacial stream flowing through the ice sheet.
Dark grey sand-sized sediments (with pebbles and small stones) from hill of deposits on the ice sheet coming from the erosion of the bedrock during the glacier advance.
Dark blackish, fine sediments outcropping from an ice wedge, also coming from glacial erosion of the bedrock.
The four ice drills were melted and, together with the melt water sample, were filtrated through 0.7 μm pore-size glass fibre filters, to recover the particulate matter and look for total organic carbon and lipid biomarkers.
2) Nearby glacier-influenced ecosystems in and around glacial lakes
For the study of the glacial lakes study, we chose two different systems:
A glacial lake (GL1) about 200 m apart from an edge of the glacier Issunguata Sermia.
In this lake, we sampled a surface sediment from near the shore, together with sediments from an exposed “terrace” near the shore, where material at ground level represented the oldest and that at top of the terrace the youngest. The terrace was assumed to be composed of sediments accumulated in the past when the lake had a higher water level compared to today.
A multiple-lake system next to an edge of the glacier Issunguata Sermia.
The lake system is composed of four interconnected glacial lakes, where the first lake (GL2; closest to the glacier edge) receives water from the melting glacier and feeds the second lake (GL3), which in turns feeds the third (GL4), and this the fourth (GL5).
Here, we collected water (for chemical analysis) and surface sediments (for lipid biomarkers analysis) from the four lakes, and a 25 cm-deep sediment core only from the fourth lake (i.e. furthest from the glacier edge).
3) Longer time-exposed and further developed lacustrine and soil ecosystem
We aimed to assess the organic-composition differences between glacial and non-glacial lakes, so we also sampled a number of non-glacial lakes fed by meteoric (rain and surface runoff) water:
A small lake (L6): a lake about 1 km long and 0.5 km wide that is about 3 km apart from Issunguata Sermia.
Long Lake (L7): a relatively larger lake about 10 km long and 1.5 km wide that is about 11 km apart from the same glacier.
Salt Lake (SL): a lake about 600 m long and 500 m wide furthest from the glacier, and about 3-4 km apart from Kangerlussuaq.
In the three lakes, we sampled water (for chemistry analysis) and surface sediments near the shore. Then, for the small lake (L6) and Salt Lake (SL), we collected a sediment core of 14 and 34 cm depth, respectively. At the Salt Lake basin, we also collected samples from a terrace in the shore, corresponding to past sediment/peat material piling up at the lake shore.
4) Soil development on glacier retreatment
Finally, we wanted to learn about the soil development upon glacier retreatment, so we collected soil samples from a transect that included:
A young soil (poorly-vegetated so far) from recently exposed ground near the present margin of the Issunguata Sermia glacier.
A relatively older soil (more developed and vegetated) from the basin around the last lake of the four interconnected glacial-lakes system (i.e. GL5).
An even older soil (the most developed) from the Long Lake surroundings.
In order to get a glimpse of the fresh isotopic signatures from the vegetation contributing to the soil lipidic fingerprint, we also collected samples from the most representative vegetal specimens found in the studied area: sphagnum; grass; rounded-leave creeping plant with white flowers; orange, black, and pale-yellow lichens; and submerged and emergent macrophytes (from GL1). Most vegetal samples were collected from the surroundings of glacial lakes GL1 and GL4.
Following our return from Greenland, we are now starting on the analysis of samples and aim to publish our findings in a paper.
All photos from the trip
The BioGreen Transnational Access visit was supported by Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastrucutre and received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.