‘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
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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
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Beacon Observatory at the University of Kent. Credit: University of Kent
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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

Europlanet launches 10M Euro research infrastructure to support planetary science

Europlanet 2024 RI logo



Europlanet launches 10M Euro research infrastructure to support planetary science

Europlanet has launched a 10 million Euro project, the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), to provide open access to the world’s largest collection of planetary simulation and analysis facilities, as well as a global network of small telescopes, data services, and community support activities. Europlanet 2024 RI aims to widen participation in planetary science and provides the infrastructure to address key scientific and technological challenges facing the planetary research community.

The project is funded through the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme and will run for four years from February 2020 until January 2024. The Europlanet 2024 RI consortium is led by the University of Kent, UK, and has 53 beneficiary institutions from 21 countries in Europe and around the world, with a further 44 affiliated partners.

“This is a step-change in ambition for Europlanet, involving 60% more partners and expanding our collaborations in Africa and, for the first time, in Asia,” said Prof Nigel Mason, the Coordinator of Europlanet 2024 RI and President of the Europlanet Society. “The project will draw on the resources of the Europlanet Society, launched in 2018, to disseminate activities and outcomes and develop a more diverse community of users.”

Europlanet 2024 RI will provide the planetary community with free ‘transnational access’ to 24 laboratories in Europe and five field sites worldwide to carry out research projects.

Prof Gareth Davies, of VU Amsterdam, who leads the transnational access programme, said: “Europlanet 2024 RI has created a unique collection of field sites and laboratories to simulate and analyse planetary environments. Planetary missions over the next decade will study very diverse targets in our own Solar System and those around other stars. Europlanet 2024 RI has chosen a suite of facilities that can best help us understand the data sent back by spacecraft and plan for future missions.”

The five field sites offered by Europlanet 2024 RI stretch from Africa to the Arctic Circle and provide terrestrial analogues for planetary environments past and present, including the icy environments of Europa and Ganymede, geothermally active regions of Venus, Io and ancient Mars, and lava caves on the Moon or Mars that may house human habitats in the future.

Eleven laboratories provide simulation facilities for atmospheric and surface environments that do not exist on Earth, from the scorching surface conditions of Mercury and Venus, to low-pressure dust-storms on Mars, or the extreme cold of Uranus, Neptune and comets, as well as dust and particle accelerators to study impact and irradiation effects. A further 13 facilities offer capabilities to analyse the composition of planetary samples with high precision and using non-destructive techniques, and to detect and sequence microbial communities found living in hostile conditions on Earth.

Europlanet 2024 RI builds on the heritage of EU-funded projects dating back over 15 years. To harness collaborations developed between professional and amateur astronomers, Europlanet 2024 RI is launching a coordinated network of small telescope facilities around the world that can provide rapid response observations to support planetary missions.

The project will expand virtual access services to include a geological mapping portal, GMAP, and to exploit machine learning for automatic recognition and analysis of planetary data sets.

Over 30 databases will be added to the VESPA virtual observatory portal, which currently provides access to 54 planetary science data services derived from space missions, observation campaigns, modelling projects and laboratory experiments. Europlanet 2024 RI will also extend its planetary space weather service, SPIDER, to provide predictions and alerts for spacecraft operations in response to solar activity and support science data analysis.

To bring in new users, support the community and raise awareness of planetary science, Europlanet 2024 RI will organise training and workshops to engage industry, policy makers, early career professionals and researchers from countries that are under-represented in planetary science, both in Europe and around the world. The project will also trial a reciprocal access agreement with Chinese and Korean research facilities.

Prof Barbara Cavalazzi of the University of Bologna, who leads global collaboration activities for Europlanet 2024 RI, said: “We aim to help create a more interconnected global planetary science community and support sustainable development around new facilities, recognising the unique contribution of each community involved and building collaborative research and outreach programmes.”

Video:

Video of the Iceland transnational access facility offered by Matis. Credit: Europlanet/madebygravity.co

Images:

Europlanet 2024 RI provides access to the planetary field analogue site at the Danakil Depression in north-eastern Ethiopia, including the Dallol volcano and its adjacent areas. The site provides a natural and complex analogue for extreme planetary environments linked to transient lakes and hydrothermal vents, the latter representing analogues of Venus, Io, Ganymede and other satellites where water is pumped to the surface in tectonically active settings. Sulphate deposits in the region also appear to have direct analogues on Mars. Credit: B. Cavalazzi

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/fig-6.jpg

Europlanet 2024 RI provides access to 24 laboratory simulation and analysis facilities, including the Isotoptech Carbon-14 dating accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS14C) facility. Credit: Isotoptech Zrt.

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/amsc14_3.jpg

Collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers developed by Europlanet over recent years have led to the establishment of a network of small telescopes under Europlanet 2024 RI to support space missions with rapid-response ground-based observations. Credit: Ricardo Hueso.

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/IMG_5483b2.jpg

Europlanet 2024 RI will provide training and workshops to widen participation in planetary science from under-represented countries and support early career researchers. Credit: Andrius Zigmantas.

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/DSC1065.jpg

Further information

First Call for Transnational Access: [Link]

The Beneficiaries of Europlanet 2024 RI

Austria: Österreichische Akademie de Wissenschaften, KNOW Center Graz, Medizinische Universität Graz. Belgium:Institut d’Aéronomie Spatiale de Belgique. Botswana: Botswana International University of Science and Technology. China: China University of Geosciences (Beijing), Peking University, Shandong University, National Space Science Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Czech Republic: Ústav fyziky atmosféry AV ČR. Denmark: Aarhus Universitet. Ethiopia: University of Mekelle. Finland: Ilmatieteen Laitos. France: ACRI-ST, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique., European Science Foundation, Observatoire de Paris, Office National d’Etudes et de Recherches Aérospatiales, Spacefrog Design. Germany: Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt, Jacobs University, University of Passau, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. Greece: European Institute of Law, Science and Technology. Hungary: Atomki, Isotoptech, Wigner RCP. Iceland: Matís Ohf. Italy: Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica, Universita Degli Studi Gabriele D’annunzio di Chieti-Pescara, Università di Bologna, University of Padova. Korea: National Facilities and Equipment Center in Korean Institute. Lithuania: Vilniaus Universitetas. Netherlands: Stichting VU. Poland: Uniwersytet Im. Adama Mickiewicza W Poznaniu, Centrum Badan Kosmicznych Polskiej Akademii Nauk. Russian Federation: M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University. Slovakia: Comenius University of Bratislava. Spain: Centro de Astrobiologia-CAB (CSIC-INTA), Universidad Del Pais Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea. Sweden: Institutet För Rymdfysik, Luleå University of Technology. Switzerland: ETH Zurich. UK: University of Kent, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, Blue Skies Space Ltd, The Dill Faulkes Educational Trust Ltd, Natural History Museum, Open University, University College London, University of Edinburgh, University of Stirling. 

Contacts:

Prof Nigel Mason
President of the Europlanet Society
Coordinator of Europlanet 2024 RI
University of Kent
Canterbury, UK
Email: N.J.Mason@kent.ac.uk

Professor Gareth R. Davies
Vrije Universiteit
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Email: g.r.davies@vu.nl

Prof Barbara Cavalazzi
Università di Bologna
Bologna, Italy
E-mail: barbara.cavalazzi@unibo.it

Media Contacts

Anita Heward
Communications Officer
Europlanet 2020 RI
Tel: +44 7756034243

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

Gateway into Inner Solar System Discovered, Finding May Alter Fundamental Understanding of Comet Evolution

Gateway into Inner Solar System Discovered, Finding May Alter Fundamental Understanding of Comet Evolution

A new study may fundamentally alter our understanding of how comets arrive from the outskirts of the solar system and are funneled to the inner solar system coming closer to Earth. 

At the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva, planetary scientist Dr. Jordan Steckloff presented the discovery of an orbital ‘Gateway’ through which many comets pass just before they approach our Sun. The Gateway was uncovered as part of a suite of orbital simulations of Centaurs, a group of small icy bodies traveling on chaotic orbits between Jupiter and Neptune. The study team modeled the evolution of bodies from beyond Neptune’s orbit, through the giant planet region and inside Jupiter’s orbit. These icy bodies are considered nearly pristine remnants of material from the birth of our solar system.

For a long time, evolution pathwayof comets from their original formation location inwards towards the Sun, has been debated. “How do new comets, controlled by Jupiter’s influence, replace those that are lost? Where is the transition between residing in the outer solar system, as small dormant bodies, and becoming active inner solar system bodies, exhibiting a widespread gas and dust coma and tail?” asked Steckloff. These questions remained a mystery until now. “What we discovered, the Gateway model as a ‘cradle of comets’, will change the way we think about the history of icy bodies,” said Dr. Gal Sarid (University of Central Florida), the lead scientist for the study. 

Centaurs are thought to originate in the Kuiper Belt region beyond Neptune and are considered as the source population of Jupiter Family Comets (JFCs), which occupy the inner solar system. The chaotic nature of Centaur orbits obscures their exact pathways making it difficult to predict their future as comets.  When icy bodies like Centaurs or comets approach the Sun, they begin to release gas and dust to produce the coma and extended tails that we refer to as comets. This display is among the most impressive phenomena observable in the night sky, but it is also a fleeting flicker of beauty that is rapidly followed by either the destruction of the comet or its evolution to a dormant state, said team member Dr. Kathryn Volk (Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, The University of Arizona). 

The original goal of the investigation was to explore the history of a peculiar Centaur object – 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 (SW1). It is a mid-sized Centaur in a nearly circular orbit just beyond Jupiter. SW1 has long puzzled astronomers with its high activity and frequent explosive outbursts that occur at a distance from the Sun where ice should not effectively vaporize. Both its orbit and activity put SW1 in an evolutionary middle ground between the other Centaurs and the JFCs. The research team wanted to explore whether SW1’s current circumstances were consistent with the orbital progression of the other Centaurs. 

“More than one in five Centaurs that we tracked were found to enter an orbit similar to that of SW1 at some point in their lifetime,” said Dr. Maria Womack (Florida Space Institute), scientist and co-author of the study. “Rather than being a peculiar outlier, SW1 is a Centaur caught in the act of dynamically evolving into a JFC.” 

In addition to the commonplace nature of SW1’s orbit, the simulations lead to an even more surprising discovery. “Centaurs passing through this region are the source of more than two thirds of all JFCs, making this the primary Gateway through which these comets are produced,” said team member Dr. Walter Harris (Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, The University of Arizona). The Gateway region does not hold resident objects for long, with most Centaurs becoming JFCs within a few thousand years. This is a short portion of any solar system object’s lifetime, which can span millions and sometimes billions of years. 

The presence of the Gateway provides a long sought after means of identifying the Centaurs on an imminent trajectory toward the inner solar system. SW1 is currently the largest and most active of the handful of objects discovered in this Gateway region, which makes it a “prime candidate to advance our knowledge of the orbital and physical transitions that shape the comet population we see today,” said team member Dr. Laura Woodney (California State University San Bernardino).

Our understanding of comets is intimately linked to knowing our solar system’s early composition and the evolution of conditions for atmospheres and life to arise, the researchers said. The results of this study have recently been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.  

Image

An artist rendered image of what Centaur SW1 would look like as an inner solar system Jupiter-Family comet at a distance of 0.2 AU (30 million km, 19 million miles) from Earth. The Moon is in the upper right part of the frame for scale. (Credit/Copyright: University of Arizona/Heather Roper).

Media contacts

The authors of this study are all members of the Chimera mission concept, a proposed mission to send a spacecraft to orbit 29P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 1 for a 30 month investigation of its evolution, dynamics and activity. This work is funded in part by grants from NSF (1615917, 1824869, 1910275, and 1945950) and NASA (80NSSC18K0497, NNX15AH59G, 80NSSC19K0785).

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

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

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

Shantanu Naidu
DPS Press Officer
dpspress@aas.org

Notes for Editors

EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019
The 2019 Joint Meeting (www.epsc-dps2019.eu) of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) of the Europlanet Society and the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) will take place at the Centre International de Conférences de Genève (CICG), Geneva, Switzerland, from Sunday 15 to Friday 20 September 2019. More than 1950 abstracts have been submitted and over 1500 planetary scientists from Europe, the US and around the world are expected to attend the meeting, making it one of the largest gatherings of planetary scientists held in Europe to date.
The EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 will be the third time that EPSC and the DPS Annual Meeting have been held together.
Follow: @europlanetmedia #EPSCDPS2019

Europlanet
The Europlanet Society, launched in September 2018, is an organization for individual and corporate members to promote the advancement of planetary science and related fields in Europe. The Society provides 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 Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).
Europlanet Society website: www.europlanet-society.org
EPSC-DPSC 2019 Joint Meeting 2019 website: www.epsc-dps2019.eu

DPS
The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), founded in 1968, is the largest special-interest Division of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Members of the DPS study the bodies of our own solar system, from planets and moons to comets and asteroids, and all other solar-system objects and processes. With the discovery that planets exist around other stars, the DPS has expanded its scope to include the study of extrasolar planetary systems as well.

The AAS, established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The membership (approx. 7,500) also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves through publishing, meeting organization, education and outreach, and training and professional development.

Could Venus have been habitable?

Could Venus have been habitable?

Venus may have been a temperate planet hosting liquid water for 2-3 billion years, until a dramatic transformation starting over 700 million years ago resurfaced around 80% of the planet. A study presented today at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 by Michael Way of The Goddard Institute for Space Science gives a new view of Venus’s climatic history and may have implications for the habitability of exoplanets in similar orbits.

Forty years ago, NASA’s Pioneer Venus mission found tantalising hints that Earth’s ‘twisted sister’ planet may once have had a shallow ocean’s worth of water. To see if Venus might ever have had a stable climate capable of supporting liquid water, Dr Way and his colleague, Anthony Del Genio, have created a series of five simulations assuming different levels of water coverage.

In all five scenarios, they found that Venus was able to maintain stable temperatures between a maximum of about 50 degrees Celsius and a minimum of about 20 degrees Celsius for around three billion years. A temperate climate might even have been maintained on Venus today had there not been a series of events that caused a release, or ‘outgassing’, of carbon dioxide stored in the rocks of the planet approximately 700-750 million years ago.

“Our hypothesis is that Venus may have had a stable climate for billions of years. It is possible that the near-global resurfacing event is responsible for its transformation from an Earth-like climate to the hellish hot-house we see today,” said Way.

Three of the five scenarios studied by Way and Del Genio assumed the topography of Venus as we see it today and considered a deep ocean averaging 310 metres, a shallow layer of water averaging 10 metres and a small amount of water locked in the soil. For comparison, they also included a scenario with Earth’s topography and a 310-metre ocean and, finally, a world completely covered by an ocean of 158 metres depth.

To simulate the environmental conditions at 4.2 billion years ago, 715 million years ago and today, the researchers adapted a 3D general circulation model to account for the increase in solar radiation as our Sun has warmed up over its lifetime, as well as for changing atmospheric compositions.

Although many researchers believe that Venus is beyond the inner boundary of our Solar System’s habitable zone and is too close to the Sun to support liquid water, the new study suggests that this might not be the case.

“Venus currently has almost twice the solar radiation that we have at Earth. However, in all the scenarios we have modelled, we have found that Venus could still support surface temperatures amenable for liquid water,” said Way.

At 4.2 billion years ago, soon after its formation, Venus would have completed a period of rapid cooling and its atmosphere would have been dominated by carbon-dioxide. If the planet evolved in an Earth-like way over the next 3 billion years, the carbon dioxide would have been drawn down by silicate rocks and locked into the surface. By the second epoch modelled at 715 million years ago, the atmosphere would likely have been dominated by nitrogen with trace amounts of carbon dioxide and methane – similar to the Earth’s today – and these conditions could have remained stable up until present times.

The cause of the outgassing that led to the dramatic transformation of Venus is a mystery, although probably linked to the planet’s volcanic activity. One possibility is that large amounts of magma bubbled up, releasing carbon dioxide from molten rocks into the atmosphere. The magma solidified before reaching the surface and this created a barrier that meant that the gas could not be reabsorbed. The presence of large amounts of carbon dioxide triggered a runaway greenhouse effect, which has resulted in the scorching 462 degree average temperatures found on Venus today.

“Something happened on Venus where a huge amount of gas was released into the atmosphere and couldn’t be re-absorbed by the rocks. On Earth we have some examples of large-scale outgassing, for instance the creation of the Siberian Traps 500 million years ago which is linked to a mass extinction, but nothing on this scale. It completely transformed Venus,” said Way.

There are still two major unknowns that need to be addressed before the question of whether Venus might have been habitable can be fully answered. The first relates to how quickly Venus cooled initially and whether it was able to condense liquid water on its surface in the first place. The second unknown is whether the global resurfacing event was a single event or simply the latest in a series of events going back billions of years in Venus’s history.

“We need more missions to study Venus and get a more detailed understanding of its history and evolution,” said Way. “However, our models show that there is a real possibility that Venus could have been habitable and radically different from the Venus we see today. This opens up all kinds of implications for exoplanets found in what is called the ‘Venus Zone’, which may in fact host liquid water and temperate climates.”

Artist’s representation of Venus with water. Credit: NASA

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/ancient-venus-new.jpg

Media contacts

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

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

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

Shantanu Naidu
DPS Press Officer
dpspress@aas.org

Notes for Editors

EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019
The 2019 Joint Meeting (www.epsc-dps2019.eu) of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) of the Europlanet Society and the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) will take place at the Centre International de Conférences de Genève (CICG), Geneva, Switzerland, from Sunday 15 to Friday 20 September 2019. More than 1950 abstracts have been submitted and over 1500 planetary scientists from Europe, the US and around the world are expected to attend the meeting, making it one of the largest gatherings of planetary scientists held in Europe to date.

The EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 will be the third time that EPSC and the DPS Annual Meeting have been held together.
Follow: @europlanetmedia #EPSCDPS2019

Europlanet
The Europlanet Society, launched in September 2018, is an organization for individual and corporate members to promote the advancement of planetary science and related fields in Europe. The Society provides 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 Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).
Europlanet Society website: www.europlanet-society.org
EPSC-DPSC 2019 Joint Meeting 2019 website: www.epsc-dps2019.eu

DPS
The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), founded in 1968, is the largest special-interest Division of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Members of the DPS study the bodies of our own solar system, from planets and moons to comets and asteroids, and all other solar-system objects and processes. With the discovery that planets exist around other stars, the DPS has expanded its scope to include the study of extrasolar planetary systems as well.

The AAS, established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The membership (approx. 7,500) also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves through publishing, meeting organization, education and outreach, and training and professional development.

Drones probe terrestrial dust devils to better understand the atmosphere of Mars

Drones probe terrestrial dust devils to better understand the atmosphere of Mars

Dust devils, small dusty whirlwinds, have been studied for decades. But, says Brian Jackson, an associate professor in the Department of Physics at Boise State University, the ability of dust devils to lift dust into the atmosphere remains murky. “When we compare theoretical predictions of how much dust a devil should lift to how much it does lift, the numbers just don’t add up,” says Jackson,

Now, Jackson and his team, including Dr Ralph Lorenz of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab and Michelle Szurgot, an undergraduate physics major at Boise State, have begun to study the phenomenon in a way it has never been studied before. They fly drones through active dust devils on the Alvord Desert of southeastern Oregon. The drones carry cameras and other lightweight instruments, including pressure and temperature loggers, that measure the structures of the dust devil while taking particle samples to determine how much material the dust devil is carrying.  Jackson will present results today at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Dust devils, while common in arid climates on Earth, are ubiquitous on Mars, where they may be responsible for much of the planet’s haze that helps heat its atmosphere. Dust devils have been observed from landers the ground and from orbiting spacecraft all over the surface of Mars. A better understanding of dust devils on Earth will help scientists understand their influence on Mars’ climate, says Jackson.

NASA currently has three active rovers on Mars, two of which are powered by solar panels. Martian dust has been a concern, falling on the panels and reducing the amount of energy generated, and the static charges that can build up in the dust devils may pose a hazard to electrical equipment deployed on Mars.

Previous studies of martian dust devils have relied on passive sampling of the profiles via meteorology packages on landed spacecraft. Past studies of terrestrial devils have employed more active sampling (instrumented vehicles or manned aircraft) but have been limited to near-surface or relatively high-altitude sampling.

Drones promise a new and powerful platform from which to sample dust devils at a variety of altitudes. Measurements made aloft are more directly relevant for evaluating the dust that is injected into the atmosphere.

In summer 2017, Jackson and his team were awarded a grant from the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium to launch drones into dust devils. In 2018, they also received a three-year, $217,000 grant from NASA’s Solar System Workings Program.

Image and video

Dust devil research in the Alvord desert of Eastern Oregon. Credit: J. Kelly/B. Jackson

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Dust_devil.jpg

Footage collected onboard the drone during flight:

Media Contacts
Anna Webb
Tel: +(208) 426-3275
annawebb@boisestate.edu

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

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

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

Shantanu Naidu
DPS Press Officer
dpspress@aas.org

During the meeting, the EPSC-DPS Press Office can be contacted on +41 22 791 9617.

Further information

EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019

The 2019 Joint Meeting (www.epsc-dps2019.eu) of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) of the Europlanet Society and the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) will take place at the Centre International de Conférences de Genève (CICG), Geneva, Switzerland, from Sunday 15 to Friday 20 September 2019. More than 1950 abstracts have been submitted and over 1500 planetary scientists from Europe, the US and around the world are expected to attend the meeting, making it one of the largest gatherings of planetary scientists held in Europe to date.

The EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 will be the third time that EPSC and the DPS Annual Meeting have been held together.

Follow: @europlanetmedia #EPSCDPS2019

Europlanet 

The Europlanet Society, launched in September 2018, is an organization for individual and corporate members to promote the advancement of planetary science and related fields in Europe. The Society provides 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 Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

Europlanet Society website: www.europlanet-society.org

EPSC-DPSC 2019 Joint Meeting 2019 website: www.epsc-dps2019.eu

DPS

The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), founded in 1968, is the largest special-interest Division of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Members of the DPS study the bodies of our own solar system, from planets and moons to comets and asteroids, and all other solar-system objects and processes. With the discovery that planets exist around other stars, the DPS has expanded its scope to include the study of extrasolar planetary systems as well.

The AAS, established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The membership (approx. 7,500) also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves through publishing, meeting organization, education and outreach, and training and professional development.

About Boise State University

A public metropolitan research university with more than 22,000 students, Boise State is proud to be powered by creativity and innovation. Located in Idaho’s capital city, the university has a growing research agenda and plays a crucial role in the region’s knowledge economy and famed quality of life. In the past 10 years, the university has quadrupled the number of doctoral degrees, doubled its masters degrees and now offers 13 online degree programs. Learn more at www.BoiseState.edu.

Venus puts on variety show among its cloud-tops

Studies of the cloud-tops of Venus by JAXA’s Akatsuki spacecraft show striking variety in wind speeds year-on-year and between the planet’s northern and southern hemispheres. The first fine-scale observations of cloud-top temperatures have also revealed a tendency for clouds to converge towards the equator at night, in contrast to poleward circulation seen previously in daytime studies. 

The results, which have been presented today at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva, provide new insights into the mystery of why the Venusian atmosphere rotates much faster than the planet itself.

Prof Masato Nakamura, Project Manager of Akatsuki at JAXA, said: “The Venusian ‘super-rotation’ is most pronounced at the tops of Venus’s clouds, making this an important region for understanding the dynamics of the planet’s atmosphere. The Akatsuki mission is in a highly elliptical orbit around Venus that enables the spacecraft to image both the north and south hemispheres of the planet simultaneously.”

An international team of researchers has used advanced cloud-tracking and quality control techniques to analyse with high accuracy the direction and speed of cloud top winds using data collected by the Ultraviolet Imager (UVI) instrument over three years.

The study, led by Prof Takeshi Horinouchi of Hokkaido University, Japan, and Dr Yeon Joo Lee of JAXA/ISAS and TU Berlin, found that the super-rotation speed at the cloud tops not only changes over time but is different in the northern and southern hemispheres. The team also detected planetary-scale atmospheric waves at the cloud tops, which may interact with the super-rotation.

The degree of difference between the hemispheres, or ‘asymmetry’, may be linked to a second mystery at Venus: an as-yet unidentified chemical species in the atmosphere that strongly absorbs ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. 

Prof Horinouchi said: “The asymmetry in super-rotation speeds in cloud tops in the northern and southern hemispheres might be caused by variability in the distribution of the so-called ‘unknown’ ultraviolet absorber, which plays a key role in regulating how much radiation from the Sun that Venus can absorb. Our results provide new questions about the atmosphere of Venus, as well as revealing the richness of variety of the Venus atmosphere over space and time.” 

A separate study has revealed a detailed picture of Venus’s cloud temperatures for the first time on both the dayside and nightside of the planet. A team from the University of Tokyo, Rikkyo University and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan tracked the development over time of mottled clouds and streaky features in imagery from Akatsuki’s LIR infrared camera. 

The observation of cloud motions throughout the day and night has enabled the team to determine the average circulation in north-south directions and to detect thermally driven tides that create waves in the atmosphere and could play a key role in maintaining the super-rotation.

Mr Kiichi Fukuya of the University of Tokyo, who presented the results at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019, said: “The most exciting discovery is the frequent occurrence of equatorward motions on the nightside – this is in contrast to the strong poleward circulation on the dayside we have observed previously at other wavelengths.” 

The findings suggest that there are as-yet unknown processes that are affecting cloud formation and atmospheric dynamics.“Akatsuki team members have been presenting their hottest topics today at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019. The main goal of Akatsuki is to understand the Venusian atmospheric dynamics and cloud physics, which is quite different from that of the Earth. As the culmination of these studies, we believe that we will give a definitive answer how the super-rotation is maintained at Venus very near future,” said Prof Nakamura.

Images

Venus dayside synthesized false color image by UVI and IR1 (2016 Apr 25) No.1 A synthesized false color image of Venus using 283-nm and 365-nm images taken by UVI plus 0.90-µm (900-nm) image taken by IR1. Images are colorized as follows: 283 nm → blue; 365 nm → green; 0.90 µm → red. In the 283 nm band observed by UVI, there is an absorption band of sulfur dioxide (SO2). Also, there is an absorption band of an unidentified chemical substance in the 365 nm band. For example, it can be said that the amount of SO2 is relatively low in the bluish areas in this image. © PLANET-C Project Team
Equator-wards motion of clouds on night side. Credit: University of Tokyo.
Pole-wards motion of clouds on day side. Credit: University of Tokyo.
Artist’s impression of the Akatsuki mission. Credit: ISAS/JAXA

Science contacts

Takehiko Satoh
Project Scientist of Akatsuki
satoh.takehiko@jaxa.jp

Masato Nakamura
Project Manager of Akatsuki
nakamura.masato@jaxa.jp

Media contacts

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

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

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

Shantanu Naidu
DPS Press Officer
dpspress@aas.org

During the meeting, the EPSC-DPS Press Office can be contacted on +41 22 791 9617.

Notes for Editors

Europlanet
The Europlanet Society, launched in September 2018, is an organization for individual and corporate members to promote the advancement of planetary science and related fields in Europe. The Society provides 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 Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

Europlanet Society website: www.europlanet-society.org
EPSC-DPSC 2019 Joint Meeting 2019 website: www.epsc-dps2019.eu

DPS
The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), founded in 1968, is the largest special-interest Division of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Members of the DPS study the bodies of our own solar system, from planets and moons to comets and asteroids, and all other solar-system objects and processes. With the discovery that planets exist around other stars, the DPS has expanded its scope to include the study of extrasolar planetary systems as well.

The AAS, established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The membership (approx. 7,500) also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists,
engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves through publishing, meeting organization, education and outreach, and training and professional development.

Venus Takes Centre Stage in October 2020 Observation Campaign

Venus Takes Centre Stage in October 2020 Observation Campaign

Next October, Venus will be the focus of an international campaign of coordinated observations involving two space agencies, three missions and multiple ground-based telescopes and planetary scientists around the world. The collaboration aims to shed new light on the thick and complex atmosphere of Venus. Plans for the campaign and a call for astronomers to participate have been announced today by Dr Yeon Joo Lee of TU Berlin and Dr Valeria Mangano of INAF-IAPS at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting in Geneva.

On 15th October 2020, the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo spacecraft will pass close to Venus in the first of two flybys of the planet during the mission’s long journey to Mercury. The encounter will provide an unmissable opportunity to cross-check the accuracy of BepiColombo’s instrumentation with that of JAXA’s Venus orbiter, Akatsuki, and for the two missions to work together with Earth-based observers to study Venus’s atmosphere from multiple viewpoints and at different scales.

The BepiColombo mission was successfully launched on October 20th 2018, at 01:45 UTC. It consists of two scientific orbiters, ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO, renamed at launch ‘Mio’), which are designed to explore Mercury and its environment. The mission will go into orbit around Mercury in December 2025. BepiColombo will use encounters with Venus in October 2020 and August 2021 to help it spiral onto an orbital path where it can catch up with fast-moving Mercury, which whizzes round the Sun every 88 days.

Eight out of the eleven instruments onboard the MPO will be able to operate at Venus. While this suite of sensors has been designed to study the rocky, atmosphere-free environment at Mercury, the MPO instrumentation will be able to contribute valuable science at Venus during the flyby.

In particular, MPO’s thermal infrared spectrometer and radiometer (MERTIS) will provide temperature and density profiles and study the chemical composition and cloud cover in the mid-altitude atmosphere. This will be the first time observations of this kind have been made since the Russian Venera 15 mission in 1983. MPO’s UV spectrometer (PHEBUS) may provide UV range reflectivity from the clouds and emissions from the upper atmosphere while its approaching to Venus. Six other instruments on both MPO and Mio will study the interaction between the Sun and Venus’s upper atmosphere. The magnetometers on each spacecraft will study the magnetic environment.

The infrared and ultraviolet instruments will make coordinated observations with the corresponding cameras onboard Akatsuki (LIR and UVI). Earth-based telescopes, such as the Canada France Hawaii Telescope (CHFT), the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF), the Earth-orbiting Hisaki ultraviolet astronomy satellite, will contribute a different viewing perspective and enable global mapping of atmospheric features at Venus.

Akatsuki is currently the only spacecraft in orbit around Venus. The mission arrived in December 2015 and monitors the planet every two hours from an elliptical orbit that takes it from 1,000 kilometres at its closest approach to 330,000 kilometres at its furthest point.

At the time of the flyby, BepiColombo will be at 10,681 kilometres from Venus’s surface – approximately 30 times closer to the planet than Akatsuki, which will be at its peak distance. This means that BepiColombo will be able to make close up observations while Akatsuki will capture processes at a global scale.

Yeon Joo Lee, said: “The opportunity to use all these instruments simultaneously will give us access to multiple wavelengths to probe different altitudes of the atmosphere and to distinguish the different gases present. Simultaneous observations from a close-up to a global view mean that we can study physical processes on the planet at a variety of scales, from convection across a few tens of kilometres to global circulation patterns. The different viewing angles and distances of all the spacecraft and telescopes involved will enable us to see what’s happening on the dayside and the nightside of the planet and how processes evolve over time, which can be missed by just one mission.”

Akatsuki has made several significant discoveries since arriving at Venus, including global scale waves in the Venusian atmosphere, complex variations in cloud cover and surprising decadal variations of a mysterious constituent of the atmosphere that absorbs of ultraviolet radiation.

Valeria Mangano said: “These collaborative Venus observations with BepiColombo, Akatsuki, and Earth-based telescopes will provide important data to put these recent findings on atmospheric structure and dynamics of Venus into context and improve our understanding of the planet. Should this campaign be fruitful, the effort will be repeated a second time during the next Venus flyby of BepiColombo on 10th August 2021, when a much closer flyby at Venus will happen at less than 1,000 kilometres.”

Images

Graphic highlighting some of the science themes that may be possible to study during the two flybys of Venus. Credit: ESA

https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/BepiColombo_Venus_flyby_science.jpg

Animation
An animation of viewing geometry changes during the first Venus flyby. The intervals between the images are 30-60 min. The size of Venus is not scaled, but the apparent size of Venus is shown in the bottom text.
Left: BepiColombo; Middle: Akatsuki; Right: Earth. Credit: ESA/JAXA
https://www.europlanet-society.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/1stVenusflyby_20201014-20201016_v20190829.wmv

Science Contacts

Yeon Joo Lee
TU Berlin
y.j.lee@astro.physik.tu-berlin.de

Valeria Mangano
INAF-IAPS
Rome
valeria.mangano@inaf.it

Media Contacts

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

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

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

Shantanu Naidu
DPS Press Officer
dpspress@aas.org

Notes for editors

Europlanet 

The Europlanet Society, launched in September 2018, is an organization for individual and corporate members to promote the advancement of planetary science and related fields in Europe. The Society provides 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 Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

Europlanet Society website: www.europlanet-society.org

EPSC-DPSC 2019 Joint Meeting 2019 website: www.epsc-dps2019.eu

DPS

The Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS), founded in 1968, is the largest special-interest Division of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Members of the DPS study the bodies of our own solar system, from planets and moons to comets and asteroids, and all other solar-system objects and processes. With the discovery that planets exist around other stars, the DPS has expanded its scope to include the study of extrasolar planetary systems as well.

The AAS, established in 1899, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. The membership (approx. 7,500) also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists,

engineers, and others whose research interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe, which it achieves through publishing, meeting organization, education and outreach, and training and professional development.

Updated: EPSC-DPS 2019 press briefings

Thursday 19th September, 12:15-13:15 CEST (10:15-11:15 UTC / 06:15-07:15 EDT)
Akatsuki mission results, 2020 Coordinated Venus Observations and science at Venus

  • Masato Nakamura (ISAS/JAXA) – Akatsuki mission update
  • Takeshi Horinouchi (Hokkaido University) – Cloud-top wind observations by Akatsuki
  • Takeshi Imamura (University of Tokyo) – Infrared observations at Venusian cloud tops
  • Yeon Joo Lee (Technical University of Berlin) – 2020 Coordinated Venus Observation Campaign
  • Valeria Mangano (INAF-IAPS) – Venus flybys of BepiColombo for the 2020 Coordinated Venus Observation Campaign
  • Michael Way (NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) – Possible habitability of ancient Venus and Venus-like exoplanets

Wednesday 18th September, 12:15-13:15 CEST (10:15-11:15 UTC / 06:15-07:15 EDT)
Future mission updates

  • Patrick Michel (Observatoire de la Côte d’Azur, CNRS) – Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) science update
  • Nancy Chabot (Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab) – NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission
  • Michael Küppers (European Space Astronomy Centre (ESA/ESAC) – Hera mission
  • Colin Wilson (University of Oxford) – EnVision mission to Venus
  • Kelly Geelen (European Space Agency) – Mars Sample Return plans and current status

Tuesday 17th September, 12:15-13:15 CEST (10:15-11:15 UTC / 06:15-07:15 EDT)
Hayabusa2 & Lucy missions

  • Antonella Barucci (Observatoire de Paris) – Spectral variation on the surface of Ryugu
  • Makoto Yshikawa (ISAS/JAXA) – Hayabusa2 mission results: the impact experiment and the second touchdown
  • Franck Marchis (SETI Institute) – Occultation of Lucy mission target, Orus

Monday 16th September, 12:15-13:15 CEST (10:15-11:15 UTC / 06:15-07:15 EDT)
Cheops mission update

  • Michel Mayor (University of Geneva) – Exoplanets in context
  • Kate Isaak (European Space Agency) – Cheops mission status
  • Willy Benz (University of Bern) – Cheops – An exoplanet follow-up mission
  • Ravit Helled (University of Zurich) – Cheops contribution to open questions in (exo)planetary science
  • David Ehrenreich (University of Geneva) – Cheops in the context of other exoplanet missions