The ESA Hera Mission: Investigating binary asteroid (65803) Didymos and the DART crater

The ESA Hera Mission: Investigating binary asteroid (65803) Didymos and the DART crater

One week ahead of the impact by NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft with Dimorphos, the moon of binary asteroid (65803) Didymos, representatives of the European Space Agency’s Hera mission, the Italian LICIACube mission and DART have presented an update on the missions at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022.

Planetary defense is the preparation of humankind to avoid a catastrophic collision between Earth and asteroids, like the Chicxulub event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, or the impact of an asteroid that created the 1km-size meteor crater in Arizona about 50 000 years ago. Humanity’s first ever demonstration of asteroid deflection is happening right now: On 26 September 2022, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will impact the asteroid Dimorphos—which poses no threat to Earth—to change its orbit in a measurable way. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) manages the DART mission for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office as a project of the agency’s Planetary Missions Program Office. Using the same technique, humankind could in the future attempt to deviate an asteroid on collision course with Earth if a threat were ever discovered.

Dimorphos is part of an asteroid pair, like the Earth-Moon system, and orbits around a larger asteroid called Didymos. Following DART’s impact, the change in Dimorphos’ orbit can be detected by telescopic observations from Earth, and during a few minutes following the impact, observations of the ejecta from the impact will be attempted by LICIACube, a small briefcase-sized satellite travelling along with DART and contributed by the Italian Space Agency (ASI). Therefore, shortly after the impact, we should know whether DART hit successfully Dimorphos as well as the geological properties of the impact site, whether ejecta have been produced by the impact and we will have a quantification of the resulting orbital change of the target around its central body Didymos. 

However, to further understanding of the impact process and the scaling of the outcome to other asteroids, a follow on investigation of the target asteroid and the crater resulting from DART’s kinetic impact are planned. This detailed investigation will be performed by ESA’s Hera mission. To be launched in 2024, Hera will rendezvous with the Didymos system in late 2026. Together with its two companion “cubesats”, called Juventas and Milani, the mission will perform a full characterization of the deflection measuring the mass of Dimorphos to help further understand the efficiency of the DART impact, as well as studying the impact crater in detail. Additionally, Hera aims to further improve understanding of the kinetic spacecraft impactor process and investigate the physical properties of the target asteroid. This will help enable scaling the impact outcome to other targets.

Integration of the Hera spacecraft and its scientific instruments are ongoing. Together with DART, this pair of missions will not only validate the kinetic impactor asteroid deflection technique but also provide unique clues on the formation processes of binary asteroids and ultimately of the Solar System.

2022 Farinella Prize Awarded to Julie Castillo-Rogez and Martin Jutzi

2022 Farinella Prize Awarded to Julie Castillo-Rogez and Martin Jutzi

Dr Julie Castillo-Rogez, a planetary scientist working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California (USA), and Dr Martin Jutzi, a physicist working at the Physics Institute of University of Bern (Switzerland), have been awarded jointly the 2022 Paolo Farinella Prize for their outstanding contributions to the field of “Asteroids: Physics, Dynamics, Modelling and Observations”. The award ceremony took place during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022 in Granada, Spain, and was followed by a 15-minute prize lecture from each of the winners.

The annual Prize was established in 2010 to honour the memory of the Italian scientist Paolo Farinella (1953-2000). The Prize 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 2022, the twelfth edition was devoted to asteroids, which in recent years have become an increasingly important area of interest for the scientific community.

Dr Castillo-Rogez has made significant contributions to our understanding of the physical and chemical evolutions of small and mid-sized Solar System bodies. Through modelling and synthesis of existing data, she has gleaned information about the origins and dynamical evolution of objects from the main belt, between Mars and Jupiter, to the trans-Neptunian region, i.e. the region that extends farther from the Sun than the planet Neptune. Her multi-disciplinary expertise, which embraces geology, geophysics and planetology, has allowed her to apply increasingly sophisticated tools to understand the geochemical evolution of objects potentially characterised by volatile elements. Dr Castillo-Rogez’s contribution was critical to the success of the Dawn mission at the dwarf planet Ceres: before the mission, her studies paved the way to understanding that Ceres likely had a subsurface ocean in its past, and might still harbour brines; after the mission, her analysis of Dawn’s data advanced the hypothesis that mid-sized cold bodies could be past or present ocean worlds.

Dr Jutzi has made outstanding contributions to the study of collisional processes involving bodies ranging from small asteroids to planetary scales. In particular, he developed a state-of-the-art Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamic (SPH) shock physics code specially suited to study the regimes of collisions among small bodies where the complex effects of material strength, friction, porosity as well as gravity determine the outcome concurrently. Dr Jutzi also succeeded in reproducing the evolution of the asteroid Vesta’s observed shape following two overlapping planet-scale collisions, and even provided maps of impact excavation and deposition of ejected materials. Recently, he contributed to the numerical modelling of the impact of NASA’s DART mission on the moon of the binary asteroid Didymos, which showed that the small moon Dimorphos may be entirely reshaped by the impact.

Overall, Dr Castillo-Rogez’s and Dr Jutzi’s work have led to a deeper understanding of the nature and evolution of asteroids, both from a theoretical and an observational point of view. 

Dr Castillo-Rogez received her MS in Geophysics and her PhD in Planetary Geophysics at University of Rennes (France). She is currently Associate Scientist for the Planetary Science Directorate at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (California, USA).

Dr Jutzi received his MS in Physics at University of Bern (Switzerland) and then his PhD in Physics at University of Bern and Nice Observatory (France). He now holds the position of Senior Researcher at University of Bern.

Before receiving the Prize, Dr Castillo-Rogez commented “I am honored to win this prize, especially as there are so many deserving colleagues out there. The bulk of my work is based on the observations returned by the Cassini-Huygens and Dawn mission, both built on highly successful international collaborations. Working with these teams has been an incredible experience and led to long-lasting friendships on both sides of the Atlantic. So this makes receiving this prize at EPSC 2022 very special. Unfortunately, I have never had the privilege to meet Dr. Farinella, although I have many times referred to his work.”

Dr Jutzi said: “I am very honoured to be awarded the Paolo Farinella Prize. For me this is an important recognition of my contribution to the understanding of asteroid physics, in particular the impact processes that determined the evolution and current state of these objects – some of them being explored by ongoing space missions as we speak. I am grateful to my scientific mentors and colleagues who have helped me achieve this.”

 About the Paolo Farinella Prize

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

The first “Paolo Farinella Prize” was awarded in 2011 to William Bottke, for his contribution to the field of “physics and dynamics of small solar system bodies”. In 2012 the Prize went to John Chambers, for his contribution to the field of “formation and early evolution of the solar system”. In 2013, to Patrick Michel, for his work in the field of “collisional processes in the solar system.” In 2014, to David Vokrouhlicky for his contributions to “our understanding of the dynamics and physics of solar system, including how pressure from solar radiation affects the orbits of both asteroids and artificial satellites”, in 2015 to Nicolas Biver for his studies of “the molecular and isotopic composition of cometary volatiles by means of submillimetre and millimetre ground and space observations”, and in 2016 to Kleomenis Tsiganis for “his studies of the applications of celestial mechanics to the dynamics of planetary systems, including the development of the Nice model”. In 2017, to Simone Marchi for his contributions to “understanding the complex problems related to the impact history and physical evolution of the inner Solar System, including the Moon”. In 2018, to Francis Nimmo, for his contributions in our “understanding of the internal structure and evolution of icy bodies in the Solar System and the resulting influence on their surface processes”. In 2019, to Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo, for their outstanding collaborative work for the “observational characterisation of the Kuiper belt and the Neptune-trojan population”. In 2020, to Jonathan Fortney and Heather Knutson for their significant contribution in our “understanding of the structure, evolution and atmospheric dynamics of giant planets”. Finally, in 2021, to Diana Valencia and Lena Noack, for their significant contributions in “our understanding of the interior structure and dynamics of terrestrial and super-Earth exoplanets”.

Images

Julie Castillo-Rogez. Credit: J Castillo-Rogez

Martin Jutzi. Credit: M Jutzi

The Farinella Prize winners 2022, Julie Castillo-Rogez of JPL (left) and Martin Jutzi of the University of Bern (right). The prizes were presented by Alessandro Rossi, IFAC-CNR, Italy.

Science Contacts

Julie Castillo-Rogez
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
julie.c.castillo@jpl.nasa.gov

Martin Jutzi
University of Bern
Space Research & Planetary Sciences
+41 31 684 85 49
martin.jutzi@andre-gallispace-unibe-ch

Media Contacts

EPSC2022 Press Office
+44 7756 034243
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2022.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 16 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 #EPSC2022.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC).

About EANA

The European Astrobiology Network Association (http://www.eana-net.eu), joins together people interested in the origins of life and the search for extraterrestrial life in the Solar System and beyond. This interdisciplinary domain involves scientists from multiple disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology, geology, astronomy, and human sciences.  

Star Light Simulator illuminates the search for life around the Milky Way’s most common stars

Star Light Simulator illuminates the search for life around the Milky Way’s most common stars

Italian researchers have demonstrated experimentally for the first time that microorganisms can photosynthesise using the infrared-dominated light emitted by the most common type of star in the Milky Way.  The results from the Star Light Simulator, presented at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022, suggest that life could develop around stars different from our Sun and produce oxygen-rich worlds that are habitable by more complex organisms.

Most stars in our Milky Way are the smallest type of hydrogen-burning star, known as red M-dwarfs. They are cooler and less luminous than our Sun and primarily emit light in the infrared and far-infrared, with very low emissions at visible wavelengths. Due to their abundance, many exoplanets have been found around M-dwarfs. However, whether or not these planets could support life has been the subject of much debate in recent years. 

The Star Light Simulator, built by a collaboration of teams from the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF), the Institute of Photonics and Nanotechnology (IFN-CNR) and the Department of Biology in Padua, can generate light intensities and spectra at different ranges to reproduce the light for any star. For this experimental setup, the team recreated the emitted light from an M-dwarf along with an atmospheric simulator chamber that replicated an artificial planetary environment. 

“We initially focused on cyanobacteria since they have extraordinary capacities to withstand every environment on the Earth, as well as a known ability to survive in near-infrared light,” said Prof Nicoletta La Rocca of the University of Padua, who led the study. “When these acclimatised to the simulated environment, we extended our tests to mosses and various types of red and green microalgae.”

All the experiments were successful, with all the microrganisms demonstrating that they could grow and photosynthesise under M-dwarf light. 

Prof La Rocca commented: “Life as we know it depends on liquid water, so that is one of the major criteria for an exoplanet to be considered to be habitable. More complex terrestrial life forms also depend on oxygen. On Earth, photosynthesising cyanobacteria played a vital role in oxidising our atmosphere. The new experimental results extend our knowledge of potentially habitable environments and hence, where we might expect to find a planet harbouring complex life.”

FURTHER INFORMATION

The results have been submitted for publication in a special issue of the open-access Life journal in the special issue “Frontiers in Extremophiles: From Life at Edges on Earth to Space Exploration”.

La Rocca, N., Battistuzzi, M., Claudi, R., Cocola, L., and Poletto, L.: Responses of eukaryotic photosynthetic organisms to simulated M-dwarf star light. , Europlanet Science Congress 2022, Granada, Spain, 18–23 Sep 2022, EPSC2022-495, 2022.

https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EPSC2022/EPSC2022-495.html

IMAGES

The Star Light Simulator (left) and illuminated (right). It has 25 channels in total, emitting light from 365 nanometres (UV light) to 940 nanometres (infrared light). Credit: La Rocca et al.

The Star Light Simulator (left) and illuminated (right). It has 25 channels in total, emitting light from 365 nanometres (UV light) to 940 nanometres (infrared light). Credit: La Rocca et al.
M-dwarfs stars display a very different range of properties compared to Sun-like stars, impacting the potential for life on planets orbiting those stars. Credit: T Roger/Europlanet 2024 RI

SCIENCE CONTACTS

Prof Nicoletta La Rocca
Department of Biology
University of Padua
nicoletta.larocca@unipd.it

CONTACTS

EPSC2022 Press Office
+44 7756 034243
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

FURTHER INFORMATION 

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2022.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 16 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 #EPSC2022.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC).

About EANA

The European Astrobiology Network Association (http://www.eana-net.eu), joins together people interested in the origins of life and the search for extraterrestrial life in the Solar System and beyond. This interdisciplinary domain involves scientists from multiple disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology, geology, astronomy, and human sciences.  

Earth-like exoplanets unlikely to be another ‘pale blue dot’

Earth-like exoplanets unlikely to be another ‘pale blue dot’

When searching for Earth-like worlds around other stars, instead of looking for the ‘pale blue dot’ described by Carl Sagan, new research suggests that a hunt for dry, cold ‘pale yellow dots’ might have a better chance of success. The near balance of land-to-water that has helped life flourish on Earth could be highly unusual, according to a Swiss-German study presented at the Europlanet Science Congress 2022 in Granada. 

Tilman Spohn and Dennis Höning studied how the evolution and cycles of continents and water could shape the development of terrestrial exoplanets. Results from their models suggest that planets have approximately an 80 percent probability of being mostly covered by land, with 20 percent likely to be mainly oceanic worlds. Barely one percent of the outcomes had an Earth-like distribution of land and water.

“We Earthlings enjoy the balance between land areas and oceans on our home planet. It is tempting to assume that a second Earth would be just like ours, but our modelling results suggest that this is not likely to be the case,” said Prof Spohn, Executive Director of the International Space Science Institute in Bern, Switzerland.

The team’s numerical models suggest that the average surface temperatures would not be too different, with perhaps a 5° Celsius variation, but that the land-to-ocean distribution would affect the planets’ climates. An ocean world, with less than 10 percent land, would likely be moist and warm, with a climate similar to the Earth in the tropic and subtropic epoch that followed the asteroid impact that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. 

The continental worlds, with less than 30 percent oceans, would feature colder, drier and harsher climates. Cool deserts might occupy in the inner parts of landmasses, and overall they would resemble our Earth sometime during the last Ice Age, when extensive glaciers and ice-sheets developed.

On Earth, the growth of continents by volcanic activity and their erosion by weathering is approximately balanced. Life based on photosynthesis thrives on land, where it has direct access to solar energy. The oceans provide a huge reservoir of water that enhances rainfall and prevent the present climate from becoming too dry. 

“In the engine of Earth’s plate tectonics, internal heat drives geologic activity, such as earthquakes, volcanoes and mountain building, and results in the growth of continents. The land’s erosion is part of a series of cycles that exchange water between the atmosphere and the interior. Our numerical models of how these cycles interact show that present-day Earth may be an exceptional planet, and that the equilibrium of landmass may be unstable over billions of years. While all the planets modelled could be considered habitable, their fauna and flora may be quite different,” said Prof Spohn.

Further information:

Spohn, T. and Hoening, D.: Land/Ocean Surface Diversity on Earth-like (Exo)planets: Implications for Habitability, Europlanet Science Congress 2022, Granada, Spain, 18–23 Sep 2022, EPSC2022-506, 2022. https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EPSC2022/EPSC2022-506.html

Images

Terrestrial planets can evolve in three scenarios of land/ocean distribution: covered by lands, oceans or an equal mix of both. The land-covered planet is the most probable scenario ( around 80%), while our “equal mix” Earth (<1% chance) is even more unique than previously thought.

Modelling shows that the probabilities of three very-different looking types of terrestrial planets  (covered with land, ocean or an equal mix of both) vary widely, while highly impacting their climate and thus their habitability.
Modelling shows that the probabilities of three very-different looking types of terrestrial planets (covered with land, ocean or an equal mix of both) vary widely, while highly impacting their climate and thus their habitability. Credit: Europlanet 2024 RI/T. Roger.

Image showing the Earth from a distance of 6 billion kilometres, taken by the NASA Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990. It has become iconic as the “pale blue dot”. The image was newly processed and released by NASA in 2020.  

Image showing the Earth from a distance of 6 billion kilometres, taken by the NASA Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990. It has become iconic as the “pale blue dot”.
Image showing the Earth from a distance of 6 billion kilometres, taken by the NASA Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1990. It has become iconic as the “pale blue dot”. The image was newly processed and released by NASA in 2020. Credit:

Science Contacts

Prof. Tilman Spohn
International Space Science Institute
Bern, Switzerland 
tilman.spohn@issibern.ch

Media Contacts

EPSC2022 Press Office
+44 7756 034243
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2022.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 16 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 #EPSC2022.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC).

About EANA

The European Astrobiology Network Association (http://www.eana-net.eu), joins together people interested in the origins of life and the search for extraterrestrial life in the Solar System and beyond. This interdisciplinary domain involves scientists from multiple disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology, geology, astronomy, and human sciences.  

When astronomy went virtual

When astronomy went virtual

Astronomy is a powerful tool to bring people closer to science – even in challenging times, such as those of the COVID-19 pandemic. The beauty of the night sky, the charm of distant and exotic phenomena, the continuous discoveries in space exploration: all of these elements intrigue the public, especially young people, promoting at the same time a sense of solidarity and union between people. 

Right from the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, in fact, many professional and amateur groups have become involved with live streaming astronomical events to the general public. At the beginning, these events served as a way of providing sky watching and science outreach opportunities during the confinement conditions imposed by the pandemic. But now, they have become an extraordinary tool to share these topics with a wide audience spread over many countries around the world.

In order to reflect on some of the lessons learned from these initiatives, a Monday-evening session at EPSC2022 in Granada will bring together researchers and public outreach practitioners from across Europe.

The session will also look ahead to future celestial events — for example, an upcoming partial solar eclipse on 25 October  — and discuss how the astronomy community can capitalise on the opportunities they create.

The chairperson of the session is Graham Jones, an astrophysicist and science communicator at timeanddate.com, the world’s leading website for time and time zones, that has been broadcasting eclipses and transits since 2016.

The co-conveners of the session are Claudia Mignone, astrophysicist and science communicator at INAF, the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, and Helen Usher, research student at the Open University in the UK who works with the Faulkes Telescope Educational Project and leads on the Comet Chasers education and outreach project.

The session at EPSC2022 will be held on 19 September at 17:30 CEST in Room Andalucia 3.

An online follow-up workshop is being planned for Wednesday, 23 November (starting at 13:00 CET) — anyone involved with providing astronomy live streams is invited to join this virtual session. Anyone interested is welcome to get in touch with Graham Jones via graham@timeanddate.com

Dazzling Views of Mars with JWST Presented Today at EPSC2022

Dazzling Views of Mars with JWST Presented Today at Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022

NASA’s JWST mission captured its first images and spectra of Mars on 5 September. The telescope, an international collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the CSA (Canadian Space Agency), provides a unique perspective with its infrared sensitivity on our neighboring planet, complementing data being collected by orbiters, rovers, and other telescopes. The images were presented today at a briefing at EPSC2022, and reported in a blog on the NASA website.

Videos

In an interview at EPSC2022, Dr Niamh Shaw spoke with the team behind the new images about their first glimpse of Mars with Webb.

Images

Webb’s first images of Mars, captured by its NIRCam instrument Sept. 5, 2022 [Guaranteed Time Observation Program 1415]. Left: Reference map of the observed hemisphere of Mars from NASA and the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA). Top right: NIRCam image showing 2.1-micron (F212 filter) reflected sunlight, revealing surface features such as craters and dust layers. Bottom right: Simultaneous NIRCam image showing ~4.3-micron (F430M filter) emitted light that reveals temperature differences with latitude and time of day, as well as darkening of the Hellas Basin caused by atmospheric effects. The bright yellow area is just at the saturation limit of the detector. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Mars JWST/GTO team.
Webb’s first near-infrared spectrum of Mars, captured by the Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) Sept. 5, 2022, as part of the Guaranteed Time Observation Program 1415, over 3 slit gratings (G140H, G235H, G395H). The spectrum is dominated by reflected sunlight at wavelengths shorter than 3 microns and thermal emission at longer wavelengths. Preliminary analysis reveals the spectral dips appear at specific wavelengths where light is absorbed by molecules in Mars’ atmosphere, specifically carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and water. Other details reveal information about dust, clouds, and surface features. By constructing a best-fit model of the spectrum, by the using, for example, the Planetary Spectrum Generator, abundances of given molecules in the atmosphere can be derived. Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, Mars JWST/GTO team.

Final Media Invitation and Details of Media Briefings: Solar System Observations with Webb; Hera/Dart/LICIACube; Innovations in robotic exploration and visualisation techniques.

Final Media Invitation and Details of Media Briefings

Solar System Observations with Webb; Hera/Dart/LICIACube; Innovations in robotic exploration and visualisation techniques.

The 2022 Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) will take place at the Palacio de Congresos de Granada, Spain, from 18-23 September 2022. The meeting this year will take place as a joint event with the European Astrobiology Network Association (EANA), bringing together planetary scientists and researchers working on the possibility of life beyond the Earth.

More than 1200 oral and poster presentations have been submitted and over 1000 planetary scientists from Europe and around the world have registered to attend the meeting. Media representatives are cordially invited to attend the EPSC2022 meeting. Media registration is free. Any bona fide media delegates can register by e-mailing epsc-press@europlanet-society.org.

PRESS BRIEFINGS:

To attend press briefings in-person, please make sure that you have received a TAN code waiver and registered as media for the meeting by emailing epsc-press@europlanet-society.org. To attend online, please follow the Zoom registration links below and you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the live stream.

Press Briefing on Monday, 19 September 2022

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_l7De2qq1SBWBX9ETIfCQcg

The press briefing on Monday, 19 September will cover two topics. The Zoom link is the same for both.

ESA Hera Mission: Investigating binary asteroid (65803) Didymos and the DART crater 
14:15 CEST / 13:15 BST / 08:15 EDT

One week ahead of the impact by NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft with the asteroid Dimorphos, representatives of the European Space Agency’s Hera mission, the Italian LICIACube mission and DART will present an update for the media.

Speakers:

  • Michael Küppers, Hera Project Scientist, European Space Astronomy Centre
  • Andy Rivkin, DART Investigation Team Lead, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
  • LICIACube Team representative (TBC)

Solar System Observations with Webb 
15:00 CEST / 14:00 BST / 09:00 EDT

Speakers:

  • Giuliano Liuzzi, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Sara Faggi, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
  • Ann-Carine Vandaele, Institut royal d’Aeronomie Spatiale de Belgique
  • Geronimo Villanueva, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center,

Press Briefing on Wednesday, 21 September 2022

https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ubhgAGj_RqOJ17o_6ppFug

Exploring the planets: Innovations in robotic exploration and visualisation techniques.
14:00 CEST / 13:00 BST / 08:00 EDT

Speakers:

  • Sebastian Walter, FU Berlin
  • Patrick Bambach, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research
  • Gerald Eichstäd, Citizen Scientist

Any updates to the line-up of speakers will be published on this page.

Details of the scientific sessions and the presentation abstracts can be found at the official website: https://www.epsc2022.eu/

An overview of the programme can be found here

CONTACTS

Anita Heward
EPSC2022 Press Officer
+44 7756 034243
aheward@europlanet-society.org
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Adriana Postiglione
EPSC2022 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

FURTHER INFORMATION 

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2022.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 16 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 #EPSC2022.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC).

About EANA

The European Astrobiology Network Association (http://www.eana-net.eu), joins together people interested in the origins of life and the search for extraterrestrial life in the Solar System and beyond. This interdisciplinary domain involves scientists from multiple disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology, geology, astronomy, and human sciences.  

EPSC2022, 18 – 23 September 2022: 1st Media Announcement

EPSC2022, 18 – 23 September 2022: 1st Media Announcement

The 2022 Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) will take place at the Palacio de Congresos de Granada, Spain, from 18-23 September 2022. The meeting this year will take place as a joint event with the European Astrobiology Network Association (EANA), bringing together planetary scientists and researchers working on the possibility of life beyond the Earth.

EPSC2022 covers the full spectrum of planetary research and technology across more than 60 scientific sessions, with topics including current and upcoming missions, international collaborations, space weather influencing Earth, planet formation, the role of impacts, and astrobiology. The programme this year is supplemented by keynotes, debates, morning briefings and community events, including a multi-agency panel dialogue on Venus exploration. More than 1200 oral and poster presentations have been submitted and over 1000 planetary scientists from Europe and around the world are expected to attend the meeting.

EPSC2022 will take place largely as an in-person meeting, without the possibility of live virtual participation in the standard scientific sessions. However, scientific sessions will be recorded and made accessible for registered meeting participants and members of the Europlanet Society. 

Press briefings will be livestreamed and press notices on presentations of interest to the media will be issued by the EPSC2022 Press Office during the meeting. Details of press briefings and webcast access will be circulated closer to the time.

Details of the scientific sessions and the presentation abstracts can be found at the official website: https://www.epsc2022.eu/

An overview of the programme can be found here

The detailed programme can be found here.

The meeting hashtag is #EPSC2022.

MEDIA REGISTRATION

Media representatives are cordially invited to attend the EPSC2022 meeting. Media registration is free. Any bona fide media delegates can register by e-mailing epsc-press@europlanet-society.org.

CONTACTS

Anita Heward
EPSC2022 Press Officer
+44 7756 034243
aheward@europlanet-society.org
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

Adriana Postiglione
EPSC2022 Press Officer
epsc-press@europlanet-society.org

FURTHER INFORMATION 

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2022.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 16 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 #EPSC2022.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC).

About EANA

The European Astrobiology Network Association (http://www.eana-net.eu), joins together people interested in the origins of life and the search for extraterrestrial life in the Solar System and beyond. This interdisciplinary domain involves scientists from multiple disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology, geology, astronomy, and human sciences.  

Calling AI experts! Join the hunt for exoplanets

Calling AI experts! Join the hunt for exoplanets

Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts have been challenged to help a new space mission to investigate Earth’s place in the universe.

The Ariel Data Challenge 2022, which launches on 30 June, is inviting AI and machine learning experts from industry and academia to help astronomers understand planets outside our solar system, known as exoplanets.

Dr Ingo Waldmann, Associate Professor in Astrophysics, UCL (University College London) and Ariel Data Challenge lead said: “AI has revolutionised many fields of science and industry in the past years. The field of exoplanets has fully arrived in the era of big-data and cutting edge AI is needed to break some of our biggest bottlenecks holding us back.”

Understanding our place in the universe

For centuries, astronomers could only glimpse the planets in our solar system but in recent years, thanks to telescopes in space, they have discovered more than 5000 planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy.

The European Space Agency’s Ariel telescope will complete one of the largest ever surveys of these planets by observing the atmospheres of around one fifth of the known exoplanets.

Due to the large number of planets in this survey, and the expected complexity the captured observations, Ariel mission scientists are calling for the help of the AI and machine learning community to help interpret the data.

Ariel Data Challenge

Ariel will study the light from each exoplanet’s host star after it has travelled through the planet’s atmosphere in what is known as a spectrum. The information from these spectra can help scientists investigate the chemical make-up of the planet’s atmosphere and discover more about these planets and how they formed.
Scientists involved in the Ariel mission need a new method to interpret these data. Advanced machine learning techniques could help them to understand the impact of different atmospheric phenomena on the observed spectrum.

The Ariel Data Challenge calls on the AI community to investigate solutions. The competition is open from 30 June to early October.

Participants are free to use any model, algorithm, data pre-processing technique or other tools to provide a solution. They may submit as many solutions as they like and collaborations between teams are welcomed.

For the first time, this year the competition is also offering 20 participants access to High Powered Computing resource through DiRAC, part of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council’s computing facilities.

Kai Hou (Gordon) Yip, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UCL and Ariel Data Challenge Lead said: “With the arrival of next-generation instrumentation, astronomers are struggling to keep up with the complexity and volume of incoming exo-planetary data. The NeurIPS data challenge 2022 provides an excellent platform to facilitate cross-disciplinary solutions with AI experts.”

The competition

Winners will be invited to present their solution at the prestigious NeurIPS conference. First prize winning teams will be awarded $2,000 and second prize winners will receive $500.
Winners will also be invited to present their solution to the Ariel consortium.

The competition is supported by the UK Space Agency, European Research Council, European Space Agency and Europlanet Society.

Previous competition

This is the third Ariel Machine Learning Data challenge following successful competitions in 2019 and 2021. The 2021 challenge welcomed 130 participants from across Europe, including entrants from leading academic institutes and AI companies.

This challenge, and its predecessor have taken a bite-sized aspect of a larger problem to help make exoplanet research more accessible to the machine learning community. The challenge is not designed to solve the data analysis issues faced by the mission outright but provides a forum for discussion and to encourage future collaborations.
More details about the competition and how to take part can be found on the Ariel Data Challenge website. Follow @ArielTelescope for more updates.

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

Videos:
Note: Please get in touch with press contact for mp4 files.
Ariel animations: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7nlYuIpjicaxp36LxZwkXOH72Otf-rgY
Welcome to Ariel: https://youtu.be/28afJ_5TTGc

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

Notes to editors:

Ariel (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey)
Ariel, a mission to answer fundamental questions about how planetary systems form and evolve, is a European Space Agency (ESA) medium-class science mission due for launch in 2028. During a 4-year mission, Ariel will observe 1000 planets orbiting distant stars in visible and infrared wavelengths to study how they formed and how they evolve. It is the first mission dedicated to measuring the chemistry and thermal structures exoplanet atmospheres, enabling planetary science far beyond the boundaries of the Solar System.

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

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

Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge

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

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

About UCL – London’s Global University
UCL is a diverse global community of world-class academics, students, industry links, external partners, and alumni. Our powerful collective of individuals and institutions work together to explore new possibilities.

Since 1826, we have championed independent thought by attracting and nurturing the world’s best minds. Our community of more than 43,800 students from 150 countries and over 14,300 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems.

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

We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research – championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors.
For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge.
We were the first in England to welcome women to university education and that courageous attitude and disruptive spirit is still alive today. We are UCL.
www.ucl.ac.uk | Follow @uclnewson Twitter | Read news at www.ucl.ac.uk/news/| Listen to UCL podcasts on SoundCloud| Find out what’s on at UCL Minds

lnews on Twitter | Read news at www.ucl.ac.uk/news/ | Listen to UCL podcasts onSoundCloud | Find out what’s on at UCL Minds

Using AI to Predict the Danger of Solar Storms for Earth

Using AI to Predict the Danger of Solar Storms for Earth

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

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

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

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

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

Magnetic field determines the strength of solar storms

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

Machine learning provides better forecasting

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

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

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

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

Innovation for space exploration

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

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

More information

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

About the Know Center

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

Europlanet Satellite Workshop Series blasts off in Botswana

Europlanet Satellite Workshop Series blasts off in Botswana

Press Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images

Contacts

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

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

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. The project builds on a €2 million Framework 6 Coordination Action (EuroPlaNet), a €6 million Framework 7 Research Infrastructure (Europlanet RI) and a €10 million Horizon 2020 Research Infrastructure (Europlanet 2020 RI) funded by the European Commission. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Society’s aims are:

  • To expand and support a diverse and inclusive planetary community across Europe through the activities of its 10 Regional Hubs
  • To build the profile of the sector through outreach, education and policy activities
  • To underpin the key role Europe plays in planetary science through developing links at a national and international level. 

Europlanet 2024 RI project website: www.europlanet-2024-ri.eu

Europlanet Society website: www.europlanet-society.org   

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia

EPSC2021: Scientists use seasons to find water for future Mars astronauts

EPSC2021: Scientists use seasons to find water for future Mars astronauts

An international team of researchers has used seasonal variations to identify likely sub-surface deposits of water ice in the temperate regions of Mars where it would be easiest for future human explorers to survive. The results are being presented this week by Dr Germán Martínez at the European Planetary Science Conference (EPSC) 2021.

Using data from NASA’s Mars Odyssey, which has spent almost 20 years orbiting the Red Planet, Martínez and his colleagues have identified two areas of particular interest: Hellas Planitia and Utopia Rupes, respectively in the southern and northern hemisphere. Seasonal variations in levels of hydrogen detected suggests that significant quantities water ice can be found in the metre or so below the surface in these regions. 

Martínez, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute, said: ‘Data from Mars Odyssey’s Neutron Spectrometer showed signs of hydrogen beneath the surface Mars from mid to equatorial latitudes, but we still had the challenge of working out whether this is in the form of water ice, which can readily be used as a resource, or locked away in mineral salts or in soil grains and minerals. This is where the seasonal variation provides an important clue. As the coldest ground temperatures occur at the same time as the largest observed increase in hydrogen content, it suggests that water ice is forming in the shallow subsurface of these regions during the fall and winter seasons, and then sublimating into gas during the warm season of each hemisphere.’ 

Water ice in the shallow subsurface has been found in plentiful supply at the poles. However, the frigid temperatures and the limited solar light make polar regions a hostile environment for human exploration. The areas from equatorial to mid latitudes are much more hospitable for both humans and robotic rovers, but only deeper reservoirs of water ice have been detected to date, and these are hard to reach. 

To survive on Mars, astronauts would need to rely on resources already available in-situ, as sending regular supplies across the 55 million kilometres between Earth and Mars at their closest point is not an option. As liquid water is not available in the cold and arid Martian environment, ice is a vital resource. Water will not only be essential for life-support of the explorers, or the growth of plants and food, but could also be broken down into oxygen and hydrogen for use as rocket fuel. 

Two other regions are rich in hydrogen: Tharsis Montes and the Medusae Fossae Formation. However, these do not display seasonal variations and appear to be the less accessible forms of water.  

‘Definitely, those regions too are interesting for future missions,’ added Martínez. ‘What we plan to do now for them or Hellas Planitia and Utopia Rupes, is to study their mineralogy with other instruments in the hope of spotting types of rock altered by water. Such areas would be ideal candidates for robotic missions, including sample return ones, as the ingredients for rocket fuel would be available there too.’

Image

Caption: Global map of Mars with overlaid topography indicating areas with significant seasonal variations in hydrogen content during northern spring (top) and fall (bottom). Green (red) represents increase (decrease) in hydrogen content. The areas highlighted in orange are Hellas Planitia in the southern hemisphere, and Utopia Rupes in the northern hemisphere. These are the only extended regions undergoing a significant variation throughout the Martian year.  Credit: G. Martínez.

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

Further information:

EPSC2021-443: Looking for Non-Polar Shallow Subsurface Water Ice in Preparation for Future Human Exploration of Mars  

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-443

Science Contact

Germán Martínez
Lunar and Planetary Institute
gmartinez@lpi.usra.edu

Media contacts

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

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

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

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

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community.

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

EPSC2021: Exotic Mix in China’s Delivery of Moon Rocks

Exotic Mix in China’s Delivery of Moon Rocks 

On 16 December 2020 the Chang’e-5 mission, China’s first sample return mission to the Moon, successfully delivered to Earth nearly two kilograms of rocky fragments and dust from our celestial companion.  

Chang’e-5 landed on an area of the Moon not sampled by the NASA Apollo or the Soviet Luna missions nearly 50 years ago, and thus retrieved fragments of the youngest lunar rocks ever brought back for analysis in laboratories on Earth. The rocks are also different to those returned decades ago. Early-stage findings, which use geological mapping to link ‘exotic’ fragments in the collected samples to features near the landing site, have been presented by Mr Yuqi Qian, a PhD student at the China University of Geosciences, at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 virtual meeting.

The Chang’e-5 landing site is located on the western edge of the nearside of the Moon in the Northern Oceanus Procellarum. This is one of the youngest geological areas of the Moon with an age of roughly two billion years. The materials scraped from the surface comprise a loose soil that results from the fragmentation and powdering of lunar rocks over billions of years due to impacts of various sizes.  

The study presented by Qian suggests that ninety percent of the materials collected by Chang’e-5 likely derive from the landing site and its immediate surroundings, which are of a type termed ‘mare basalts’. These volcanic rocks are visible to us as the darker grey areas that spilled over much of the nearside of the Moon as ancient eruptions of lava. Yet ten percent of the fragments have distinctly different, ‘exotic’ chemical compositions, and may preserve records of other parts of the lunar surface as well as hints of the types of space rocks that have impacted the Moon’s surface. 

Qian and colleagues from Brown University and the University of Münster have looked at the potential sources of beads of rapidly cooled glassy material. They have traced these glassy droplets to now extinct volcanic vents known as ‘Rima Mairan’ and ‘Rima Sharp’ located roughly 230 and 160 kilometres southeast and northeast of the Chang’e-5 landing site. These fragments could give insights into past episodes of energetic, fountain-like volcanic activity on the Moon.

The team has also looked at the potential sources of impact-related fragments. The young geological age of the rocks at the landing site narrows the search, as only craters with ages less than 2 billion years can be responsible, and these are relatively rare on the side of the Moon that faces Earth.  The team has modelled the potential contributions from specific craters to the south and southeast (Aristarchus, Kepler, and Copernicus), northwest (Harding), and northeast (Harpalus). Qian’s findings show that Harpalus is a significant contributor of many exotic fragments among Chang’e-5’s sample haul, and these pieces of rock could offer a way to address persisting uncertainty about this crater’s age. Some fragments may have been thrown into Chang’e-5 landing area from nearly 1,300 kilometres away. 

Modelling and review of work by other teams has linked other exotic pieces of rock to domes rich in silica or to highland terranes, mountains of pale rock that surround the landing site.

“All of the local and exotic materials among the returned samples of Chang’e-5 can be used to answer a number of further scientific questions,” said Qian. “In addressing these we shall deepen our understanding of the Moon’s history and help prepare for further lunar exploration.” 

Presentation

Qian, Y., Xiao, L., Head, J., van der Bogert, C., and Hiesinger, H.: The Exotic Materials at the Chang’e-5 Landing Site, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-447, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-447, 2021.

Images

Schematic diagram of the lunar lander of the Chang’e-5 mission. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program) / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).
Schematic diagram of the lunar lander of the Chang’e-5 mission. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program) / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).
Image showing the location of the Chang’e-5 landing site (43.06°N, 51.92°W) and adjacent regions of the Moon, as well as impact craters that were examined as possible sources of exotic fragments among the recently returned lunar materials. Credit: Qian et al. 2021
Image showing the location of the Chang’e-5 landing site (43.06°N, 51.92°W) and adjacent regions of the Moon, as well as impact craters that were examined as possible sources of exotic fragments among the recently returned lunar materials. Credit: Qian et al. 2021
Image zooming in on the location of the Chang’e-5 landing site while showing nearby impact craters that were examined as possible sources of exotic fragments among the recently returned lunar materials. Credit: Qian et al. 2021
Image zooming in on the location of the Chang’e-5 landing site while showing nearby impact craters that were examined as possible sources of exotic fragments among the recently returned lunar materials. Credit: Qian et al. 2021
Panoramic image taken after sampling of the lunar surface by Chang'e-5. The four dark trenches in the lower right corner of this image are where samples were collected. Abundant centimetre-sized boulders exist on the surface around the Chang'e-5 landing site. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program)  / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).
Panoramic image taken after sampling of the lunar surface by Chang’e-5. The four dark trenches in the lower right corner of this image are where samples were collected. Abundant centimetre-sized boulders exist on the surface around the Chang’e-5 landing site. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program) / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).
Image of the Chang'e-5 sample “CE5C0400” from the Moon’s surface. This fraction of lunar materials returned to Earth by Chang’e-5 weighs nearly 35 grams and was collected by a robotic arm.  Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program)  / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).
Image of the Chang’e-5 sample “CE5C0400” from the Moon’s surface. This fraction of lunar materials returned to Earth by Chang’e-5 weighs nearly 35 grams and was collected by a robotic arm. Credit: CNSA (China National Space Administration) / CLEP (China Lunar Exploration Program) / GRAS (Ground Research Application System).

Video

EPSC2021 Video presentation of Yuqi Qian et al. given at the Europlanet Science Congress 2021 virtual on YouTube:

Further information

All sample information and data collected by the Chang’e-5 mission and China’s other planetary missions can be found at this website – https://moon.bao.ac.cn/web/enmanager/home. Additional images of studied samples can be obtained from this source.

Science contact

Yuqi Qian
PhD Candidate
Planetary Science Institute, School of Earth Sciences
China University of Geosciences (Wuhan)
388 Lumo Road, Hongshan Dist., Wuhan, 430074, China
yuqii.qian@gmail.com
@Yuqii.Qian

Media contacts

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

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/), formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

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

EPSC2021 is sponsored by Space: Science & Technology (https://spj.sciencemag.org/journals/space/ ), a Science Partner Journal.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2021 awarded to Dr James O’Donoghue

Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2021 awarded to Dr James O’Donoghue

The 2021 Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement has been awarded to Dr James O’Donoghue for his work in creating high-quality space science animations.

James is a planetary scientist, specialising in the study of giant planet upper atmospheres, and online content creator working at the Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). In 2018 he started creating animations around his area of expertise and publishing them online on his YouTube channel. Now, with more than 80 animated visualisations of space topics, he has reached 200 million views on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Gfycat, Reddit, and received hundreds of citations in international news articles.

James’s goal is to paint an accurate picture of the Solar System in people’s minds, highlighting its most relevant features in an intuitive way, such as the relative sizes, distances, orbits and axial tilts of the planets, or how fast a ball would fall to the surface on different Solar System objects. 

The animations are not only widely appreciated on social media: multiple educational professionals at schools, universities, planetariums, museums use his material for teaching and outreach.

Dr Federica Duras, Chair of the Europlanet Outreach Jury, said: “Among the talented and motivated science communication projects nominated this year,  James O’Donoghue’s brilliant animations stood out. In their simplicity they are a masterclass in outreach and communication, and the fact that they do not rely on language and translation means that they are perfectly inclusive, easily adaptable and usable all over the world. Congratulations to James, a great ambassador for the planetary science community.”

An awards ceremony will take place during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 virtual meeting on Friday 24th September, and it will be followed by 15-minute prize lectures by the winner, who will also receive an award of 1500 Euros.

Dr Luke Moore, Research Assistant Professor at the Center for Space Physics of Boston University, said: “James, in my mind, is ideal for this award, because his outreach is global and inclusive, being predominantly online and freely accessible; he engages with people from a full range of countries and backgrounds. In addition, beyond “merely” creating useful animations, promoting science news items, and providing planetary science insights to the public, James has an excellent sense of humor that he constantly deploys. This seemingly minor point, I feel, is actually incredibly important, because it helps to demonstrate that scientists are regular people, and that science can be fun too!”

Dr Elizabeth Tasker, Associate Professor at Department of Solar System Sciences of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), said, “James has established an international reputation for his scientific animations. These animations demonstrate different scientific concepts in space science, such as the sizes of celestial objects, the speed of light or the relative rotation rates of the planets. Each animation is designed to show a single concept visually within a few seconds. Text is minimal and nonessential, allowing the animations to be shared with a wide multilingual audience. Despite being a professional astrophysicist, I have often been amazed to realise facts about relative sizes or scales of which I was unaware before seeing James’s animations! While the animations are self-explanatory, James spends considerable time supporting the content through threads sharing further information on Twitter, and by answering questions.”

Dr James O’Donoghue said: “I am honoured and grateful to be the recipient of the Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2021. Like the Europlanet Society, I believe outreach is an integral part of science in society and that we have a duty to make it accessible for all the people who fund it. It has been a pleasure to engage so many interested people and teach them about the universe through animated videos, images and posts. 

“First thank you goes to my wife Jordyn for her tremendous patience and support during all my creations and posting, often late at night. I would like to thank the public for their kind words on Twitter over the years and for their many excellent thought-provoking questions, and thank you to all the educators for letting me know they used the videos for teaching at schools, universities, planetariums, museums and more!  With this recognition by the Europlanet Society I can demonstrate to my employers, current and future, that large scientific organisations highly value outreach and that the way I have been doing it has been a success. In the future, I hope to do more outreach on the side of my research and this award will help me leverage that.”

Selection of animations

Earth and Moon Size and Distance scale – with real-time light speed!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_61SxDrdyhI

Planets and dwarf planets to scale in size, rotation speed & axial tilt in distance order from Sun
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf6WUmwJKZE

A 1 Kilometer “Ball Drop” On Solar System Bodies
https://youtu.be/oIMMZl4n-uk

The rotation periods of the planets cast to a single sphere. Rotations relative to background stars
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXPhhNEnldA

Images

James O’Donoghue in Hawaii. Credits: James O’Donoghue
James in a Japanese documentary. Credits: James O'Donoghue
James in a Japanese documentary. Credits: James O’Donoghue
James O’Donoghue at NASA. Credits: James O’Donoghue
A screenshot of James’s animation “Earth and Moon Size and Distance scale – with real-time light speed!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_61SxDrdyhI). Credits: James O’Donoghue
A screenshot of James’s animation “Planets and dwarf planets to scale in size, rotation speed & axial tilt in distance order from Sun” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf6WUmwJKZE). Credits:  James O'Donoghue
A screenshot of James’s animation “Planets and dwarf planets to scale in size, rotation speed & axial tilt in distance order from Sun” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf6WUmwJKZE). Credits: James O’Donoghue
A screenshot of James’s animation “The rotation periods of the planets cast to a single sphere. Rotations relative to background stars” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXPhhNEnldA). Credits: James O'Donoghue

A screenshot of James’s animation “The rotation periods of the planets cast to a single sphere. Rotations relative to background stars” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXPhhNEnldA). Credits: James O’Donoghue

Contacts

James O’Donoghue
Institute of Space and Astronautical Science
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
jameso@ac.jaxa.jp
Web: https://jamesodonoghue.wixsite.com/home
Animations: youtube.com/user/jayphys85/videos
Twitter: @physicsJ

Media contacts

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

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

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

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

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community.

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

Cloud-spotting on a distant exoplanet

Cloud-spotting on a distant exoplanet

An international team of astronomers has not only detected clouds on the distant exoplanet WASP-127b, but also measured their altitude with unprecedented precision. A presentation by Dr Romain Allart at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021 shows how, by combining data from a space- and a ground-based telescope, the team has been able to reveal the upper structure of the planet’s atmosphere. This paves the way for similar studies of many other faraway worlds.

WASP-127b, located more than 525 light-years away, is a “hot Saturn” – a giant planet similar in mass to Saturn that orbits very close to its sun. The team observed the planet passing in front of its host star to detect patterns that become embedded in the starlight as it is filtered through the planet’s atmosphere and altered by the chemical constituents. By combining infrared observations from the ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and visible light measurements from the ESPRESSO spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, the researchers were able to probe different regions of the atmosphere. The results brought a few surprises.

‘First, as found before in this type of planet, we detected the presence of sodium, but at a much lower altitude than we were expecting. Second, there were strong water vapour signals in the infrared but none at all at visible wavelengths. This implies that water-vapour at lower levels is being screened by clouds that are opaque at visible wavelengths but transparent in the infrared,’ said Allart, of the iREx/Université de Montréal and Université de Genève, who led the study.

The combined data from the two instruments enabled the researchers to narrow down the altitude of the clouds to an atmospheric layer with a pressure ranging between 0.3 and 0.5 millibars.

‘We don’t yet know the composition of the clouds, except that they are not composed of water droplets like on Earth,’ said Allart. ‘We are also puzzled about why the sodium is found in an unexpected place on this planet. Future studies will help us understand not only more about the atmospheric structure, but about WASP-127b, which is proving to be a fascinating place.’

With a full orbit around its star occurring in about four days, WASP-127b receives 600 times more irradiation than the Earth and experiences temperatures up to 1100 degrees Celsius. This puffs the planet up to a radius 1.3 times larger than Jupiter, with just a fifth of the mass, making it one of the least dense or “fluffiest” exoplanets ever discovered.

The extended nature of fluffy exoplanets makes them easier to observe, and thus WASP-127b is an ideal candidate for researchers working on atmospheric characterisation.

The team’s observations with the ESPRESSO instrument also suggests that, unlike planets in our Solar System, WASP-127b orbits not only in the opposite direction than its star but also in a different plane than the equatorial one.

‘Such alignment is unexpected for a hot Saturn in an old stellar system and might be caused by an unknown companion,’ said Allart. ‘All these unique characteristics make WASP-127b a planet that will be very intensely studied in the future’


The Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanets and Stable Spectroscopic Observations (ESPRESSO) is the world’s most precise spectrograph for radial velocity measurements, a method enabling to detect exoplanets.

The authors would like to acknowledge Dr Jessica Spake and her team for releasing the refined HST data used in this work.

EPSC2021-438: WASP-127b: a misaligned planet with a partly cloudy atmosphere and tenuous sodium signature seen by ESPRESSO. Romain Allart and the ESPRESSO consortium. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-438

Paper 
WASP-127b: a misaligned planet with a partly cloudy atmosphere and tenuous sodium signature seen by ESPRESSO. Astronomy & Astrophysics, Volume 644, id.A155, 18 pp. December 2020.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361/202039234

arXiv: https://arxiv.org/abs/2010.15143

Some of the elements making WASP-127b unique, with the planets of our Solar System. Credits: David Ehrenreich/Université de Genève, Romain Allart/Université de Montréal.
Some of the elements making WASP-127b unique, compared with the planets of our Solar System. Credits: David Ehrenreich/Université de Genève, Romain Allart/Université de Montréal.

Science Contact

Romain Allart
Trottier postdoctoral fellow
Université de Montréal
Institut de Recherche sur les Exoplanètes (iREx)
Canada
romain.allart@umontreal.ca

Media contacts

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

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

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

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

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community.

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

EPSC2021: Life support cooked up from lunar rocks

EPSC2021: Life support cooked up from lunar rocks

Engineers have successfully shown how water and oxygen can be extracted by cooking up lunar soil, in order to support future Moon bases. A laboratory demonstrator, developed by a consortium of the Politecnico Milano, the European Space Agency, the Italian Space Agency and the OHB Group, is presented this week at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021.

The set-up uses a two-step process, well known in industrial chemistry for terrestrial applications, that has been customised to work with a mineral mixture that mimics the lunar soil. Around 50% of lunar soil in all regions of the Moon is made up of silicon or iron oxides, and these in turn are around 26% oxygen. This means that a system that efficiently extracts oxygen from the soil could operate at any landing site or installation on the Moon.

In the experimental set-up, the soil simulant is vaporised in the presence of hydrogen and methane, then “washed” with hydrogen gas. Heated by a furnace to temperatures of around 1000 degrees Celsius, the minerals turn directly from a solid to a gas, missing out a molten phase, which reduces the complexity of the technology needed. Gases produced and residual methane are sent to a catalytic converter and a condenser that separates out water. Oxygen can then be extracted through electrolysis. By-products of methane and hydrogen are recycled in the system.

“Our experiments show that the rig is scalable and can operate in an almost completely self-sustained closed loop, without the need for human intervention and without getting clogged up,” said Prof Michèle Lavagna, of the Politecnico Milano, who led the experiments. 

To accurately understand the process and prepare the technology needed for a flight test, experiments have been carried out to optimise the temperature of the furnace, the length and frequency of the washing phases, the ratio of the mixtures of gases, and the mass of the soil simulant batches. Results show that yield is maximised by processing the soil simulant in small batches, at the highest temperatures possible and using long washing phases.

The solid by-product is rich in silica and metals that can undergo further processing for other resources useful for in-situ exploration of the Moon.

‘The capability of having efficient water and oxygen production facilities on site is fundamental for human exploration and to run high quality science directly on the Moon,’ said Lavagna. ‘These laboratory experiments have deepened our understanding of each step in the process. It is not the end of the story, but it’s very a good starting point.’

Presentation

Lavagna, M., Prinetto, J., Colagrossi, A., Troisi, I., Dottori, A., and lunghi, P.: Water production from lunar regolith through carbothermal reduction modelling through ground experiments, Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-527, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-527, 2021.

Images and animations

Artist impression of a Moon Base concept. Credit: ESA - P. Carril
Artist impression of a Moon Base concept. Credit: ESA – P. Carril

https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2019/07/Artist_impression_of_a_Moon_Base_concept

Video showing water extracted from lunar regolith simulant, 2021. Credit: Politecnico Milano. License: CC BY-NC-ND. Credit must be given to the creator. Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted. No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted.

Science Contacts

Michèle Lavagna
Politecnico di Milano
DAER
Italy
michelle.lavagna@polimi.it

Media Contacts

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

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

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

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

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video

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

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

Images

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

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

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

Further information

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

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

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

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

Science contact

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

Media contacts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC)
The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.
Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia and using the hashtag #EPSC2021.

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

About Europlanet
Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community.

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

2021 Farinella Prize Awarded to Diana Valencia and Lena Noack

2021 Farinella Prize Awarded to Diana Valencia and Lena Noack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Paolo Farinella Prize

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

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

Images

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

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

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

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

Science Contacts

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

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

Media Contacts

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

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

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

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

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

EPSC2021: Mushballs stash away missing ammonia at Uranus and Neptune

Mushballs stash away missing ammonia at Uranus and Neptune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science Contact

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

Media Contacts

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

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

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

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

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

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

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

The Institute of Planetary Research at DLR (German Aerospace Center) is starting construction of a new Sample Analysis Laboratory (SAL) dedicated to the study of rock and dust samples from planetary bodies such as asteroids and the Moon. The first phase will be operational by the end of 2022, on time to welcome samples collected by the Hayabusa2 mission, and fully ready by 2023. A status report will be presented today at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2021.

The 2020s promise a bounty of new missions returning planetary samples to Earth for analysis. Scientists can learn a huge amount about planetary bodies by sending remote sensing orbiters, and even more by ‘in situ’ exploration with landers and rovers. However, sensitive laboratory instruments on Earth can extract information far beyond the reach of current robotic technology, enabling researchers to determine the chemical, isotopic, mineralogical, structural and physical properties of extra-terrestrial material from just a single, tiny sample. 

‘The SAL facility will allow us to study samples from a macroscopic level down to the nanometric scale and help us answer key question about the formation and evolution of planetary bodies,’ said Dr Enrica Bonato from DLR. ‘Sample return provides us with “ground truth” about the visited body, verifying and validating conclusions that can be drawn by remote sensing. SAL will unlock some really exciting science, like looking for traces of water and organic matter, especially in the samples returned from asteroids. These are remnants of “failed” planets, so provide material that gives insights into the early stages of the Solar System and planetary evolution.’ 

The establishment of SAL has taken three years’ planning and the facility will see its first instruments delivered in summer 2022. The state-of-the art equipment will allow researchers to image the rock samples at very high magnification and resolution, as well as to determine the chemical and mineralogical composition in great detail. The laboratory will be classified as a “super-clean” facility, with a thousand times fewer particles per cubic metre permitted than in a standard clean room. Protective equipment will be worn by everyone entering in order to keep the environment as clean as possible, and SAL will be equipped with glove boxes for handling and preparation of the samples. All samples will be stored under dry nitrogen and transported between the instruments in dry nitrogen filled containers.

Together with other laboratory facilities within the Institute of Planetary Research (including the Planetary Spectroscopy Laboratory and Planetary Analogue Simulation Laboratory), the new SAL will be open to the scientific community for “transnational access” visits supported through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure. 

The first studies at SAL will relate to two small, carbonaceous asteroids: Ryugu, samples from which were returned by JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission in late 2020, and Bennu, from which NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will deliver samples back to Earth in 2023.

‘Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx are in many ways sister missions, both in the kind of body being visited, and in the close cooperation of scientists and the sponsoring agencies. International collaboration is an important part of the sample return story, and becomes even more key when it comes to analysis,’ said Bonato. ‘We are also looking forward to receiving (and potentially curating) samples from Mars’s moon, Phobos, returned by JAXA’s Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission late in the decade. We also hope to receive samples at SAL from the Moon in the early part of the decade from China’s Chang’E 5 and 6 missions.’

A collaboration with the Natural History Museum and the Helmholtz Center Berlin in Berlin aims to establish an excellence centre for sample analysis in Berlin within the next 5-10 years. In the future, SAL could be expanded into a full curation facility.

‘Returned samples can be preserved for decades and used by future generations to answer questions we haven’t even thought of yet using laboratory instruments that haven’t even been imagined,’ added Jörn Helbert, Department Head of Planetary Laboratories at DLR.

Further Information

Bonato, E., Schwinger, S., Maturilli, A., and Helbert, J.: A New Facility for the Planetary Science Community at DLR: the Planetary Sample Analysis Laboratory (SAL)., Europlanet Science Congress 2021, online, 13–24 Sep 2021, EPSC2021-561, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-561, 2021.

Equipment to be installed in SAL:

  • Field Emission Gun Electron Microprobe Analyser (FEG-EMPA)
  • Field Emission Gun Scanning Electron Microscope (FEG-SEM) equipped with:
    • EDX detector for chemical mapping
    • STEM detector
  • X-ray Diffraction (XRD): 
    • Measurements of powders
    • μ-XRD for in situ analysis and mapping
    • Non-ambient stage for dynamic experiments
  • Polarized light microscope
  • Supporting equipment for sample preparation and handling

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

Europlanet 2024 RI has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

SAL follows the approach of a distributed European sample analysis and curation facility as discussed in the preliminary recommendations of EuroCares (European Curation of Astromaterials Returned from Exploration of Space) project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 640190. 

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

Images

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

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

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

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

Science Contacts

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

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

Media Contacts

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

Notes for Editors

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress (https://www.epsc2021.eu/) formerly the European Planetary Science Congress, is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 15 years, and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, EPSC is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of talks, workshops and poster sessions, as well as providing a unique space for networking and exchanges of experiences.

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

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

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet (www.europlanet-society.org) has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science. 

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Europlanet Society is the parent organisation of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC).

About DLR

DLR is the Federal Republic of Germany’s research centre for aeronautics and space. We conduct research and development activities in the fields of aeronautics, space, energy, transport, security and digitalisation. The German Space Agency at DLR plans and implements the national space programme on behalf of the federal government. Two DLR project management agencies oversee funding programmes and support knowledge transfer.

Climate, mobility and technology are changing globally. DLR uses the expertise of its 55 research institutes and facilities to develop solutions to these challenges. Our 10,000 employees (as of February 2021) share a mission – to explore Earth and space and develop technologies for a sustainable future. In doing so, DLR contributes to strengthening Germany’s position as a prime location for research and industry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Videos: 

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

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

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

Contacts: 

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

Notes to editors: 

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

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

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

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

Ariel Machine Learning Data Challenge

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

Ariel consortium 

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

UCL – London’s Global University 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPSC2021

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

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

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

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

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

Новости Омутнинск Любовь и семья Общество Люди и события Красота и здоровье Дети Диета Кулинария Полезные советы Шоу-бизнес Огород Гороскопы Авто Интерьер Домашние животные Технологии Рекорды и антирекорды