EPSC2021: Dashcam Detective Work Leads to Recovery of Space Rocks from Fireball over Slovenia

Dashcam Detective Work Leads to Recovery of Space Rocks from Fireball over Slovenia

On 28 February 2020, at 10:30 CET, hundreds of people across Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Hungary observed a bright ball of light hurtling across the morning sky. This delivery of rocks from a distant asteroid to the fields and villages of southern Slovenia was captured by cars’ dashcams, security cameras, and even a cyclist’s helmet. It is one of only around 40 fallen space rocks that has been recovered within weeks and for which the origins in the Solar System have been tracked. Initial results are being presented by Dr Denis Vida, of the University of Western Ontario, at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 virtual meeting.

Observers in southern Slovenia, who were directly under the path, reported loud explosions and a three and half second flash that left a trail of dust visible for several minutes. Analysis shows that some fragments survived aerodynamic pressures above ten million pascals, equivalent to 50 times the pressure of a car tyre, one of the highest measurements recorded for a space rock-dropping fireball.

Before entering the Earth’s atmosphere, the initial stony mass is thought to have been four metric tons and roughly one metre across. Video footage shows the fireball breaking up into 17 smaller pieces. Three fragments amounting to 720 grams have been recovered and taken to laboratories for analysis. The largest fragment seen to fall, with an estimated mass of about ten kilograms, is yet to be found. It likely dropped into a muddy field and may have accidentally been ploughed in before its fall area was known.

Rocks from space provide opportunities to understand the history of our Solar System and are important in studies of how life arose on Earth. However, fall locations often remain unknown or hidden and the space rocks’ scientific messages are then lost. To address this, astronomers deploy networks of fireball cameras to measure the precise paths of fireballs by comparing their positions to stars in the background. This means they can ascertain both the locations where space rocks can be collected, and can trace backward to where in the Solar System they came from. However, these networks are designed to work at night.

“By combining observations from several cameras around 100 kilometres apart, a fireball’s position can be pinpointed to within 50 metres, and it’s usually fairly easy to compute its atmospheric trajectory and pre-atmospheric orbit this way,” said Vida. “The fireball’s path is in a volume of the world’s sky among the most densely observed by specialist night-operating cameras. Its path would have been caught by at least 20 if it happened just a few hours earlier. But because this fireball occurred during the day and was recorded by dash cameras moving up to 70 kilometres per hour, we required a different approach.”

To help create 3D models, local people were asked to take several photographs from known locations of buildings, telephone posts, distant mountains, and other landmarks visible in the dashcam videos. The images enabled triangulation of exact locations accurate to within a few centimetres, akin to surveyors with a theodolite. Photographs were taken on starry nights, so after calibrating against window frames and the other known points, every pixel on the original images could be mapped to a precise direction. Hardest was determining the exact coordinates from the dashcam footage of moving vehicles – for every video frame and to a precision of about one centimetre, which was long tedious work.

Studying the brightness of the fireball across the sky can show how it fragmented. However, stars in the night sky are again used for reference. The daytime observations meant the team once more had to innovate, buying an identical dashcam to one that recorded the fireball and comparing the brightness of the fireball in the video to that known of an artificial analogue.

Analysis of the Novo Mesto space rock, named after the Slovenian city near where the fragments were found, is ongoing. Although of an ‘ordinary chondrite’ type meteorite, it is interesting in being linked to the Solar System region where Near Earth Objects exist, possibly telling us something of larger former neighbours, a small number of which are potentially hazardous to Earth.

EPSC2021-139: Novo Mesto meteorite fall – trajectory, orbit, and fragmentation analysis from optical observations
Denis Vida, Damir Šegon, Marko Šegon, Jure Atanackov, Bojan Ambrožič, Luke McFadden, Ludovic Ferrière, Javor Kac, Gregor Kladnik, Mladen Živčić, Aleksandar Merlak, Ivica Skokić, Lovro Pavletić, Gojko Vinčić, Ivica Ćiković, Zsolt Perkó, Martino Ilari, Mirjana Malarić, and Igor Macuka

https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-139

Video

Composite of video observations of the Slovenia fireball from Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Slovenia.
Credit: Denis Vida and colleagues.
Download

Dashcam image of the fireball observed from Sesvete in Croatia, calibrated using the height of lampposts.
Credit: Denis Vida et al.
Download

Images

Screenshot of the SkyFit software using the heights of houses and lampposts for dashcam calibration. Credit: Denis Vida et al.
Screenshot of the SkyFit software using the heights of houses and lampposts for dashcam calibration. Credit: Denis Vida et al.
The fireball fragmenting, observed from Sesvete in Croatia. Credit: Damir Šegon (Astronomical Society Istra Pula and Višnjan Science and Education Center, Croatia).
The fireball fragmenting, observed from Sesvete in Croatia. Credit: Damir Šegon (Astronomical Society Istra Pula and Višnjan Science and Education Center, Croatia).
A 48-gram piece of the Novo Mesto meteorite. Credit: Bojan Ambrožič (Center of Excellence on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Slovenia and https://bojanambrozic.com/).
A 48-gram piece of the Novo Mesto meteorite. Credit: Bojan Ambrožič (Center of Excellence on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Slovenia and https://bojanambrozic.com/).
Locations from which people reported sightings of the Novo Mesto fireball. Credit: International Meteor Organisation.
Locations from which people reported sightings of the Novo Mesto fireball. Credit: International Meteor Organisation.

https://fireballs.imo.net/members/imo_view/event/2020/1027

The coloured points on the map mark the area calculated to be where fragments of the space rock fell to the ground and could be searched so as to recover it. Credit: Denis Vida et al.
The coloured points on the map mark the area calculated to be where fragments of the space rock fell to the ground and could be searched so as to recover it. Credit: Denis Vida et al, Google Maps.

Further information

International Meteor Organisation’s information on the event: https://fireballs.imo.net/members/imo_view/event/2020/1027

Space rocks recovered from fireballs observed across the globe: www.meteoriteorbits.info

Official recognition, initial description, and classification of the Novo Mesto space rock: https://www.lpi.usra.edu/meteor/metbull.php?code=72430

Publicly available information by strewnify concerning this space rock fall: https://www.strewnify.com/novomesto/

Science contact

Denis Vida
Postdoctoral Research Associate
University of Western Ontario
Canada
+1 226 239 5764
dvida@uwo.ca
@meteordoc

Media contacts

Anita Heward
EPSC Press Officer
+44 7756034243
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Livia Giacomini
EPSC Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Adriana Postiglione
EPSC Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Luca Nardi
EPSC2021 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Amy Riches
EPSC2021 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Thibaut Roger
EPSC2021 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)
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.
Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet
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).

2021 Farinella Prize Awarded to Diana Valencia and Lena Noack

2021 Farinella Prize Awarded to Diana Valencia and Lena Noack

Prof Diana Valencia, a physicist working at the Department of Physical Sciences and of the University of Toronto, and Prof Lena Noack, a planetary scientist working at Department of Earth Sciences at Freie Universität Berlin, have been awarded jointly the 2021 Paolo Farinella Prize for their significant contributions in our understanding of the interior structure and dynamics of terrestrial and super-Earth exoplanets. The award ceremony will take place today during the EPSC2021 virtual meeting and will be followed by 15-minute prize lectures by each of the winners.

The annual prize was established in 2010 to honour the memory of the Italian scientist Paolo Farinella (1953-2000) and, each year, it acknowledges an outstanding researcher not older than 47 years (the age of Farinella when he passed away) who has achieved important results in one of Farinella’s fields of work. Each year the Prize focuses on a different research area and, in 2021, the eleventh edition was devoted to the thriving field of study of exoplanets, i.e. planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.

Prof Valencia’s pioneering work developed the first interior model and the first mass-radius relationship for rocky exoplanets (1-10 Earth masses) and stimulated high pressure-temperature experiments used to study how atoms bind together in the interior of super-Earths. She also began to address the question of the possibility of plate tectonics on super-Earths and triggered a controversial discussion that continues to this day. In addition, she addressed the issue of the composition of this new category of planets, essential for robustly comparing them to the Earth and other Solar System bodies. In particular, her work on the exoplanet GJ 1214 b has strongly motivated atmospheric observations of super-Earths to better determine their compositions.

Prof Noack has studied the long-term evolution of terrestrial planets inside and outside the Solar System, from processes that take place in their interior to those that characterise their surface, like the mechanism of resurfacing (e.g. through plate tectonics) and volcanic activity, to those influencing the build-up and replenishment of their atmosphere. An important contribution of her work shows how the actual bulk composition of a rocky planet can influence its evolution – in the interior as well as at the surface of that planet. Her work represents an important example of a bridge between different disciplines and communities: geoscience, astronomy and astrobiology.

Overall, Prof Valencia’s and Prof Noack’s theoretical work has led to a deeper understanding of the composition and evolution of Earth-like exoplanets. Their work is critical to assess the habitability potential of exoplanets and to determine how ‘Earth-like’ a small exoplanet is.

Prof Valencia received her MS in Physics at University of Toronto and her PhD in planetary science at Harvard University. She is currently an Associate Professor at the Department of Physical Sciences of the University of Toronto.

After studying mathematics, Prof Noack worked at the German Aerospace Center at the Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, Germany. She received her doctoral degree from the University of Münster and currently holds the position of an Associate Professor for geodynamics and mineral physics of planetary processes at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Before receiving the Prize, Prof Valencia commented: ‘I am honoured to receive this prize, as it recognises my contributions to the field of super-Earths. I have seen the field grow from not knowing anyone else studying these planets when I was a PhD student, to a flourishing research field attracting numerous young scientists. It feels particularly special to be recognised in the research field I helped to grow from the beginning.’

Prof Noack said: ‘I am very honoured to receive this prize alongside Diana Valencia. The research field of rocky exoplanets is still a young field, and the topic being selected for this year’s prize in honour of Paolo Farinella is an important recognition.’

About the Paolo Farinella Prize

The Paolo Farinella Prize (https://www.europlanet-society.org/paolo-farinella-prize/) was established to honour the memory and the outstanding figure of Paolo Farinella (1953-2000), an extraordinary scientist and person, in recognition of significant contributions given in the fields of interest of Farinella, which span from planetary sciences to space geodesy, fundamental physics, science popularization, and security in space, weapons control and disarmament. The winner of the prize is selected each year on the basis of his/her overall research results in a chosen field, among candidates with international and interdisciplinary collaborations, not older than 47 years, the age of Farinella when he passed away, at the date of 25 March 2000. The prize was first proposed during the “International Workshop on Paolo Farinella the scientist and the man,” held in Pisa in 2010, supported by the University of Pisa, ISTI/CNR and by IAPS-INAF (Rome).

The first “Paolo Farinella Prize” was awarded in 2011 to William Bottke, for his contribution to the field of “physics and dynamics of small solar system bodies”. In 2012 the Prize went to John Chambers, for his contribution to the field of “formation and early evolution of the solar system”. In 2013, to Patrick Michel, for his work in the field of “collisional processes in the solar system.” In 2014, to David Vokrouhlicky for his contributions to “our understanding of the dynamics and physics of solar system, including how pressure from solar radiation affects the orbits of both asteroids and artificial satellites”, in 2015 to Nicolas Biver for his studies of “the molecular and isotopic composition of cometary volatiles by means of submillimetre and millimetre ground and space observations”, and in 2016 to Kleomenis Tsiganis for “his studies of the applications of celestial mechanics to the dynamics of planetary systems, including the development of the Nice model”. In 2017, to Simone Marchi for his contributions to “understanding the complex problems related to the impact history and physical evolution of the inner Solar System, including the Moon”. In 2018, to Francis Nimmo, for his contributions in our “understanding of the internal structure and evolution of icy bodies in the Solar System and the resulting influence on their surface processes”. In 2019, to Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo, for their outstanding collaborative work for the “observational characterisation of the Kuiper belt and the Neptune-trojan population”. Finally, in 2020, to Jonathan Fortney and Heather Knutson for their significant contribution in our “understanding of the structure, evolution and atmospheric dynamics of giant planets”.

Images

Lena Noack. Credit: L Noack
Lena Noack. Credit: L Noack

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Lena_Noack_Credit_L.Noack_.jpg

Prof Diana Valencia, winner of the 2021 Farinella Prize .Credit: D Valencia
Prof Diana Valencia, winner of the 2021 Farinella Prize .Credit: D.Valencia

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Diana_Valencia.Credit_D.Valencia.jpg

Science Contacts

Prof. Diana Valencia
University of Toronto
Department of Physical Sciences
Department of Astronomy
1265 Military Trail, ON, M1C 1A4, Canada, Canada
T +1 (416) 208 2986
valencia@astro.utoronto.ca
astro.utoronto.ca/~valencia/

Prof. Dr. Lena Noack
Freie Universität Berlin
Department of Earth Sciences
Malteserstr. 74-100
Room D210 – Building D
12249 Berlin
Tel.: +49 (0) 30 838 636 94
E-mail: lena.noack@fu-berlin.de

Media Contacts

EPSC2021 Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

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.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

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).

EPSC2021: Mushballs stash away missing ammonia at Uranus and Neptune

Mushballs stash away missing ammonia at Uranus and Neptune

Mushballs – giant, slushy hailstones made from a mixture of ammonia and water – may be responsible for an atmospheric anomaly at Neptune and Uranus that has been puzzling scientists. A study presented by Tristan Guillot at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 shows that mushballs could be highly effective at carrying ammonia deep into the ice giants’ atmospheres, hiding the gas from detection beneath opaque clouds.

Recently, remote observations at infrared and radio wavelengths have shown that Uranus and Neptune lack ammonia in their atmosphere compared to the other giant planets in our Solar System. This is surprising because they are otherwise very rich in other compounds, such as methane, found in the primordial cloud from which the planets formed. 

Either the planets formed under special conditions, from material that was also poor in ammonia, or some ongoing process must be responsible. Guillot, a researcher at the CNRS, Laboratoire Lagrange in Nice, France, turned to a recent discovery at Jupiter for a possible answer to the puzzle.

“The Juno spacecraft has shown that in Jupiter, ammonia is present in abundance, but generally much deeper than expected – thanks to the formation of mushballs. I show that what we have learned at Jupiter can be applied to provide a plausible solution to this mystery at Uranus and Neptune,” said Guillot.

The Juno observations at Jupiter have shown that ammonia-water hailstones can form rapidly during storms because of ammonia’s ability to liquefy water ice crystals, even at very low temperatures of around -90 degrees Celsius. Models indicate that these mushballs in Jupiter may grow to weights of up to a kilogram or more, slightly higher than the largest hailstones on Earth. As they plunge downwards, they transport ammonia very efficiently to the deep atmosphere, where it ends up locked away beneath the cloud base. 

“Thermodynamic chemistry implies that this process is even more efficient in Uranus and Neptune, and the mushball seed region is extended and occurs at greater depths,” said Guillot. “Thus, ammonia is probably simply hidden in the deep atmospheres of these planets, beyond the reach of present-day instruments.”

To determine exactly how deep down the mushballs are carrying ammonia and water may have to wait until an orbiter with instruments can probe the atmospheres of the ice giants close up.

“To fully understand the processes, we need a dedicated mission to map the deep atmospheric structure and understand mixing in hydrogen atmospheres,” said Guillot. “Neptune and Uranus are a critical link between giant planets, like Jupiter and Saturn, and ice giant exoplanets that we are discovering in the galaxy. We really need to go there!”

Images

Composite image of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter.  Credits: Jupiter from Juno: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran; Saturn from Cassini: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute; Uranus and Neptune from HST: NASA/ESA/A. Simon (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong and A. Hsu (University of California, Berkeley).
Composite image of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter.
Credits: Jupiter from Juno: NASA/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Seán Doran; Saturn from Cassini: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute; Uranus and Neptune from HST: NASA/ESA/A. Simon (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong and A. Hsu (University of California, Berkeley).

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/NeptuneUranusSaturnJupiter.png

Artist’s impression of a mushball descending through a giant planet’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/CNRS
Artist’s impression of a mushball descending through a giant planet’s atmosphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/CNRS

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Mushballs_descent-scaled.jpg

Artist’s impression showing how mushballs form in giant planets’ atmospheres. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/CNRS

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/pia24042-image-3b-1041.jpg

Science Contact

Tristan Guillot
Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur / CNRS
Nice, France
tristan.guillot@oca.eu

Media Contacts

EPSC2021 Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

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.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

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).

EPSC2021: European facility prepares for haul of samples returning from planetary bodies

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.

Further Information

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
    • STEM detector
  • 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

Information on Transnational Access offered by the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) can be found at: https://www.europlanet-society.org/europlanet-2024-ri/transnational-access-ta/

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. 

http://www.euro-cares.eu/

Images

An example of extra-terrestrial material that will be analysed in SAL: the little glass vial is containing about 45 mg of lunar soil (regolith) returned to Earth in 1976 by the robotic soviet mission to the Moon Luna 24. Credit: DLR
An example of extra-terrestrial material that will be analysed in SAL: the little glass vial is containing about 45 mg of lunar soil (regolith) returned to Earth in 1976 by the robotic soviet mission to the Moon Luna 24. Credit: DLR.

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/8K2jO5dC.jpg

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission preparing to touch the surface of asteroid Bennu. Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/thumbnails/image/o-rex_approach.png

Science Contacts

Enrica Bonato
DLR, Berlin, Germany
sal@dlr.de

Jörn Helbert
Department Head of Planetary Laboratories
DLR, Berlin, Germany
Joern.Helbert@dlr.de

Media Contacts

EPSC2021 Press Office
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

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.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

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).

About DLR

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.

Winners announced for the machine vs stellar and instrument noise data challenge

Winners announced for the machine vs stellar and instrument noise data challenge

Artificial intelligence (AI) experts from around the world have been competing for the opportunity to help astronomers to explore planets in our local galactic neighbourhood.

The European Space Agency’s Ariel telescope, which launches in 2029, will study the atmospheres of around 1000 planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.

Observing faint signals to measure the make-up of exoplanet atmospheres is incredibly challenging and is made even more so by other signals the instrument may pick up. The effect of star activity, like sun spots, and even the noise of the spacecraft itself can obscure the information scientists receive from Ariel. 

The Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge, sponsored by Spaceflux Ltd, was set to harness the expertise of the artificial intelligence community to help disentangle this unwanted noise from the light filtering through exoplanet atmospheres. Over 110 teams from around the world participated with 35 teams submitting viable solutions. The teams represented a mix of academia and AI companies.

The competition winners, ML Analytics, an artificial intelligence company in Portugal, and a team from TU Dortmund University in Germany were able to achieve highly accurate solutions for even the most difficult to observe planets.

Luís F. Simões from ML Analytics said: ‘To advance our knowledge of exoplanets, we will first need to advance our knowledge of Artificial Intelligence. The Ariel mission will need predictive models that can extract information with extremely high accuracy from noisy sensor data. Building such models is akin to engineering at very small scales: at some point quantum effects start to manifest themselves, and conventional wisdom no longer applies. The Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge provided the ideal setting in which to design the modelling approaches that can lead to such error-free models. It is an honour for me and ML Analytics to be able to play a part in this process of discovery,that will tell us so much about the universe and our place in it.’

Mirko Bunse from TU Dortmund University said: ‘To disentangle the atmospheric properties of exoplanets from the massive amounts of noise is only possible through machine learning models that are trained by sophisticated simulations. Since the first edition of this challenge in 2019, we have seen significant improvements in the Ariel simulations, which also lead to better machine learning-based analyses of the telescope data. We expect further improvements to stem from expert input: are all training examples equally important? Should the machine learning model obey certain boundary conditions? We are excited to take part in these developments and to see the solutions of the other 5 top-ranked teams.’

The winning teams will receive a cash prize of €500 and will be recognised at the Europlanet Science Congress 2021 in an award ceremony on Friday 24 September. The teams will present their research at the European Conference on Machine Learning and Principles and Practice of Knowledge Discovery in Databases (ECML PKDD) on Wednesday 15 September and will also present at the Ariel Conference in November. Their solutions will help the mission team correct for brightness variabilities from stars and sensitivity variations of the instrument enabling them to measure the radius of the planet correctly and discern the chemistry of their atmospheres.  

Dr Ingo Waldmann, Associate Professor in Astrophysics, University College London and Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge lead said: ‘Artificial Intelligence will play an increasingly important role in exoplanet research. Many of the cutting-edge AI solutions can be applied to the very difficult data sets the exoplanet field has to offer. Data challenges such as this one not only provide tangible new solutions to long standing problems, they also help to bridge the gap between both the exoplanet and AI communities. I believe that a closer collaboration between exoplanet and AI research will not only benefit Ariel science but astronomy in general.’

The top three runners up, DeepBlueAI, an AI company based in Shanghai, a team from the Aalen University in Germany, an AI researcher at the University of Tubingen in Germany, will each receive €200 and will present a shorter talk at the ECML workshop.

This was the second Ariel Machine Learning Data challenge. With each competition the Ariel science team is able to work towards a programme which will enable them to get the best quality data from Ariel. By looking at their atmospheres we can understand how these planets formed, what they’re like and ultimately, put the eight planets in our own solar system into context. 

Images

Ariel will be placed in orbit around the Lagrange Point 2 (L2), a gravitational balance point 1.5 million kilometres beyond the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/Europlanet-Science Office 

https://arielspacemission.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/ariel_lagrange_points_high_res1.jpg

Artist’s impression of Ariel. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/UK Space Agency/ ATG Medialab 

Artist’s impression of Ariel. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/UK Space Agency/ ATG Medialab
Artist’s impression of Ariel. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/UK Space Agency/ ATG Medialab

https://arielspacemission.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/ariel-telescope.jpg

A hot planet transits in front of its parent star in this artist impression of an exoplanet system. ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/03/Hot_exoplanet

Videos: 

Note: Please get in touch with press contact for mp4 files. 

Ariel animations: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7nlYuIpjicaxp36LxZwkXOH72Otf-rgY  

Welcome to Ariel: https://youtu.be/28afJ_5TTGc

Contacts: 

Madeleine Russell
Ariel Consortium Communications Lead and RAL Space Communications Manager
Mob: +44 (0) 7594083386
Email: madeleine.russell@stfc.ac.uk

Notes to editors: 

Ariel (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey) 

Ariel, a mission to answer fundamental questions about how planetary systems form and evolve, is a European Space Agency (ESA) medium-class science mission due for launch in 2029. During a 4-year mission, Ariel will observe 1000 planets orbiting distant stars in visible and infrared wavelengths to study how they formed and how they evolve. It is the first mission dedicated to measuring the chemistry and thermal structures exoplanet atmospheres, enabling planetary science far beyond the boundaries of the Solar System. 

The Ariel mission has been developed by a consortium of more than 50 institutes from 16 ESA member state countries, including the UK, France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Estonia – plus USA contribution from NASA. 

Twitter: @ArielTelescope | YouTube: Ariel Space Mission | arielmission.space

Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge

https://www.ariel-datachallenge.space/

Ariel consortium 

The Ariel mission payload is developed by a consortium of more than 50 institutes from 17 ESA countries – which include the UK, France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Estonia – plus a NASA contribution. 

UCL – London’s Global University 

UCL is a diverse community with the freedom to challenge and think differently. 

Our community of more than 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems. 

We are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world and are one of only a handful of institutions rated as having the strongest academic reputation and the broadest research impact.

We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research – championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors. 

For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge. 

We were the first in England to welcome women to university education and that courageous attitude and disruptive spirit is still alive today. We are UCL. 

www.ucl.ac.uk| Follow @uclnews on Twitter | Watch our YouTube channel | Listen to UCL podcasts on SoundCloud | Find out what’s on at UCL Minds | #MadeAtUCL

EPSC2021

The Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge will be presented on Friday 24 September 2021 during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 during the prize lectures session from 14:20-14:50 CEST. For details see: https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EPSC2021/session/41825

EPSC2021 is taking place as a virtual meeting from 13-24 September 2021. The EPSC2021 programme covers the full spectrum of planetary science and technology across 43 sessions. More than 840 oral and poster presentations have been submitted by planetary scientists from Europe, the US and around the world. The EPSC2021 virtual meeting has a hybrid format of asynchronous presentations and discussion alongside a programme of live events, which runs from Thursday 16 – Friday 24 September.

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society and is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

Media Invitation to the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 Virtual Meeting

Media Invitation to the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 Virtual Meeting, 13 – 24 September 2021

The 2021 Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) will take place as a virtual meeting from 13-24 September 2021. The EPSC2021 programme covers the full spectrum of planetary science and technology across 43 sessions. More than 840 oral and poster presentations have been submitted by planetary scientists from Europe, the US and around the world.

The EPSC2021 virtual meeting has a hybrid format of asynchronous presentations and discussion alongside a programme of live events. Scientific oral presentations are submitted as pre-recorded 10-minute videos. Poster presentations are optimised for viewing on screen. The live programme, which will run from Thursday 16 – Friday 24 September, includes daily briefings, live discussions for each scientific session, keynote lectures, prize lectures, community events, short courses and splinter meetings.

An overview of the full live programme is online here: 

https://www.epsc2021.eu/programme/online_programme_overview/overview_week_1.html

https://www.epsc2021.eu/programme/online_programme_overview/overview_week_2.html

The meeting hashtag is #EPSC2021

Details of the scientific sessions and the presentation abstracts can be found at the official website: https://www.epsc2021.eu/

Press notices on presentations of interest to the media will be issued by the EPSC2021 Press Office during the meeting.

MEDIA REGISTRATION

Media representatives are cordially invited to attend the EPSC2021 meeting. Media registration is free. Any bona fide media delegates can register by e-mailing epsc-press@europlanet-society.org.

CONTACTS

Anita Heward
EPSC2021 Press Officer
+44 7756 034243
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Livia Giacomini
EPSC2021 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Adriana Postiglione
EPSC2021 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

FURTHER INFORMATION 

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

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.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology, a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

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 Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC).

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia

Oldest fossils of methane-cycling microbes expand frontiers of habitability on early Earth

Oldest fossils of methane-cycling microbes expand frontiers of habitability on early Earth 

EUROPLANET/UNIVERSITY OF BOLOGNA PRESS RELEASE

A team of international researchers, led by the University of Bologna, has discovered the fossilised remains of methane-cycling microbes that lived in a hydrothermal system beneath the sea floor 3.42 billion years ago. 

The microfossils are the oldest evidence for this type of life and expand the frontiers of potentially habitable environments on the early Earth, as well as other planets such as Mars. 

The study, published today in the journal Science Advances, analysed microfossil specimens in two thin layers within a rock collected from the Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa. This region, near the border with Eswatini and Mozambique, contains some of the oldest and best-preserved sedimentary rocks found on our planet. 

The microfossils have a carbon-rich outer sheath and a chemically and structurally distinct core, consistent with a cell wall or membrane around intracellular or cytoplasmic matter.

Prof Barbara Cavalazzi, the lead author of the study, said: “We found exceptionally well-preserved evidence of fossilised microbes that appear to have flourished along the walls of cavities created by warm water from hydrothermal systems a few meters below the sea floor. Sub-surface habitats, heated by volcanic activity, are likely to have hosted some of Earth’s earliest microbial ecosystems and this is the oldest example that we have found to date.”

The interaction of cooler sea-water with warmer subsurface hydrothermal fluids would have created a rich chemical soup, with variations in conditions leading to multiple potential micro-habitats. The clusters of filaments were found at the tips of pointed hollows in the walls of the cavity, whereas the individual filaments were spread across the cavity floor.

Chemical analysis shows that the filaments include most of the major elements needed for life. The concentrations of nickel in organic compounds provide further evidence of primordial metabolisms and are consistent with nickel-content found in modern microbes, known as Archaea prokaryotes, that live in the absence of oxygen and use methane for their metabolism.

“Although we know that Archaea prokaryotes can be fossilised, we have extremely limited direct examples. Our findings could extend the record of Archaea fossils for the first time into the era when life first emerged on Earth,” said Prof Cavalazzi. 

She added: “As we also find similar environments on Mars, the study also has implications for astrobiology and the chances of finding life beyond Earth.”

‘‘Cellular remains in a ~3.42 billion-year-old subseafloor hydrothermal environment’, B. Cavalazzi (Università di Bologna, Italy/ University of Johannesburg, South Africa), L. Lemelle (LGL-TPE, ENS de Lyon, Université de Lyon, CNRS, France), A. Simionovici (ISTerre, University of Grenoble-Alpes, CNRS, France), S.L. Cady (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA), M.J. Russell (Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy), E. Bailo (WITec GmbH, Germany), R. Canteri (Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Italy), E. Enrico (Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica, Italy), A. Manceau (ISTerre, University of Grenoble-Alpes, CNRS, France), A. Maris (Università di Bologna, Italy), M. Salomé (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, France), E. Thomassot (Université  de Lorraine, CNRS, CRPG, France), N. Bouden (Université  de Lorraine, CNRS, CRPG, France), R. Tucoulou (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, France), A. Hofmann (University of Johannesburg, South Africa), Science Advances, 2021. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/29/eabf3963.

The research was carried out with the support of Europlanet 2024 RI, which received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme (Grant No 871149).

Images

1) Image of the locality of the study area in the Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa. Credit: A. Hofmann.
1) Image of the locality of the study area in the Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa. Credit: A. Hofmann.

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Barberton-Greenstone-Belt-South-Africa-Credit-A-Hofmann-scaled.jpg

2) Image of the outcrop from which the rock sample was taken in the Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa. Credit: Cavalazzi et al.
2) Image of the outcrop from which the rock sample was taken in the Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa. Credit: Cavalazzi et al.

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Outcrop-in-the-Barberton-Greenstone-Belt-South-Africa-Credit-Cavalazzi-et-al.tif

3) Optical microscope image of the filamentous microfossils. Credit: B. Cavalazzi.
3) Optical microscope image of the filamentous microfossils. Credit: B. Cavalazzi.

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Microfossil-filaments-Credit-B-Cavalazzi.tif

4) Raman spectra image of filamentous microfossils in boxed area in Image 3. The turquoise and blue show the carbonaceous matter associated with the filaments. Credit: Cavalazzi et al.

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Raman-spectra-image-filamentous-microfossils-Credit-B-Cavalazzi-et-al.tif

Science Contact

Barbara Cavalazzi
University of Bologna
barbara.cavalazzi@unibo.it

Media Contacts

Matteo Benni
Ufficio Stampa
Università di Bologna
+39 051 20 99327
+39 338 7866108
matteo.benni@unibo.it

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

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

About University of Bologna

The University of Bologna has very ancient origins: founded in 1088 it is considered the first University of the Western World. It counts over 87,000 students, 232 degree programs, 84 of which are international, distributed over 5 Campus: Bologna, Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna and Rimini.

It has 32 Departments, 48 PhD courses, 53 Postgraduate Schools, 86 first and second level Masters and an average of 11,000 research products per year. The University of Bologna is among the first universities in Europe for the number of students participating in exchange programs, both outgoing and incoming.

‘Life Beyond Us’ unites scientists and science fiction authors

Life Beyond Us unites scientists and science fiction authors

Life Beyond Us, a new anthology by the European Astrobiology Institute and Laksa Media, depicts the timeless quest for finding alien life in 22 science fiction stories and 22 short science essays and has just started its Kickstarter campaign. Its goal is to publish brilliant science fiction by authors such as Mary Robinette Kowal or Peter Watts and support science understanding and critical thinking.

Science fiction has always been inspired by science and inspired scientists in turn. Its power of imagination and use of narrative, as well as its popularity, make the genre especially suited for raising interest in science. Life Beyond Us aims to achieve this with a unique approach of merging together original science fiction stories revolving around astrobiology, written by world SF authors, and engaging essays by scientists tailored to each story’s topic, answering some burning questions and leaving some open for science yet to discover and science fiction to explore. The story-essay combination blends entertainment and scientific knowledge to arouse curiosity and a deeper interest in science, carrying the reader to the boundary between science and science fiction. Effective science communication and critical thinking support are more than essential in today’s world, and projects such as Life Beyond Us seek to fulfill these complex goals and entertain at the same time.

The book is edited by editor, author and scientist Julie Nováková, who co-leads the outreach working group of the European Astrobiology Institute (EAI), and the book’s publisher Laksa Media editors Lucas K. Law and Susan Forest, who produced award-winning anthologies such as Where The Stars Rise and The Sum of Us. A stellar line-up of authors are contributing stories to Life Beyond Us: Mary Robinette Kowal, Peter Watts, Gregory Benford, Tobias S. Buckell, Premee Mohamed, Julie E. Czerneda, Stephen Baxter, Malka Older, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Geoffrey A. Landis, Bogi Takács, Simone Heller, Rich Larson, Eugen Bacon, Eric Choi, DA Xiaolin Spires, Arula Ratnakar, Tessa Fisher, Valentin Ivanov, Tomáš Petrásek, G. David Nordley and Lucie Lukačovičová.

Kickstarter campaign for the book has just started, offering backers the book in both print and e-book formats and exclusive editions, videochat sessions with authors, editors and scientists, virtual tours of labs and observatories, story critiques, naming a character after the backer and other rewards. Stretch goals to include SF stories in translation and open submissions are planned.

Life Beyond Us is the second astrobiological SF anthology by EAI, following Strangest of All, the “proof-of-concept” e-book anthology of reprint SF stories and original essays by Julie Nováková. With over 6,000 downloads, positive reception and use as a science teaching material, the book showed the merit of such outreach approach. EAI was founded in 2019 with the aims to support research in astrobiology across Europe and beyond, and promote education and outreach by organizing summer schools, supporting the AbGradE forum for students and creating unique outreach projects such as Life Beyond Us. With NASA’s Perseverance on Mars, ESA’s Rosalind Franklin planned to launch soon and other missions to shed light on life in the universe on the way, astrobiology is a booming scientific field bound to create general interest, and SF is a perfect tool to bring it closer and let people feel the curiosity and joy of discovery at the core of science and SF.

Links:

Kickstarter campaign for Life Beyond Us 

EAI website

Laksa Media website

Available for further information and interviews:

Julie Nováková (anthologist, scientist): julie.novakova@gmail.com

Lucas K. Law (anthologist, publisher): lucas.law@laksamedia.comWolf Geppert (EAI Chairman, scientist): wgeppert@fysik.su.se

Press Release: A Pocket Guide to Mars

Press Release: A Pocket Guide to Mars

A pocket atlas of Mars has been published that uses geographic techniques developed for terrestrial maps to reveal a wealth of information about the surface of the Red Planet, as well as its climate and cloud cover. The atlas is being presented this week at the 52nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

The 84-page atlas is currently available in English, Hungarian and Czech, and will be available in a digital format later this year. The atlas, which has been developed for use in astronomy clubs and schools, was funded by the Europlanet Society through its Central European Hub.

The main part of the atlas consists of a series of double spreads showing each of the 30 cartographic quadrangles into which the surface of Mars has been divided by the US Geological Survey. The landforms created by lava, wind, water, and ice are shown separately on a topographic base map, highlighting features such as dune fields, mountain peaks, volcanic calderas, caves, ancient dried-up lakes and deltas, and fault lines.

For the first time in a published Mars atlas, climate maps are included, which show 13 climatic zones with boundaries defined by combining seasonal temperature and frost data. A series of climate diagrams show the variation in temperature through the martian year for each of the zones. In addition, a weather map shows the temperature at ground level across the western hemisphere of Mars at the two annual solstices. 

The atlas also includes an albedo map, derived from data from Mars Express and Mars Global Surveyor, which shows the amount of sunlight reflected from the surface, the frequently cloudy regions and the maximum area covered by the seasonal caps of frozen carbon dioxide and water ice at the martian poles. 

The map editor, Henrik Hargitai of the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest and former chair of the Commission on Planetary Cartography of the International Cartographic Association, said: “The maps in the atlas are manually edited, using accurate data from missions and models. Thematic maps that reveal patterns in physical geography have been used for decades for in terrestrial atlases, but this is the first time that they are available in an atlas for Mars. The publication of this edition is a culmination of mapping efforts over the last two decades. The atlas also includes a one-page calendar for Mars year 36, covering the period from February 2021 to December 2022, which explains the milestones in the seasonal changes on Mars.”

Future plans for the atlas include the addition of themed maps that show regions of interest in detail, and atlas-based activities for educators. As well as being a tool for outreach and education, this type of multi-themed map could be valuable for the scientific community in interpreting the geologic evolution of Mars, estimating whether an area might ever have hosted life, or identifying in-situ resources to support future human exploration missions.

Images

Albedo Map from the Pocket Atlas of Mars 36.
Albedo Map from the Pocket Atlas of Mars 36. Credit: NASA/JPL/ASU/ESA/H. Hargitai.
Double spread of Tharsis region of Mars (Mars Chart 09) from the Pocket Atlas of Mars 36. Credit: NASA/JPL/GSFC/ESA/DLR/FU/H. Hargitai
Double spread of thematic map of Tharsis region of Mars (Mars Chart 09) from the Pocket Atlas of Mars 36. The scale of the map is 1cm=107 km. Credit: NASA/JPL/GSFC/ESA/DLR/FU/H. Hargitai.
Double spread of thematic map of Iapygia region of Mars (Mars Chart 21) from the Pocket Atlas of Mars 36. The scale of the map is 1cm=106 km. Credit: NASA/JPL/GSFC/ESA/DLR/FU/H. Hargitai.
Weather map of western hemisphere of Mars from the Pocket Atlas of Mars 36. Credit: Forget et al/Mars Climate Database 5.3 LMD/OU/IAA/ESA/CNES/NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems/H. Hargitai.

Further Information

Henrik Hargitai will present the atlas in a live session at LPSC 2021 on 17 March 2021 at 18:00 CET.

The Pocket Atlas of Mars: A Public Outreach Project, H I Hargitai, LPSC 2021.
Iposter: https://lpsc2021.ipostersessions.com/?s=44-38-3F-AD-C3-BA-23-34-9F-D5-5E-2A-F5-C7-ED-9D
Abstract: https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2021/pdf/2109.pdf

The atlas is available at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/955444239/mars-36-pocket-atlas

Media Contact

Anita Heward
Press Officer
Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure
+44 7756034243aheward@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

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

Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network launches mobility scheme for planetary researchers

Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network launches mobility scheme for planetary researchers

The Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network has been awarded a grant of 1.4 million Euros by the European Commission through the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) under the Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme. 

The project is led by Dr. Fulvio Franchi, a geologist and planetary scientist at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), who is also the lead for Europlanet 2024 RI’s Transnational Access facility at the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.

The Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network aims to create a continent-wide mobility scheme for students, academic and support staff with an interest in planetary and space science disciplines.

A team of experts from BIUST will lead a consortium consisting of Higher Education Institutes from Ethiopia (Addis Ababa University), Nigeria (University of Nigeria Nsukka), South Africa (University of the Witwatersrand), Zambia (Copperbelt University), and a technical partner from Italy (University of Bologna).

The consortium includes relevant planetary and space science stakeholders in the partnering countries such as the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), the Ethiopian Space Science and Technology Institute (ESSTI), the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) Zambia, and the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) Nigeria. 

The over-arching objective of the Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network is to support the education of young scientists and prepare them for leading roles in the science and technology market that is expected to develop across Africa over the next decade — from large projects such as the Square Kilometer Array, to positions in universities as lecturers or technical staff . 

The project lead, Dr. Franchi explains: “This mobility project wishes to develop the next generation of African scientists, leaders, and entrepreneurs by improving their access to high quality STEM education, with particular emphasis on planetary and space science”. 

The Pan-Africa Planetary and Space Science Network consortium will act as an incubator for new collaborations among African institutions. It will also create, for the first time in Africa, an integrated higher education programme for Planetary and Space Sciences at Master of Science (MSc) and Doctoral (PhD) level. 

The importance of planetary and space science in the development of the continent has been also recognised by the African Union (AU), which has recently adopted the “African Space Policy and Strategy”. This marked the inaugural concrete step to realise an African Space Programme, urging Member States, Regional Economic Communities and Partners to raise awareness on the central role of space science and technology for Africa’s socio-economic development. 

Many African countries have identified planetary and space science as a stepping stone for the modernisation of their economy and for practical uses, monitoring of land-use cover change, climate change, drought, hydrology, and natural disasters. 

The introduction of planetary and space science in the African tertiary education system will boost modernisation of the programmes, introduction new scientific problems and cutting-edge technologies designed for space and planetary exploration within African Higher Education Institutes and Industries. Planetary and Space Science will excite the imagination of the public and stimulate the interest of the youth in STEM locally, regionally at a global level. 

The European Space Agency formally adopts Ariel, the exoplanet explorer

The European Space Agency formally adopts Ariel, the exoplanet explorer

The European Space Agency (ESA) has formally adopted Ariel, the first mission dedicated to study the nature, formation and evolution of exoplanets.

  • Ariel has passed major feasibility reviews and has been formally adopted into the program of future missions for implementation
  • It will survey about 1000 planets outside our solar system during its lifetime
  • Ariel will unveil the nature, formation and evolution of a large and assorted sample of planets around different types of stars in our galaxy

More than 50 institutes from 17 countries have been working over the past 5 years to develop the science goals and design the instrumentation which will enable Ariel to survey a diverse sample of around 1000 planets outside our own solar system. 

The mission has passed a rigorous set of reviews which it has been undergoing throughout 2020 to prove the technical feasibility and science case and has now received approval from ESA’s member states, confirming that the team can work towards a launch in 2029. 

Professor Giovanna Tinetti, Principal Investigator for Ariel from University College London said, “We are the first generation capable of studying planets around other stars. Ariel will seize this unique opportunity and reveal the nature and history of hundreds of diverse worlds in our galaxy. We can now embark on the next stage of our work to make this mission a reality.”

Ariel will be the first mission dedicated to measuring the chemical composition and atmospheric thermal properties of hundreds of transiting exoplanets. Ariel will give us a picture of a diverse range of exoplanets: from extremely hot to temperate, from gaseous to rocky planets orbiting close to their parent stars. 

By looking specifically at hot planets, scientists are expecting to build an understanding of the formation of planets and their evolution. At hotter temperature, which in some cases it can be more than 2000’C, a greater number of exotic molecules will be visible to Ariel. The instruments will then be able to determine what the atmospheres are made up of and provide scientists a unique insight into the planet’s internal composition and the formation history of the planetary system

The Ariel team is taking a very open approach providing rapid access to data and even encouraging enthusiasts to help select targets and characterise stars. Much of the data will be available to both the science community and general public immediately. 

“Ariel will enable planetary science far beyond the boundaries of our own Solar System,” says Günther Hasinger, ESA’s Director of Science. “The adoption of Ariel cements ESA’s commitment to exoplanet research and will ensure European astronomers are at the forefront of this revolutionary field for the next decade and well beyond.”

Ariel will have a meter-class telescope primary mirror to collect visible and infrared light from distant star systems. An infrared spectrometer will spread the light into a ‘rainbow’ and extract the chemical fingerprints of gases in the planets’ atmospheres, which become embedded in starlight when a planet passes in front or behind the star. A photometer, a spectrometer and guidance system will capture information on the presence on clouds in the atmospheres of the exoplanets and will allow the spacecraft to point to the target star with high stability and precision.

The Ariel Consortium Project Manager, Paul Eccleston, of STFC RAL Space, said “This represents the culmination of lots of preparatory work by our teams across the world over the last 5 years in order to demonstrate the feasibility and readiness of the payload. We now go full speed ahead to fully develop the design and start building prototypes of the instrumentation on the spacecraft.”

The Ariel mission consortium teams from across Europe will now move on to build and prototype their designs for the payload of Ariel and plan for receiving and processing the data. The industrial contractor for the spacecraft bus, which will support the payload coming from the nationally funded consortium teams, will be selected in the summer 2021. 

Images: 

Ariel will be placed in orbit around the Lagrange Point 2 (L2), a gravitational balance point 1.5 million kilometres beyond the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/Europlanet-Science Office

Link to high-resolution file: https://arielspacemission.files.wordpress.com/2017/11/ariel_lagrange_points_high_res1.jpg


Artist’s impression of Ariel. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/UK Space Agency/ ATG Medialab
Artist’s impression of Ariel. Image Credit: ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/UK Space Agency/ ATG Medialab

Link to high-resolution file: https://arielspacemission.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/ariel-telescope.jpg


A hot planet transits in front of its parent star in this artist impression of an exoplanet system. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Link to high-resolution file: https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2018/03/Hot_exoplanet

Videos:
Note: Please get in touch with press contact for mp4 files.
Ariel animations: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMLTUdXBPNS_pDJcGNZoLYw
Welcome to Ariel: https://youtu.be/28afJ_5TTGc

Contacts:
Madeleine Russell
Ariel Consortium Communications Lead and RAL Space Communications Manager
Mob: +44 (0) 7594083386
Email: madeleine.russell@stfc.ac.uk

Notes to editors:
Ariel (Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey) Facts and Figures

  • Elliptical primary mirror: 1.1 x 0.7 metres
  • Instrumentation: 3 photometric channels and 3 spectrometers covering continuously from 0.5 to 7.8 microns in wavelength
  • Mission lifetime: at least 4 years in orbit
  • Launch date: 2029
  • Payload mass: ~500 kg
  • Launch mass: ~1500kg
  • Destination: Sun – Earth Lagrange Point 2 (L2)
  • ESA Mission Cost: ~550 million Euros, plus nationally funded contribution of the payload
  • Launch vehicle: Ariane 6-2 from French Guiana shared with Comet Interceptor

http://ariel-spacemission.eu
Twitter: @ArielTelescope

Ariel consortium
The Ariel mission payload is developed by a consortium of more than 50 institutes from 17 ESA countries – which include the UK, France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Estonia – plus a NASA contribution.

UCL MAPS
www.ucl.ac.uk/mathematical-physical-sciences

STFC RAL Space
RAL Space is an integral part of the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) and is the space hub for UK Research and Innovation. RAL Space carries out world-class space research and technology development with involvement in over 210 instruments on board space missions.
www.ralspace.stfc.ac.uk
Twitter: @RAL_Space_STFC

Press Release: EXPLORE project launched to develop AI & interactive visualisation applications in astrophysics and planetary science

EXPLORE project launched to develop AI and interactive visualisation applications in astrophysics and planetary science

An international consortium has been awarded 2 million Euros by the European Commission to develop novel applications that use artificial intelligence (AI) and visual analytics to exploit the vast datasets generated by astrophysics and planetary missions. Over three years, the EXPLORE project will develop these tools on a new virtual platform to create services and enhanced scientific datasets focused on galactic and stellar research, linked to the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, as well as lunar exploration. The tools will be made available to the community through different cloud science platforms using open source licenses to stimulate uptake and ensure sustainability.

The EXPLORE Consortium is led by the French company, ACRI-ST, and includes eight partners from six countries. The interdisciplinary project brings together astrophysicists, planetary scientists, computer scientists, IT engineers & software developers.

At today’s kick-off meeting, Dr Nick Cox, the EXPLORE Project Coordinator, said: “The sheer volume and increase in complexity of data from space science missions, as well as the need to combine multiple data sets, requires an increase in both data management and processing capabilities. AI-based solutions and interactive visualisation techniques for big data are not just useful tools to explore the Universe but are becoming a necessity.”

EXPLORE will develop six scientific data applications to test methodologies and tools for space data exploitation on a collaborative cloud environment, the EXPLORE Thematic Exploitation Platform (EXPLORE-TEP).

Rather than focus on one main scientific topic, EXPLORE aims to foster synergies between different areas of space science. Four of the applications will leverage data primarily from Gaia, supplemented with data from other surveys, developing tools to help understand the evolution of our galaxy, the 3D distribution of interstellar matter, as well as to support the discovery, classification and characterisation of stars. The remaining two applications will integrate data from a range of international lunar missions to focus on characterisation of the Moon’s surface and potential human landing sites. A key objective will be to facilitate integration and visualisation of multiple datasets.

Prof Dovi Poznanski of Tel Aviv University, who leads EXPLORE’s AI methodology development, said: “By putting together different experiences and backgrounds we introduce diversity and interdisciplinarity in the analysis of space science data. Today’s big datasets in imagery, spectroscopy and 3D mapping require sophisticated tools. However, there are common basic principles among the different fields, which means there is a vital need for cross-fertilisation if we want to optimise the most advanced tools.”

EXPLORE-TEP builds on the heritage of a platform designed by ACRI-ST and funded by ESA to facilitate and expand the use and uptake of Copernicus-Sentinel Earth Observation mission data.

Dr Jeronimo Bernard-Salas, of ACRI-ST and Deputy Coordinator of EXPLORE, said: “For astronomers it is becoming increasingly difficult to simply download all the data to their desktop and use their favourite analysis tools locally. Through EXPLORE, we aim to bring processing and analysis capabilities, accessible via existing and new collaborative working environments, to the data. This allows any user to exploit space mission and supporting ground-based data more efficiently and to effectively share their methods and results, thus ensuring science becomes more open.”

Ultimately, EXPLORE aims to apply the tools to other areas of space science, as well as to map business opportunities for potential market entry in other domains.

Images

Gaia’s all-sky view of our Milky Way Galaxy and neighbouring galaxies, based on measurements of nearly 1.7 billion stars. The map shows the total brightness and colour of stars observed by the ESA satellite in each portion of the sky between July 2014 and May 2016. Copyright: ESA/Gaia/DPAC, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
https://sci.esa.int/web/gaia/-/60169-gaia-s-sky-in-colour
Mosaic of Apollo 17 Hasselblad camera images showing Jack Schmitt collecting samples at Station 6, located on the North Massif ridge along the northern side of the Taurus-Littrow Valley, the landing site of Apollo 17 Lunar Module. Credit: NASA
https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/panorama-color.jpg
High-fidelity re-creation of the iconic Apollo 8 “Earthrise” image created by NASA used LRO data for the lunar surface, and ESSA-7 satellite and Terra MODIS data for the Earth. Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University
https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/earthrise_vis_1092_lrg.tif

Further information

About EXPLORE
Innovative Scientific Data Exploration and Exploitation Applications for Space Sciences (EXPLORE) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004214.

The six scientific data applications developed by EXPLORE are:

Galactic:
• G-Arch: Galactic Archaeology
• G-Tomo: Interstellar 3D tomography of dust and gas in the Galaxy

Stellar:
• S-Phot: Stars and their blue infrared colour excess: signs of activity and circumstellar material
• S-Disco: Spectral discovery of stars

Lunar:
• L-Explo: Global multi-scale compositional higher-level products for the lunar surface
• L-Hex: Human lunar exploration landing site characterisation and support

EXPLORE is a consortium of eight beneficiaries:
• ACRI-ST (France): https://www.acri-st.fr
• Tel Aviv University (Israel): https://english.tau.ac.il
• Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur (France): https://www.oca.eu/en/
• University of Manchester (UK): https://www.manchester.ac.uk
• Jacobs University (Germany): https://www.jacobs-university.de
• KNOW Center Graz (Austria): https://www.know-center.tugraz.at/en/
• Dill Faulkes Educational Trust (UK): https://www.faulkes.com
• adwäisEO (Luxembourg): https://www.adwaiseo.eu/

Dissemination for EXPLORE is supported by the Europlanet Media Centre: https://www.europlanet-society.org/media-centre/

For more information, see: https://astro.acri-st.fr/explore/
Follow the hashtag #ExplorePlatform

Science Contact
Nick Cox
EXPLORE Project Coordinator
ACRI-ST, Toulouse Office
France
+33 (0)5 61 26 64 35
nick.cox@acri-st.fr
www.acri-st.fr

Media Contacts
Anita Heward
EXPLORE Communications
Europlanet Media Centre
UK
+44 7756 034243
aheward@europlanet-society.org

First results from Cheops: ESA’s exoplanet observer reveals extreme alien world

First results from Cheops: ESA’s exoplanet observer reveals extreme alien world

Monika Lendl and Kate Isaak will be available to answer questions from the media during a dedicated webinar hosted by the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC2020) at 15:00-15:30 CEST today (28 September).

Join here with the following credentials
Webinar ID: 895 0008 3953
Webinar Passcode: 488568

ESA’s new exoplanet mission, Cheops, has found a nearby planetary system to contain one of the hottest and most extreme extra-solar planets known to date: WASP-189 b. The finding, the very first from the mission, demonstrates Cheops’ unique ability to shed light on the Universe around us by revealing the secrets of these alien worlds.

Launched in December 2019, Cheops (the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite) is designed to observe nearby stars known to host planets. By ultra-precisely measuring changes in the levels of light coming from these systems as the planets orbit their stars, Cheops can initially characterise these planets — and, in turn, increase our understanding of how they form and evolve.

The new finding concerns a so-called ‘ultra-hot Jupiter’ named WASP-189 b. Hot Jupiters, as the name suggests, are giant gas planets a bit like Jupiter in our own Solar System; however, they orbit far, far closer to their host star, and so are heated to extreme temperatures. 

WASP-189 b sits around 20 times closer to its star than Earth does to the Sun, and completes a full orbit in just 2.7 days. Its host star is larger and more than 2000 degrees hotter than the Sun, and so appears to glow blue. “Only a handful of planets are known to exist around stars this hot, and this system is by far the brightest,” says Monika Lendl of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, lead author of the new study. “WASP-189b is also the brightest hot Jupiter that we can observe as it passes in front of or behind its star, making the whole system really intriguing.”

First, Monika and colleagues used Cheops to observe WASP-189 b as it passed behind its host star – an occultation. “As the planet is so bright, there is actually a noticeable dip in the light we see coming from the system as it briefly slips out of view,” explains Monika. “We used this to measure the planet’s brightness and constrain its temperature to a scorching 3200 degrees C.”

This makes WASP-189 b one of the hottest and most extreme planets, and entirely unlike any of the planets of the Solar System. At such temperatures, even metals such as iron melt and turn to gas, making the planet a clearly uninhabitable one.

Next, Cheops watched as WASP-189 b passed in front of its star – a transit. Transits can reveal much about the size, shape, and orbital characteristics of a planet. This was true for WASP-189 b, which was found to be larger than thought at almost 1.6 times the radius of Jupiter.

“We also saw that the star itself is interesting – it’s not perfectly round, but larger and cooler at its equator than at the poles, making the poles of the star appear brighter,” says Monika. “It’s spinning around so fast that it’s being pulled outwards at its equator! Adding to this asymmetry is the fact that WASP-189 b’s orbit is inclined; it doesn’t travel around the equator, but passes close to the star’s poles.”

Seeing such a tilted orbit adds to the existing mystery of how hot Jupiters form. For a planet to have such an inclined orbit, it must have formed further out and then been pushed inwards.  This is thought to happen as multiple planets within a system jostle for position, or as an external influence – another star, for instance – disturbs the system, pushing gas giants towards their star and onto very short orbits that are highly tilted. “As we measured such a tilt with Cheops, this suggests that WASP-189 b has undergone such interactions in the past,” adds Monika.

Monika and colleagues used Cheops’ highly precise observations and optical capabilities to reveal the secrets of WASP-189 b. Cheops opened its ‘eye’ in January of this year and began routine science operations in April, and has been working to expand our understanding of exoplanets and the nearby cosmos in the months since.

“This first result from Cheops is hugely exciting: it is early definitive evidence that the mission is living up to its promise in terms of precision and performance,” says Kate Isaak, Cheops project scientist at ESA.

Thousands of exoplanets, the vast majority with no analogues in our Solar System, have been discovered in the past quarter of a century, with many more to come from both current and future ground-based surveys and space missions. 

Cheops has a unique ‘follow-up’ role to play in studying such exoplanets,” adds Kate. “It will search for transits of planets that have been discovered from the ground, and, where possible, will more precisely measure the sizes of planets already known to transit their host stars. By tracking exoplanets on their orbits with Cheops, we can make a first-step characterisation of their atmospheres and determine the presence and properties of any clouds present.”

In the next few years, Cheops will follow up on hundreds of known planets orbiting bright stars, building on and extending what has been done here for WASP-189b. The mission is the first in a series of three ESA science missions focusing on exoplanet detection and characterisation: it has significant discovery potential also – from identifying prime targets for future missions that will probe exoplanetary atmospheres to searching for new planets and exomoons. 

Cheops will not only deepen our understanding of exoplanets,” says Kate, “but also that of our own planet, Solar System, and the wider cosmic environment.”

Images

WASP-189 system characterised by ESA's Cheops mission. Credit: ESA
WASP-189 system characterised by ESA’s Cheops mission. Credit: ESA
WASP-189 system characterised by ESA's Cheops mission
WASP-189 system characterised by ESA’s Cheops mission. Credit: ESA
WASP-189 system characterised by ESA's Cheops mission. Credit: ESA
WASP-189 system characterised by ESA’s Cheops mission. Credit: ESA

Notes for editors

The hot dayside of WASP-189 b and its gravity-darkened host star seen by CHEOPS’ by M. Lendl et al. appears in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

More about Cheops

Cheops is an ESA mission developed in partnership with Switzerland, with a dedicated consortium led by the University of Bern, and with important contributions from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

ESA is the Cheops mission architect, responsible for procurement and testing of the satellite, the launch and early operations phase, and in-orbit commissioning, as well as the Guest Observers’ Programme through which scientists world-wide can apply to observe with Cheops. The consortium of 11 ESA Member States led by Switzerland provided essential elements of the mission. The prime contractor for the design and construction of the spacecraft is Airbus Defence and Space in Madrid, Spain.

The Cheops mission consortium runs the Mission Operations Centre located at INTA, in Torrejón de Ardoz near Madrid, Spain, and the Science Operations Centre, located at the University of Geneva, Switzerland.

For more information, visit: https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/Cheops

For further information, please contact:


Monika Lendl

University of Geneva, Switzerland

Email: monika.lendl@unige.ch

Kate Isaak
ESA Cheops project scientist
Email: kate.isaak@esa.int

EPSC2020: Farinella Prize 2020 Awarded to Jonathan Fortney and Heather Knutson

EPSC2020: Farinella Prize 2020 Awarded to Jonathan Fortney and Heather Knutson

Prof Jonathan Fortney, an American astrophysicists working at the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Prof Heather Knutson, an American astronomer working at the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences of the California Institute of Technology, have been awarded jointly the 2020 Paolo Farinella Prize for their significant contributions in our understanding of the structure, evolution and atmospheric dynamics of giant planets. The award ceremony will take place today during the EPSC 2020 virtual meeting and will be followed by 15-minute prize lectures by the winners.

The annual prize was established in 2010 to honour the memory of the Italian scientist Paolo Farinella (1953-2000). The award acknowledges an outstanding researcher not older than 47 years (the age of Farinella when he passed away) who has achieved important results in one of Farinella’s fields of work. Each year the Prize focuses on a different research area and in 2020, the tenth edition was devoted to the giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune but also giant exoplanets.

Prof Fortney’s theoretical work has led to a much better understanding of the atmospheres, interiors, and evolution of giant planets. He has been able to provide theoretical evidence that helium in Saturn’s interior is dramatically concentrated into a helium-rich shell. He has demonstrated that the pattern of enrichment in heavy elements in the Solar System’s giant planets, compared to the Sun, is also a relationship seen in giant exoplanets. He has also developed sophisticated models of giant exoplanet atmospheres to understand their emitted spectra and atmospheric circulation.

Prof Knutson transformed scientists’ approach of observations of exoplanets. In 2007 she discovered day-night temperature contrasts in hot Jupiter HD 189733b, confirming theoretical predictions and launching the field of the observational characterisation of the dynamics of exoplanetary atmospheres. Since then, she led an ambitious observational program with both space-based and ground-based observatories to characterise hot Jupiters and sub-Neptune planets. She also showed that, contrary to common belief at the time, hot Jupiters are not solitary but at least half of them ‘have friends’ – more distant planetary-mass companions orbiting the same star.

Both Prof Knutson and Prof Fortney lead active groups involving young researchers and students. Altogether, their work is providing the basis to better characterise giant planets and understand the formation of planets.

Prof Fortney received his BS in Physics at Iowa State University and his PhD in planetary science at the University of Arizona. He is currently a Professor at the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics of the University of California in Santa Cruz and the Director of the Other Worlds Laboratory.

Prof Knutson received her BS in Physics at Johns Hopkins University and her PhD in astronomy at Harvard University. She currently holds the position of Professor in the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology.

Prof Fortney commented: “I am honored to be selected for the 2020 Farinella Prize. I owe so much to my scientific mentors and collaborators who have helped me along the way. Paolo was an important scientist with a diverse range of interests and it is great to be associated with his contributions to science.”

Prof Knutson said: “I am honored to receive this prize, even if I never had any personal contact with Farinella, and wish that it was possible to accept it in person. On the plus side, the current pandemic has demonstrated just how easy it can be to make new connections with planetary scientists around the world if you’re willing to reach out. I hope that all of us continue to take advantage of these virtual opportunities to build community even after we return to pre-pandemic ways of doing science.”

For 2020, the Farinella Prize also honors the memory of Adam P. Showman, who had accepted to be part of the prize committee, but passed away unexpectedly, leaving an immense body of theoretical work to understand the dynamics of planetary atmospheres.

Tristan Guillot, President of the Farinella Prize Committee, said: “The past decade has seen great advances for our knowledge of giant planets both close to us, like Jupiter and Saturn, and much further for exoplanets. Heather Knutson and Jonathan Fortney have played a major part in those advances. The committee was unanimous in choosing them for the tenth Paolo Farinella Prize. It is also particularly fitting that both collaborated at some point in their career with Adam Showman: Adam was an inspiration for all of us, in particular in the field of the atmospheric dynamics of giant planets, until his untimely passing in February 2020. I’m sure that, as Paolo, he would have been proud of these nominations.”

About the Paolo Farinella Prize
The Paolo Farinella Prize (http://www.europlanet-eu.org/paolo-farinella-prize) was established to honour the memory and the outstanding figure of Paolo Farinella (1953-2000), an extraordinary scientist and person, in recognition of significant contributions given in the fields of interest of Farinella, which span from planetary sciences to space geodesy, fundamental physics, science popularization, and security in space, weapons control and disarmament. The winner of the prize is selected each year on the basis of his/her overall research results in a chosen field, among candidates with international and interdisciplinary collaborations, not older than 47 years, the age of Farinella when he passed away, at the date of 25 March 2000.

The prize was first proposed during the “International Workshop on Paolo Farinella the scientist and the man,” held in Pisa in 2010, supported by the University of Pisa, ISTI/CNR and by IAPS-INAF (Rome).

The “Paolo Farinella Prize” has been awarded:

  • In 2011 to William Bottke, for his contribution to the field of “physics and dynamics of small solar system bodies.” 
  • In 2012 the Prize went to John Chambers, for his contribution to the field of “formation and early evolution of the solar system”. 
  • In 2013, to Patrick Michel, for his work in the field of “collisional processes in the solar system”. 
  • In 2014 to David Vokrouhlicky for his contributions to “our understanding of the dynamics and physics of solar system, including how pressure from solar radiation affects the orbits of both asteroids and artificial satellites”.
  • In 2015 to Nicolas Biver for his studies of “the molecular and isotopic composition of cometary volatiles by means of submillimeter and millimeter ground and space observations”. 
  • In 2016 to Dr. Kleomenis Tsiganis for “his studies of the applications of celestial mechanics to the dynamics of planetary systems, including the development of the Nice model”. 
  • In 2017, to Simone Marchi, for his contributions to “understanding the complex problems related to the impact history and physical evolution of the inner Solar System, including the Moon”. 
  • In 2018, to Francis Nimmo, for his contributions in our “understanding of the internal structure and evolution of icy bodies in the Solar System and the resulting influence on their surface processes”. 
  • In 2019, to Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo, for their outstanding collaborative work for the “observational characterization of the Kuiper belt and the Neptune-trojan population”.

Images

Prof. Jonathan Fortney, winner of the Farinella Prize 2020. Credit: J. Fortney

Farinella Prize Winner 2020: Jonathan Fortney. Credit: J. Fortney
Farinella Prize Winner 2020: Jonathan Fortney. Credit: J. Fortney
Farinella Prize Winner 2020: Heather Knutson. Credit: H Knutson
Farinella Prize Winner 2020: Heather Knutson. Credit: H Knutson

Science Contacts

Prof Jonathan Fortney
Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High St.
205 CfAO (Center for Adaptive Optics)
Santa Cruz, CA 95064
jfortney@ucsc.edu

Prof Heather Knutson,
California Institute of Technology
Division of Geological & Planetary Sciences
1200 E California Blvd MC 150-21
Pasadena, CA 91125 USA
hknutson@caltech.edu

Media Contacts

Anita Heward
EPSC Press Officer
+44 7756 034243
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Livia Giacomini
EPSC Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Adriana Postiglione
EPSC Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020
EPSC (https://www.epsc2020.eu/) will take place as a virtual meeting for the first time in 2020 from 21 September to 9 October. The meeting has a hybrid format of asynchronous presentations and discussion alongside a programme of live webinars.

The Europlanet Science Congress (formerly the European Planetary Science Congress) is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 14 years and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, the Europlanet Science Congress 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 while providing a unique space for networking and exchange of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2020

Europlanet
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).

Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2020 awarded jointly to Dr Sheila Kanani and The Travelling Telescope

Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2020 awarded jointly to Dr Sheila Kanani and The Travelling Telescope

The 2020 Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement with Planetary Science has been awarded jointly to Dr Sheila Kanani and to the team behind The Travelling Telescope, Susan Murabana and Daniel Chu Owen.

Dr Sheila Kanani is a planetary physicist, broadcaster, comedian, author and teacher, with a background in research as part of the Cassini science team, studying Saturn’s magnetosphere. She is the co-founder of the STEMMsisters charity, a STEM ambassador and a representative of ScienceGrrl. Since 2014, she has been the Education, Outreach and Diversity Officer of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), where she has transformed the public engagement activity of the Society, delivering a comprehensive programme across the UK, concentrating on areas of socioeconomic deprivation and cultural diversity. She has written five non-fiction books for children, including two space themed books, and has just signed to write a further two science books for children.

Since establishing The Travelling Telescope in 2014, Susan Murabana and Daniel Chu Owen have enabled hundreds of thousands of children to engage with planetary science and astronomy by bringing a portable 12-inch telescope, an inflatable planetarium and outreach resources to remote and underserved regions of Kenya. In January 2020, they completed the construction of the first digital planetarium in East Africa. The Nairobi Planetarium has been built in a low-cost and environmentally sustainable way using bamboo harvested at the site. Susan Murabana is the president of the newly formed Africa Planetarium Association and the United Nations Space4Women mentor 2020.

José Antonio Gordillo Martorell, Chair of the Europlanet Outreach Jury, said, “This is the first time that we have awarded two Europlanet Prizes for Public Engagement in the same year. Sheila Kanani and The Travelling Telescopehave both made outstanding contributions to reaching diverse communities, showing profound personal commitment and innovative approaches to inspiring young people through planetary science and astronomy. We are delighted to have two such worthy winners.”

An awards ceremony will take place during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020 virtual meeting on Tuesday 22nd September and this will be followed by 15-minute prize lectures by the winners. Both winners will receive an award of 4000 Euros.

Dr Becky Parker, Chair of the Education and Outreach Committee of the RAS, said: “I cannot think of any person more actively engaged in promoting physics and astronomy than Sheila. Collaborators all value her clear and purposeful determination to raise the profile of physics and astronomy and develop engagement in a number of new ways, always thinking about how to support teachers and students. In this extraordinary time of COVID 19, she has been incredibly innovative, providing online activities, teacher training, national activities. Her commitment to such a range of public engagement activities well beyond her day job is phenomenal.”

Dr Mark SubbaRao, President of the International Planetarium Society, said: “Susan and Chu are advocates for astronomy and planetary science education across Africa. The Travelling Telescope is an incredibly important model for Africa, where it is difficult to rely on support from government, or private donations. Whether in the planetarium or at the eyepiece of the telescope, I was struck with the enthusiasm and passion with which Chu and Susan communicated science to everyone from world leaders to small children. I also saw how they hired and mentored many local astronomy students, nurturing the next generation of Kenyan scientists and outreach professionals.”

Dr Sheila Kanani said: “I’m honoured and quite speechless to win this award, especially in being able to share it with such esteemed colleagues in Africa. I’ve always been entirely supported in my endeavours by my family and friends, which has led me to want to support others to be part of the wonderful world of astronomy. Being able to include the space diversity aspects into my job has also been extremely fulfilling, after all, we all share the same sky and earth, so I hope I can help others enjoy space as it has so inspired me!” 

Sheila at a book signing at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Credit: Helen Giles
Sheila at a book signing at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Credit: Helen Giles
Dr Sheila Kanani. Credit: Lynda Laird
Dr Sheila Kanani. Credit: Lynda Laird
Susan Murabana leading an observing session. Credit: The Travelling Telescope
Susan Murabana leading an observing session. Credit: The Travelling Telescope
Daniel Chu Owen leading a school session. Credit: The Travelling Telescope
Daniel Chu Owen leading a school session. Credit: The Travelling Telescope

Contacts
Dr Sheila Kanani
Royal Astronomical Society
skanani@ras.ac.uk

Susan Murabana
CEO and Co-Founder
The Travelling Telescope
smurabana@travellingtelescope.co.uk

Daniel Chu Owen,
Technical Director and Co-Founder
The Travelling Telescope
chu@travellingtelescope.co.uk

Media Contacts

Anita Heward
Europlanet 2020 RI Press Officer
Mobile: +44 (0)77 5603 4243
Email: epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Livia Giacomini
EPSC Press Officer
Email: epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Adriana Postiglione
EPSC Press Officer
Email: epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Dr Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
rmassey@ras.ac.uk

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020

EPSC (https://www.epsc2020.eu/) will take place as a virtual meeting for the first time in 2020 from 21 September to 9 October. The meeting has a hybrid format of asynchronous presentations and discussion alongside a programme of live webinars.

The Europlanet Science Congress (formerly the European Planetary Science Congress) is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 14 years and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, the Europlanet Science Congress 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 while providing a unique space for networking and exchange of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2020

About Europlanet

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).

The Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement

The Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement with Planetary Science (https://www.europlanet-society.org/prize/) aims to recognise achievements in engaging European citizens with planetary science and to raise the profile of outreach within the scientific community. Established by Europlanet in 2010, the Prize is awarded to individuals or groups who have developed innovative practices in planetary science communication and whose efforts have significantly contributed to a wider public engagement with planetary science. The 2020 Prize has been supported by the University of Kent.

EPSC2020: Parker Solar Probe, Akatsuki and Earth-bound observers give rare top-to surface glimpse of Venus

EPSC2020: Parker Solar Probe, Akatsuki and Earth-bound observers give rare top-to surface glimpse of Venus

Akatsuki observations of Venus at the time of the Parker Solar Probe flyby. These observations sampled the upper atmosphere at roughly 70 km altitude above the surface. Credit: JAXA, Planet-C

Observations of Venus by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, JAXA’s Akatsuki mission and astronomers around the world have given a rare cloud-top-to-surface glimpse of the Earth’s neighbouring planet. The results are being presented this week at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020, which is taking place as a virtual meeting from 21 September – 9 October.

On 11 July 2020, the Parker Solar Probe, which is travelling to the inner Solar System to catch particles of the outer atmosphere of the Sun, completed the third of a series of flybys of Venus. From 19 June to 18 July, astronomers and members of the Akatsuki science team joined forces to support the probe’s encounter through a coordinated campaign of observations. The ground-based observations were contributed largely by amateur astronomers.

A similar campaign will be carried out to support the flyby of Venus by ESA’s BepiColombo mission on 15 October 2020.

“The campaign has resulted in multiple, multi-level observations right from the surface to the cloud-tops and airglow phenomena, which have given us unique insights into Venus’s atmosphere,” said Ricardo Hueso, a former member of ESA’s Venus Express mission and coordinator of the amateur participation. “The opportunity to observe Venus with so many instruments and with such a large collaboration means that we can enhance the scientific value of these short visits by the Parker Solar Probe and BepiColombo to Venus.” 

Venus is the brightest object we see in the night-sky aside from the Moon. Although it is the most similar planet in size to the Earth, it is a radically different world. Its thick atmosphere, composed mainly of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, keeps the surface at temperatures of 460 degrees Celsius and pressures comparable to those found at the depths of Earth’s oceans. The upper atmosphere is home to multiple cloud layers, made of sulphuric acid with traces of water, which move at hurricane-like speeds. Despite this hostile environment, the recent discovery of phosphine molecules in Venus atmosphere has reactivated speculation about the possible presence of ‘aerial’ microbial life existing in the upper clouds of the planet. Spacecraft passing close to Venus as they travel through the inner Solar System can gather valuable data to help us understand the planet’s properties and its evolution. 

During the campaign, the Parker Solar Probe observed the nightside of the planet from the surface to the upper atmosphere and Akatsuki obtained data of the upper clouds. Back on Earth, researchers used the Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) in Hawaii and the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT) in La Palma to probe the deeper clouds of Venus on the night-side of the planet. Additional observations of the deeper clouds and Venus surface were obtained at Pic du Midi in France. Amateur astronomers observed the upper and middle clouds in ultraviolet, violet and near infrared wavelengths. Some amateur observers also managed to observe the Venus surface through the warm radiation escaping from the planet through Venus’s clouds. 

The global ground-based support from professional telescopes was led by Javier Peralta, an astronomer who has coordinated similar campaigns in support of past missions. The amateur ground-based support campaign was coordinated through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure.

“It was a really exciting opportunity to have researchers using the IRTF and NOT join forces with amateur astronomers to observe Venus at the same time as Parker and Akatsuki,” said Dr Peralta.  “These observations have also given us the chance to monitor the evolution of a fast-moving, giant, longitudinal divide in the deeper clouds of Venus that has been previously observed between January and April 2020 by amateur astronomers.”   

Observations continued and intensified throughout August, when Venus was best observed from the Earth, and will culminate in October, when the BepiColombo mission will flyby Venus on its journey to Mercury. 

“There are clear signs of changes over time in the clouds of Venus if we compare observations by the Venus Express mission in 2006-2014 with more recent observations by Akatsuki since 2015. The data obtained by amateur and professional observers in these campaigns associated with flybys this summer and autumn will extend our knowledge of Venus weather and its variability,” said Dr Peralta. 

EPSC Presentations

Wednesday 23 September, 10:10-10:450 CEST: Interview session about BepiColombo flyby of Venus with guests, Johannes Benkhoff, Ricardo Hueso and Javier Peralta: https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EPSC2020/session/38646

Amateur Ground-based Support of the first BepiColombo flyby of Venus, Itziar Garate-Lopez et al: https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EPSC2020/EPSC2020-1060.html

Amateur observations of a planetary-scale wave in the middle clouds of Venus, Emmanouil Kardasis, Javier Peralta, Grigoris Maravelias, and Yaroslav Naryzhniy: https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EPSC2020/EPSC2020-712.html

Modelling the in situ solar and thermal radiation environment for future entry probe missions to Venus, P. Irwin et al: https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EPSC2020/EPSC2020-312.html

Links:

Science Contacts:

Javier Peralta
Coordinator of Parker Solar Probe Amateur Ground-based Support
Algeciras
Spain
javier.peralta.calvillo@gmail.com

Ricardo Hueso
Física Aplicada I, Planetary Sciences Group, UPV/EHU
Bilbao, Spain
Tel: +34 94601 4262
ricardo.hueso@ehu.eus

Media contacts:

Anita Heward
EPSC 2020 Press Officer
+44 7756 034243
aheward@europlanet-society.org
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Livia Giacomini
EPSC2020 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Adriana Postiglione
EPSC2020 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Images:

Akatsuki observations of Venus at the time of the Parker Solar Probe flyby. These observations sampled the upper atmosphere at roughly 70 km altitude above the surface. Credit: JAXA, Planet-C

Figure 1: Akatsuki observations of Venus at the time of the Parker Solar Probe flyby. These observations sampled the upper atmosphere at roughly 70 km altitude above the surface. Credit: JAXA, Planet-C

Observations of Venus lower clouds in the night-side of the planet. Images from NOT acquired by J. Peralta (JAXA) and R. Baena (IAC). Images from IRTF acquired by E. Young (SwRI). These observations sampled the middle atmosphere at roughly 45-50 km altitude above the surface. Credit: NOT/ NASA, IRTF

Figure 2: Observations of Venus lower clouds in the night-side of the planet. Images from NOT acquired by J. Peralta (JAXA) and R. Baena (IAC). Images from IRTF acquired by E. Young (SwRI). These observations sampled the middle atmosphere at roughly 45-50 km altitude above the surface. Credit: NOT/ NASA, IRTF

Selection of amateur observations of Venus before, during and after the Parker Solar Probe flyby. These observations sampled Venus atmosphere from the surface to the upper clouds. These and many other amateur images are available at the PVOL database http://pvol2.ehu.eus. Credit: Emmanuel Kardasis/Sebastian Voltmer/Phil Miles/Joaquin Camarena/Luigi Morrone

Figure 3: Selection of amateur observations of Venus before, during and after the Parker Solar Probe flyby. These observations sampled Venus atmosphere from the surface to the upper clouds. These and many other amateur images are available at the PVOL database http://pvol2.ehu.eus. Credit: Emmanuel Kardasis/Sebastian Voltmer/Phil Miles/Joaquin Camarena/Luigi Morrone

Further information:

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020

EPSC (https://www.epsc2020.eu/) will take place as a virtual meeting for the first time in 2020 from 21 September to 9 October. The meeting has a hybrid format of asynchronous presentations and discussion alongside a programme of live webinars.

The Europlanet Science Congress (formerly the European Planetary Science Congress) is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 14 years and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, the Europlanet Science Congress 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 while providing a unique space for networking and exchange of experiences.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2020

About Europlanet

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).

Media Announcement: Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020 – Monday 21 September – 9 October 2020

Media Announcement: Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020 – Monday 21 September – 9 October 2020

The 2020 Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) will take place as a virtual meeting from Monday 21 September to Friday 9 October 2020. This is the first time that EPSC has taken place as an online conference. The EPSC2020 programme covers the full spectrum of planetary science and technology across 47 sessions. More than 975 oral and poster presentations have been uploaded by planetary scientists from Europe, the US and around the world.

The EPSC2020 virtual meeting has a hybrid format of asynchronous presentations and discussion alongside a programme of live webinars. Scientific oral presentations have been submitted as pre-recorded 10-minute videos. Poster presentations are in PDF format, optimised for viewing on screen. The live programme includes daily briefings, interviews with members of the planetary science community, a “showcase” summary for each session, a keynote lecture for each thematic programme group, prize lectures, community events, short courses and splinter meetings.

An overview of the full programme is now online.

The meeting hashtag is #EPSC2020

Details of the live programme, the scientific sessions and the presentations can be found at the official website:https://www.epsc2020.eu/

A limited number of press notices will be issued by the EPSC2020 Press Office during the meeting.

MEDIA REGISTRATION

Media representatives are cordially invited to attend the EPSC2020 meeting. Media registration is free. Any bona fide media delegates can register by e-mailing epsc-press@europlanet-society.org.

The EPSC2020 Press Office will provide support for media registered for the meeting in identifying presentations of interest and contacting authors.

CONTACTS

Anita Heward
EPSC2020 Press Officer
+44 7756 034243
aheward@europlanet-society.org
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Livia Giacomini
EPSC2020 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Adriana Postiglione
EPSC2020 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

FURTHER INFORMATION

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2020.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 14 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.

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2020

About Europlanet

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).

Europlanet Telescope Network launched to support planetary research and build global pro-am collaboration

Europlanet 2024 RI logo

Europlanet Telescope Network launched to support planetary research and build global pro-am collaboration

A new collaboration between telescopes around the world has been launched to provide coordinated observations and rapid responses in support of planetary research. The Europlanet Telescope Network will provide professional and trained amateur observers with access to telescopes located around the globe and ranging from 0.25 – 2m in diameter. 

Initially linking 15 observatories, the network plans to draw in additional facilities and build new collaborations, particularly in geographical regions that are currently under-represented in the planetary science community.

The study of planets, asteroids and comets can require long-term monitoring or very precise timing by ground-based observatories. This combination of characteristics produces a unique set of challenges, as it matters both where on the Earth one observes from and precisely when. 

“Relatively small telescopes can produce first-rate planetary science,” said Manuel Scherf, the coordinator of the Europlanet Telescope Network. “Our aim with this new network is to support a global community that can react fast and effectively to observational alerts and participate in coordinated observational campaigns related to objects in our Solar System and planets orbiting distant stars.”

Examples of research that could be supported via the network include monitoring of how atmospheric features on planets evolve, or how a comet’s activity changes as it orbits the Sun. The network will also be used in studies that require significant amounts of observing time, like searches for lunar impact flashes, and observations from multiple locations simultaneously, such as to reveal the size, shape and orbit of asteroids that might be hazardous to Earth.

“As planets and smaller bodies of our Solar System move against the background of distant stars, we can gather information about their physical properties and orbits,” explained Colin Snodgrass of the University of Edinburgh, deputy coordinator of the network and chair of its scientific advisory board. “A network of telescopes that can make long-term or time-sensitive observations from different locations across Europe and beyond will be very valuable for planetary astronomy.”

Professional and amateur astronomers can now apply to visit the facilities participating in the Europlanet Telescope Network and have their expenses covered for the time needed to make their observations, which can range from hours to several weeks. Visits will start from the autumn, subject to any local travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The project is coordinated through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure, which is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Grazina Tautvaisiene, Director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy in Lithuania, said, “There are many small telescopes in facilities around the world, and particularly in Eastern Europe, that are under-used. By networking these diverse observatories, we can take advantage of their geographical spread and relative lack of time constraints to carry out exciting, cutting-edge research.”

The network also aims to strengthen collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers and provide training to widen participation in planetary research.

“Amateur astronomers are playing an increasingly important role in planetary research and in supporting missions to study objects in our own Solar System and planets orbiting other stars. The Europlanet Telescope Network aims to empower skilled amateurs to use professional facilities and to participate in international campaigns,” said Ricardo Hueso of the Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea.

The observatories participating in the project are:

  • Pic du Midi Observatory, IMCCE, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, France: 1.06m-telescope
  • Moletai Astronomical Observatory, Vilnius University, Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy, Lithuania: 1.65m-telescope and 35/51cm-telescope
  • Kryoneri Observatory, National Observatory of Athens, Greece: 1.2m-telescope
  • Skalnate Pleso Observatory, Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia: 1.3m-telescope and 61cm-telescope
  • Faulkes Telescope Project, UK (accessing the Las Cumbres Observatory, LCO, global network): Two 2m-robotic telescopes, nine 1m-robotic telescopes, and ten 40cm-robotic telescopes
  • Tartu Observatory, University of Tartu, Tartu Observatory, Estonia: 1.5m telescope, 60cm telescope, 30cm robotic telescope
  • Danish 1.54m telescope at ESO La Silla Observatory (Chile), Copenhagen University, Niels Bohr Institute, Denmark: 1.54m mirror telescope
  • Beacon Observatory, University of Kent, UK: 42cm remote controllable astrograph
  • Observatorie del Teide, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, Spain : 82cm IAC-80 telescope, 45cm telescope
  • Calar Alto Observatory, Junta de Andalucia and the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia, Spain : 1.23m telescope
  • Lisnyky Observation Station, AO KNU, Ukraine: 70cm telescope
  • Chuguev Observatory, Institute of Astronomy of V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine: 70cm telescope
  • Terskol Peak Observatory, International  Center for Astronomical, Medical and Ecological Research of the  National Academy of Sciences  of  Ukraine (IC AMER), Ukraine: 2m telescope, 60cm telescope
  • Konkoly Observatory, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Hungary: 1m telescope, 80cm telescope
  • Ussuriysk Astrophysical Observatory, Institute of Applied Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia: 25cm-telescope, 50cm-telescope

Europlanet Telescope Network: https://www.europlanet-society.org/europlanet-2024-ri/telescope-network/

Images

Calar Alto Observatory. Credit: Calar Alto Observatory
Full resolution image
Calar Alto Observatory. Credit: Ricardo Hueso
Full resolution image
Skalnate Pleso Observatory. Credit: Marek Husarik
Full resolution image
Moletai Astronomical Observatory
Moletai Astronomical Observatory. Credit: Moletai Astronomical Observatory Archive
Full resolution image
1.05 m telescope at Pic du Midi Observatory. Credit: Ricardo Hueso
Full resolution image
Beacon Observatory at the University of Kent. Credit: University of Kent
Full resolution image
Locations of the telescopes in the network. Map data © Google
Infographic on Europlanet Telescope Network. Credit: Europlanet/José Utreras
Full resolution infographic

Science Contacts

Manuel Scherf
Space Research Institute
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Graz, Austria
manuel.scherf@oeaw.ac.at

Gražina Tautvaišienė
Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy
Vilnius University
Vilnius, Lithuania
grazina.tautvaisiene@tfai.vu.lt

Ricardo Hueso Alonso
Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería
Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea
Bilbao
ricardo.hueso@ehu.eus

Media Contact
Anita Heward
Europlanet Media Centre
Tel: +44 7756 034243
anita.heward@europlanet-eu.org

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

New e-book anthology dives into the world of astrobiology

Is anyone out there? From the possibility of microbial life on Mars and elsewhere in the solar system across the multitude of exoplanets all the way to the Fermi Paradox, astrobiology tries to find the answer to this age-old question and more – like how life originated here on Earth, what are its physical limits and what forms might life take under different conditions.

A new freely available anthology released by the European Astrobiology Institute delves into these questions via Science Fiction (SF) stories by world-renowned authors, followed by essays about the science of each story.

The anthology, titled Strangest of All (a nod to H. G. Wells’s War of The Worlds), was edited by the author, editor and scientist Julie Nováková, who leads the outreach working group of the European Astrobiology Institute. The book contains reprint SF stories by G. David Nordley, Geoffrey Landis, Gregory Benford, Tobias S. Buckell, Peter Watts and D. A. Xiaolin Spires, plus a bonus story by the editor.

Nordley’s “War, Ice, Egg, Universe” takes readers to an aquatic civilization inhabiting a Europa-like world with an ice-covered ocean, and the accompanying essay focuses on what we know about conditions for life on Europa, Enceladus, Ganymede and other ocean worlds. In “Into The Blue Abyss” by Landis, the protagonist dives into an entirely different ocean – the high-pressure liquid water layer on Uranus, where chemistry signifying possible life had been observed. Could life really exist in such conditions – and could high-pressure environments actually be one of the most common habitats in the universe?

Continuing the journey outward of the Sun, “Backscatter” by Benford finds life in an improbable place: an icy asteroid in the Kuiper Belt. The follow-up essay provides background on the possibility of life in asteroids and comets, and dives into the topic of exotic silicon-based life in such cold places with no liquid water.

In Buckell’s “A Jar of Goodwill”, we leave solar system and environments similar to it entirely, visiting a strange exoplanet where plants metabolize chlorine – but the main problem the hero faces is whether its ant-like inhabitants are intelligent creatures. Halogen-based photosynthesis was actually proposed in theory – so we can look at where we could expect such exotic life. Even more exotic is the titular creature in Watts’s novelette “The Island”: a live Dyson sphere. In the essay, we look at how we can search for Dyson spheres, what the surveys yielded up-to-date, and whether we could presume anything about the origin and thought processes of a nigh-impossible being like the Island.

Benford returns with a microstory “SETI for Profit”, an interesting take on how to revive interest in SETI. What efforts to listen to potential extra-terrestrial messages have been taken so far, and what can we expect in the future? The topic of SETI is inextricably linked with the Fermi Paradox, one of the themes of Spires’s “But, Still, I Smile”. How can we explain the paradox with what we know so far, and how does the explanation in the story relate to our world? Finally, in the bonus story by Nováková, “Martian Fever”, we look at Mars exploration gone awry – and the risks of interplanetary biological contamination and the question of planetary protection.

Each story is followed not only by the science essay complete with references for readers craving more, but also a couple of ideas for classroom discussions or tasks (best-suited for higher high school grades or undergraduate university students), such as thinking of how to devise a message for a potentially listening alien civilization, bearing in mind what we know of sensory and cognitive differences between species here on Earth. For most of the questions, there is no definitive answer – but all the more curiosity should they elicit.

Strangest of All is the first of major outreach projects coming from the European Astrobiology Institute (EAI). EAI was founded in 2019 with the aims to support interdisciplinary research in astrobiology across Europe and beyond, disseminate scientific results and promote education and outreach in astrobiology and related fields by organizing summer schools, supporting the AbGradE forum for graduate students and creating materials such as this book, among other ways. Astrobiology is an exciting and booming scientific field, and science fiction is a perfect tool to bring it closer to people and enable them to imagine the incessant drive of curiosity and the joy of discovery that are at the heart of both science and SF. More such efforts are considered by EAI’s project team “Science Fiction as a tool for Astrobiology Outreach and Education”, which also welcomes new members who are interested in developing similar outreach materials.

The anthology Strangest of All can be downloaded for free in several formats on the websites of the European Astrobiology Institute and the editor, Julie Nováková.

Links:

About the European Astrobiology Institute

About the editor, Julie Nováková

Strangest of All at the European Astrobiology Institute

Image

Strangest of All Book Cover

From Planets to A Pearl Earring

From Planets to A Pearl Earring

One of Europlanet 2024 RI’s Transnational Access facilities has contributed to a new analysis of pigments used by Vermeer to add highlights to his famous painting, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”.

The ratio of lead isotopes in individual layers of the paint were analysed at the Geology and Geochemistry Isotope Facility (GGIF) at the Vrije University Amsterdam, to try to identify the pigment’s geographical origin. The study revealed that the lead in white paint and primer used by Vermeer all came from a mine located in the Peak District in Derbyshire, UK.

The research is part of “The Girl in the Spotlight”, an international study of the painting led by the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague. Researchers from VU Amsterdam, including Paolo D’Imporzano and Gareth Davies, analysed samples from loose fragments of paint collected during restoration and cross sections taken from the edge of the painting. The researchers compared the lead isotope ratios in different paint layers with data from lead mines across Europe, which have distinct regional signatures as a result of variations in the geological settings. The team found that the source of the pigment in the “Girl with a Pearl Earring” was constant and consistent with the lead used in other Dutch paintings from the 17th century. The question now facing art historians is: does this mean that Vermeer’s studio processed the white lead to produce a range of pigments, or were the different pigments purchased from a single supplier? 

D’Imporzano and Davies are currently working with the Rijksmuseum to build up a detailed database of 17th-century Dutch paintings with a view to understanding how the source of lead varied over time and to determine whether lead isotope analysis can help identify when a particular work was painted.

Read the paper: van Loon, A., Vandivere, A., Delaney, J.K. et al. Beauty is skin deep: the skin tones of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl EarringHerit Sci 7, 102 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40494-019-0344-0

Girl with a Pearl Earring. Credit: René Gerritsen Art & Research Photography/ van Loon et al

Image: Detail of Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665, oil on canvas, Mauritshuis, The Hague (inv nr 670), showing the face of the Girl and sample locations 39 and 40. a Visible light image. René Gerritsen Art & Research Photography. Corresponding MA-XRF maps (0.4 mm/pixel): bc lead (Pb-L), d iron, e lead (Pb-M), f mercury, gpotassium, h calcium, i copper. Credit: René Gerritsen Art & Research Photography / van Loon et al

Bepi in the sky with stars

In early April, as the European-Japanese BepiColombo spacecraft was approaching our home planet ahead of the first flyby in its seven-year journey to Mercury, mission scientists invited amateur astronomers to observe the event from Earth and share their photos of this unique event. The authors of the three best images of the flyby – the best glimpse, the best track and the last glimpse – selected by the jury will receive a scale model of BepiColombo.

Over thirty observers from around the world participated in the campaign. The jury, composed of BepiColombo mission experts, was very positively impressed by all entries, both on aesthetical grounds and because of the good quality of the astronomical observations, and wishes to thank all participants who observed the Mercury explorer as it crossed our sky and immortalized it in their beautiful images and sequences.

The winning photos are:

  • A view of BepiColombo passing through a deep sky object – the Blue Horsehead Nebula – taken in the early hours of 10 April by S. Silva in Porto Feliz, São Paulo, Brazil, which was selected as the ‘best glimpse’ of the flyby;
  • A sequence of images of BepiColombo moving through a stellar field, featuring a ‘guest’ appearance of a piece of space debris – a decommissioned geostationary satellite – captured in the evening of 10 April from the Northolt Branch Observatories by G. Welles and D. Bamberger in London, UK, which was selected as ‘the best track of BepiColombo’ during its passage above the horizon;
  • A parting view of the spacecraft, a dot against the tracks of distant stars, taken on 19 April from the Rikubetsu Space and Science Museum observatory in Ashoro District, Hokkaido, Japan, which was selected as the ‘last glimpse’ of BepiColombo.

The jury also acknowledges the following contributions with a special mention: Gianluca Masi, Virtual Telescope Project; Alain Maury, Jean Marc Mari and Joaquin Fabrega; Inoue Takeshi; Kenichi Shirakami; Masanori Mizutani; T. Oribe, Saji Observatory; Nicolas Biver.

BepiColombo reached its closest approach to Earth at 04:24:57 UTC on 10 April, flying only 12 689 km above our planet’s surface. The manoeuvre – the first of nine planetary flyby and the only one of Earth – tightened the spacecraft’s orbit towards the inner Solar System, where it is scheduled to meet Venus on 15 October for the first of two flybys of this planet on the way to Mercury.

Image captions

The last glimpse of BepiColombo 

Credit: Rikubetsu Space and Science Museum. BepiColombo

This image shows a parting view of the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo spacecraft, taken from Japan more than a week after the mission performed its Earth on 10 April 2020. The spacecraft is visible as a dot (circled) against the tracks of distant stars.

Captured between 12:43:19 and 13:18:23 UTC on 19 April from the Rikubetsu Space and Science Museum observatory in Ashoro District, Hokkaido, Japan, the image was selected as the ‘last glimpse’ of the BepiColombo flyby as part of a photographic contest aimed at amateur astronomers.

The jury appreciated that the observers tried until the very end, nine days after closest approach, and succeed in obtaining an appealing image – even in colour – of the spacecraft as it departed from our planet.

The colour image is a stack of 32x 60-second exposures obtained using a 1.15m f/5.6 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and Canon EOS 6D. 

Credit: Rikubetsu Space and Science Museum

BepiColombo passing through the Blue Horsehead Nebula

BepiColombo passing through the Blue Horsehead Nebula. Credit: Sergio Silva

This image shows the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo spacecraft moving across the sky as viewed from Brazil during its Earth flyby on 10 April 2020. The moving spacecraft is visible as a series of four diagonal lines crossing the frame from top left to bottom right against a field of stars featuring a beautiful deep sky object, the reflection nebula known as Blue Horsehead Nebula, or IC 4592.

The flyby was captured by Sergio Silva from Porto Feliz, São Paulo, Brazil, at 04:39:58 UTC on 10 April. The flyby observation comprises four 15-second exposures as part of a 3-hour long exposure to image the nebula. 

The jury appreciated the choice to combine the flyby, not far from Earth, and a distant nebula, observing the event against a deep sky object, as well as the fine quality of the image and processing. 

The image was obtained using a Celestron C11 Edge HD telescope with a Hyperstar lens, a iOptron CEM60 mount and a ZWO ASI071MC-Pro camera.

Credit: S. Silva

A tale of two spacecraft: BepiColombo and the INSAT 2D satellite

Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories. We used the observatories' 0.25m Ritchey-Chretien and QHY42 CMOS camera to obtain astrometry on BepiColombo before it left the vicinity of Earth.

This sequence of images shows the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo spacecraft during its Earth flyby on 10 April 2020, crossing the sky as viewed from the UK. The spacecraft is visible as a moving dot in the frame of stars, making its way from the lower right towards the upper left; halfway through the observations, another satellite also made an appearance, moving from the right towards the left in the upper part of the frame.

The sequence was captured at 21:13 UTC on 10 April by G. Welles and D. Bamberger from the Northolt Branch Observatories, a British-German collaboration of astrophotographers with telescopes located in London, UK. 

The jury appreciated the nice tracking sequence, the serendipitous coincidence that another satellite was caught in the observations, and the effort to identify the piece of space debris as the decommissioned geostationary satellite INSAT 2D. 

The image was obtained using the observatory’s 0.25m Ritchey-Chretien telescope and a QHY42 CMOS camera.

Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories