Report on 54th Conference on Variable Star Research

Report on 54th Conference on Variable Star Research

Meeting report by Felip Walter of the Variable Stars and Exoplanet Section of the Czech Astronomical Society.

The 54th Variable Star Conference took place from 25-27 November in hybrid-format in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and online. The meeting was very positively received by both national and international audiences. We had 50 in-person participants from the Czech Republic and five international guests. We also had 12 Czech and 18 international online participants from as far afield as India, Brazil, UK, Ukraine and Iceland, as well as and other, closer European countries, including our neighbour, Slovakia. 

Concerning planetary sciences, there was a lecture about the DART mission given by Petr Scheirich, as well as lectures about HST and JSWT photometric and spectroscopic observation of exoplanets by Angelos Tsiaras, and a presentation by Günter Wuchterl (in person) and Petr Kabáth (online from newly opened La Silla  PLATOSpec telescope) about the ground component of the PLATO mission.

Yves Jongen, probably one of the most productive amateur observers of exoplanetary transits presented his work and received the very first Exoplanet Transit Prize from the Czech Astronomical Society ETD project. He has observed around 1500 individual transits during five years of activity. 

Seven students (both high school and university students) presented their work in the student section. Marko Mesarč from Masaryk University, Brno received the prize for the presentation of his work on exoplanetary candidates photometry. 

The meeting has surely supported pro-am and international collaboration, as everyone – and most importantly our young guests, the students of Czech high schools – used the opportunity to meet enthusiastic amateurs and professionals from the Czech Republic and abroad. 

54th Conference on Variable Star Research website

Athena Coustenis to be awarded EGU Cassini Medal

Athena Coustenis to be awarded EGU Cassini Medal

Athena Coustenis (Observatoire de Paris) is to be awarded EGU Cassini Medal in recognition of her exceptional achievements in planetary and space science.

The European Geosciences Union (EGU) has named the 47 recipients of next year’s Union Medals and Awards, Division Medals, and Division Outstanding Early Career Scientist Awards. These individuals are honoured for their important contributions to the Earth, planetary and space sciences. They will be celebrated during the EGU General Assembly 2023, which will be held from 23–28 April.

The Jean Dominique Cassini Medal & Honorary Membership of the EGU form one of the three equally ranked most prestigious awards made by the Union. They are bestowed to scientists who have achieved exceptional international standing in planetary and space sciences, defined in their widest senses, for their merit and their scientific achievements.

Many congratulations to Athena, and to all the winners.

Watch Athena talking about her career in this EPEC Motivational Journey interview:

Welcome to New Chairs of Regional Hubs

Welcome to New Chairs of Regional Hubs

Some of the Europlanet Society Regional Hubs have new Chairs, who were announced at EPSC2022! We look forward to working with them and thank all the outgoing Hub Chairs for their work over the past few years.

Incoming Chair of Southeast Europe Regional Hub

Nick Sergis. Credit: Hellenic Space Center

Dr Nick Sergis is the incoming Chair of the Southeast Regional Hub, taking over from Prof Ioannis Daglis, who has served in the role since 2019. Nick is Chief Executive Officer of the Hellenic Space Center, which coordinates public entities and co-manages national programs in all space sectors in Greece. His research interests include space and planetary physics, magnetospheric data analysis with emphasis on the outer planets and their moons, magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling, and solar wind dynamics. He was a member of the Cassini Magnetosphere Imaging Instrument (MIMI) Scientific Team. Between 2006 and 2020 he worked at the Office of Space Research and Technology at the Academy of Athens in collaboration with JHU/APL. Since 2017, he has been an Adjunct Researcher at the National Observatory of Athens.

Incoming Chair of Spain-Portugal Regional Hub

DR. ALEJANDRO CARDESÍN MOINELO is chair of the Spain Portugal Regional Hub.
Alejandro Cardesín Moinelo is the new chair of the Spain Portugal Regional Hub. Credit: ESA.

Alejandro Cardesín Moinelo is a planetary scientist and science operations engineer working for the European Space Agency, specialising in Solar System missions. He is currently focused on Mars exploration as the manager of the Mars Express mission science ground segment, in coordination with ExoMars and other international projects. Since 2017, he has been the coordinator of the Spanish Planetary Science and Solar System Exploration Community, supporting and promoting the collaboration between research and technology institutions and industries in Spain. Alejandro is now taking on the role of Chair of the Spain & Portugal Regional Hub from the inaugural Chair, Miguel López-Valverde.

Incoming Chair of Italy Regional Hub

Stavro Ivanovski, Chair of the Italian Regional Hub and Co-Chair of EPSC SOC
Stavro Ivanovski. Credit: Europlanet/V Southgate

Stavro Ivanovski is a researcher at INAF-Trieste and an adjoint professor at the University of Trieste. His research focuses on small bodies and planetary magnetospheres in the Solar System. Stavro is involved in a number of planetary missions, including LICIACube, Rosetta and BepiColombo, Comet Interceptor, Hera, and Ariel. As a graduated actor with theatre experience, he has a strong commitment to public engagement and outreach. Since 2020, Stavro has acted as the Co-Chair of the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) Scientific Organising Committee (SOC). He now takes on the role of Chair of the Italian Regional Hub from Maria Cristina De Sanctis.

The new Hub Chairs were announced during EPSC. You can find out more about the work of the Regional Hubs here.

54th meeting of Variable Star Research

54th meeting of Variable Star Research

25-27 November 2022

The Variable Stars Research meeting is the most important meeting organized by Variable Stars and Exoplanet Section of the Czech Astronomical Society. This year Planetarium Ostrava is a co-organizer providing its premises for this event.

This year meeting will assume hybrid form – both in person and online via ZOOM application, and will be held in Czech, Slovak and English languages. Friday there will be student section for high school and university students presenting their work, which will be organized as a contest where the best presenter will be recognized and receives price donated by the VSES CAS. 

Papers from the meeting will be published in Open European Journal on Varible Stars, a electronic open peer reviewed journal issued by VSES CAS in cooperation with Masaryk University Brno, with indexation in SIMBAD database and Smithsonian/NASA’s ADS. Recordings of the talks will be made public on YouTube channel of VSES CAS and presentation files will be accessible in meeting program.

Meeting website

Earth Observation Techniques and Data Analysis – Europlanet WorkshopSeries

Earth Observation Techniques and Data Analysis – Europlanet WorkshopSeries

Second workshop

Registration is now open for the workshop ‘Earth Observation Techniques and Data Analysis’, which will take place from 13-16 December 2022 at the Italian Cultural Institute, Belay Zelleke Street, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Register now before 4 November 2022. The workshop is free of charge but it requires a pre-registration (for practical organisation) which also includes all coffee and lunch breaks.

This second event in the Europlanet WorkshopSeries will bring together space tech specialists, scientists and graduated students to discuss current topics in this rapidly developing space field and especially in Geographical Information Systems (GIS). This workshop format is focusing on content and collaboration, and aims to create an African network in planetary science.

The workshop is open to postgraduate students, researchers and professionals interested in the field Earth Observation. It is an in-person event.

Europlanet WorkshopSeries aims to inspire and encourage planetary science and space technology development across borders in developed and developing countries and across the spectrum of academia, industry and civil society. 

Visit the website

Download the brochure.

Europlanet WorkshopSeries is an initiative under the umbrella of the Global Collaboration and Integration Development program of Europlanet 2024 RI.

Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd, 1945-2022

Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd, 1945-2022

We are deeply saddened to hear that the astrophysicist and valued member of our community, Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd, has passed away.  

Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd pursued her research career at the Service d’Aéronomie (LATMOS institute since 2009) and her teaching as an assistant professor to Jacques Blamont at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI). She was appointed professor of astronomy and space physics in 1985 and became professor emeritus in 2013.

After her studies at the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Cachan, she defended her PhD in Physical Sciences in 1976 under the supervision of Jacques Blamont. She analysed the atmospheric and astronomical observations made by the D2A satellite with a contribution to the study of the zodiacal light. In 1977, she applied to the ESA astronaut selection campaign and was the only woman selected amongst the final participants.

After her PhD, she collaborated with René Dumont on studies of the interplanetary medium and zodiacal light. These observations gave the first global map in intensity and polarisation of the zodiacal light and provided constraints on the local physical properties of the interplanetary dust particles.

Anny-Chantal participated in the international campaign of Halley’s comet return in 1986 both with observations from the ground and as the Principal Investigator (PI) of the OPE experiment on-board the European Giotto spacecraft, which observed the linear polarisation in the inner coma of Halley. Results showed the presence of low-density solid particles and light scattering mostly by large particles. Her work helped define a classification of comets based on their polarization phase curves, a result still discussed in the astronomical community today. She also studied the internal regions of cometary coma by polarimetric imaging.

She continued her work on the study of light scattering by irregular particles by developing facilities in the laboratory and in microgravity (such as PROGRA2, CODAG and ICAPS-LSU) to study simultaneously the intensity and polarization phase curves of aggregating particles under microgravity. A reduced version of the ICAPS experiment will soon fly on-board a TEXUS rocket.

Anny-Chantal Levasseur-Regourd speaking at the forum “The year viewed by… sciences” organised by France Culture on 14 February 2015. Credit: Pamputt/CC BY-SA 4.0

Anny-Chantal’s participation in the Rosetta mission was focused on determining the physical properties of the cometary nucleus and the ejected dust particles. These particles were demonstrated to present fractal structures down to nanometer scales with a composition dominated by organic material. Anny-Chantal was also the PI of the EyeSat student nanosatellite launched by the CNES in 2019. Finally, she actively participated in the development of the EnVisS camera, a multiwavelength polarimetric imager of the ESA Comet Interceptor spacecraft due to be launched in 2029 and dedicated to observing a fresh or interstellar comet.

In summary, Anny-Chantal combined in her work ground-based and space-based observations together with laboratory and numerical simulations to better understand the physical properties of solid dust particles ejected from comets. The object of her studies were mostly linked to the small bodies of the Solar System, comets and asteroids with their similarities and differences, the solid particles they eject, and the interplanetary dust medium that results from their interactions.

She supervised seven PhD students. A dedicated teacher, she never hesitated to motivate her students to give their best, and helped advance their growth as researchers. She pushed forward their work at international conferences and also encouraged them to present their own work. She was particularly enthusiastic about supporting the recognition and advancement of her female colleagues.

Outside of her advising work, she developed numerous national and international collaborations in all the domains of study of the solar system small bodies and light scattering by solid particles which lead to 179 refereed papers (241 conference abstracts).

Anny-Chantal loved to share her passion and she participated in the writing of public outreach books on astronomy (5 books) and to television lectures (for example on canal-U). She delivered numerous public outreach conferences and animations of the astronomical community. She was most notably the President of the French Committee for the organization of the International Year of Astronomy 2009. The asteroid 6170 is named Levasseur in her honor. In recognition of her scientific work, she was appointed Officier de la Légion d’honneur in 2013 and was awarded the following prizes: prix Thorlet de l’Académie des sciences (1976), prix Glaxo de vulgarisation scientifique (1982), prix des Dames de la Société Astronomique de France (1986).

She will be dearly missed by the whole scientific community in France and worldwide.

Farinella Prize 2022 – deadline extended

Extended deadline for 12th ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize, 2022

The DEADLINE for nominations for this year’s Farinella Prize is extended to May 15th 2022.

The 12th Paolo Farinella Prize will be awarded to a young scientist with outstanding contributions in the field of planetary science concerning ‘Asteroids: Physics, Dynamics, Modelling and Observations‘, including theoretical, modelling, experimental and observational work on asteroids. The award winner will be honoured during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022 in Granada (Spain).

For the 12th ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize the terms and rules are as follows:

  1. A competition is announced to award the ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize for the year 2022. The Prize consists of a plate, a certificate and the amount of 1500 €. The winner is expected to give a Prize lecture during EPSC2022.
  2. The winner will be selected on the basis of their overall research results in the field of ‘Asteroids: Physics, Dynamics, Modelling and Observations‘. 
  3. Nominations must be sent by email not later than May 1st to the following addresses:, and, using the downloadable form.
  4. The nominations for the ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize can be made by any researcher that works in the field of planetary sciences following the indications in the attached form. Self-nominations are acceptable. The candidates should have international and interdisciplinary collaborations and should be not older than the age of Paolo when he passed away, 47 years, as of 1 May 2022. 
  5. The winner of the Prize will be selected before 20 June 2022 by the ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize Committee composed of outstanding scientists in planetary sciences, with specific experience in the field. 
  6. The Prize Committee will consider all the nominations, but it will be entitled to autonomously consider other candidates.

To honour the memory and the outstanding figure of Paolo Farinella (1953-2000), an extraordinary scientist and person, a Prize has been established in recognition of significant contributions in the fields of interest of Paolo, which spanned from planetary sciences to space geodesy, fundamental physics, science popularisation, security in space, weapon control and disarmament.

The Prize has been proposed during the ‘International Workshop on Paolo Farinella, the scientist and the man‘, held in Pisa in 2010.

Previous recipients of the ‘Paolo Farinella Prize’ were:

‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize homepage.

Light up the sky of the world – Expo in Dubai

Light up the sky of the world – Expo in Dubai

On March 16, 2022Let’s light up the skies of the world took place in the Italian Pavillion of the 2020 EXPO in Dubai. The event, organised by OAE Center Italy and INAF, was constituted by two different moments: a hands-on laboratory for the pupils of local schools, and a roundtable on the topic Astronomy for Teaching: from theory to practice, which took place both in person and in live streaming.

The team organizing the event was composed by Caterina BoccatoStefano SandrelliAlessandra Zanazzi and Livia Giacomini, with the support of the staff of the Italian Pavillion, led by Lorenzo Micheli. The INAF team was also supported by Marcos Valdes, CEO of VIS (Virtual Immersions in Science), who, in the course of event, presented Moon Landing VR, a virtual-reality 360° video to live the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

In the teaching lab, called Let’s light up the skies of the world, about twenty girls from the GEMS Al Khaleej International School, an International school based in Dubai, lit up the stars with LEDs and paper circuits, inventing their own constellations and connecting them to the legends and myths of different cultures of the world. They were led, in addition to the INAF team, by two teachers – Ruba Tarabay, STEAM Coordinator and Responsible for junior secondary classes, and Mohammed Kheder, Astronomy teacher.

In this laboratory, we reason on the fact that constellations do not exist, because they are formed by stars which are not connected to each other,’ Alessandra Zanazzi say. ‘However, constellations are important from the practical point of view, as a reference in order to measure both time and seasons. They also have an important cultural meaning, because all peoples of the world have always observed the sky and connected the dots of the stars to form drawings of what was important for their culture. In the laboratory, we started building a paper circuit, so as to light up a constellation made of LEDs, taking inspiration from a teaching proposal developed by the INAF Play Group. Then, based on the intercultural activities “Cieli del mondo” [World Skies] who inspired several proposals of EduINAF, each participant was free to give vent to their own creativity, overlaying on “official” constellations, the ones coming from different cultural traditions, or of their own design. Here in Dubai, we saw dromedaries, butterflies, and desert oasis being drawn…’

In the second part of the morning, a roundtable took place with Markus Poessel, Responsible for the IAU-OAE Office, Stefano Sandrelli and Sara Ricciardi of the OAE Center Italy, Hamid Al-Naimiy and Ilias Fernini of SAASST (Sharjah Academy for Astronomy, Space Sciences & Technology) and Pedro Russo of Leiden University/Ciência Viva.

Stefano Sandrelli, Director of the new OAE Center Italy says: ‘We are happy to be here today, because the theme of the Dubai EXPO is sustainability. The world can only be sustainable if it has at its heart a culture based on hospitality, on the mutual respect for differences and on true and profound dialogue. That is why the main issue of the roundtable is the codesign, which OAE Center Italy is carrying out with all the countries bordering the Mediterranean. In this project, each country proposes activities addressed to primary school pupils, which are later discussed and modified together. All this will result in a teacher training course which is going to be organized in the island of Lampedusa next summer.

Enjoy the photo-gallery of the event and the voices of the protagonists.

Light up the skies!

Banner image credit: INAF

Call for Farinella Prize 2022

Call for 12th ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize, 2022

To honour the memory and the outstanding figure of Paolo Farinella (1953-2000), an extraordinary scientist and person, a Prize has been established in recognition of significant contributions in the fields of interest of Paolo, which spanned from planetary sciences to space geodesy, fundamental physics, science popularisation, security in space, weapon control and disarmament.

The Prize has been proposed during the ‘International Workshop on Paolo Farinella, the scientist and the man‘, held in Pisa in 2010.

Previous recipients of the ‘Paolo Farinella Prize’ were:

The 12th Paolo Farinella Prize will be awarded to a young scientist with outstanding contributions in the field of planetary science concerning ‘Asteroids: Physics, Dynamics, Modelling and Observations‘, including theoretical, modelling, experimental and observational work on asteroids. The award winner will be honoured during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022 in Granada (Spain).

For the 12th ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize the terms and rules are as follows:

  1. A competition is announced to award the ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize for the year 2022. The Prize consists of a plate, a certificate and the amount of 1500 €. The winner is expected to give a Prize lecture during EPSC2022.
  2. The winner will be selected on the basis of their overall research results in the field of ‘Asteroids: Physics, Dynamics, Modelling and Observations‘. 
  3. Nominations must be sent by email not later than May 1st to the following addresses:, and, using the downloadable form.
  4. The nominations for the ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize can be made by any researcher that works in the field of planetary sciences following the indications in the attached form. Self-nominations are acceptable. The candidates should have international and interdisciplinary collaborations and should be not older than the age of Paolo when he passed away, 47 years, as of 1 May 2022. 
  5. The winner of the Prize will be selected before 20 June 2022 by the ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize Committee composed of outstanding scientists in planetary sciences, with specific experience in the field. 
  6. The Prize Committee will consider all the nominations, but it will be entitled to autonomously consider other candidates.

‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize homepage.

Let’s light up the skies of the world at EXPO!

Let’s light up the skies of the world at EXPO!

OAE Italy center and INAF are organizing Let’s light up the skies of the world! Astronomy for Education, from theory to practice, a round table that will take place in Dubai, at the Italy Pavilion of EXPO, and streamed online for all the community.

The event will be in English, on 16 March 2022, starting at 9:45 and ending at 11:00 CET (starting at 12:45 and ending at 14:00 at Dubai time).

Participants to the round table are: Markus Poessel (Director of IAU OAE Hq); Stefano Sandrelli (Manager of IAU OAE Center Italy); Sara Ricciardi (Deputy of IAU OAE Center Italy); Hamid Al-Naimiy (President of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space sciences, and Director General of SAASST, the Sharjah Academy for Astronomy, Space sciences & Technology); Ilias Fernini (Deputy Director General of SAAST); Pedro Russo (Leiden University/Ciência Viva).

We warmly invite you to participate, following the streaming online or dropping in at the Italy Pavilion, if you are at Dubai on 16 March. To participate (both online or in presence) register at 

A link to follow the streaming will be sent by email after registration.

Anticipating Planetary Science with the James Webb Space Telescope

Anticipating Planetary Science with the James Webb Space Telescope

What are Jupiter and Saturn made of? Are there still open mysteries about these two giant planets? How will the James Webb Space Telescope help investigate them? Find out with Leigh Fletcher (University of Leicester, UK and member of the Europlanet Society Board) in this interview by Claudia Mignone (EDU INAF, Italy).

Il Cielo in salotto: aperitif with the Comet!

Monday 8 November, starting at 18:30 (CEST), a live online event of the EduINAF’s format “Il cielo in salotto“, to celebrate the return to our skies of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The comet studied by the Rosetta space mission has reached the perihelion on November 2nd, and it will be at its minimum distance from Earth (just over 60 million km) on November 12th: between these two dates the comet, visible with the help of a small telescope or large binoculars, will be at its maximum brightness.
The return of 67P is in conjunction with another important anniversary related to the mission: on November 12th it will be exactly 7 years since the landing of the probe Philae on the comet, the highlight of the adventurous Rosetta mission that accompanied 67P in its journey around the Sun between 2014 and 2016.

During the live event some special guests will show us images and videos of 67P collected by INAF telescopes and EduINAF readers fond of sky observations. The audience will discover some of the scientific secrets of comets and finally relive together some of the most exciting moments of the Rosetta mission. For the most enterprising, it will also be an opportunity to learn how to observe our celestial guest with a small binoculars or telescope and try to photograph it. Since a few weeks, indeed, 67P is the great protagonist of the observational campaign entitled “Cattura la Cometa!” organised by EduINAF together with the Unione Astrofili Italiani, AstronomiAmo, the Italian Association for Astronautics and Space and the Astronomical Observatory of the Autonomous Region of Valle d’Aosta and with the collaboration of Europlanet. The images collected are published on EduINAF and the most beautiful ones will be shown and commented during the live event.
The appointment is on the EduINAF’s YouTube channel: go here to find all the information!

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.’


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,, 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

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

Media Contacts

EPSC2021 Press Office

About the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 

The Europlanet Science Congress ( 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 ( 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).

Exploring Mars from Etna

Exploring Mars from Etna

There are many different ways of studying the Solar System and the other planets. Some of them do not require to go to space or to be in a laboratory, but can be carried out in the field – in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

This is the case for a campaign that took place in July 2021, which brought 11 students from all over Europe together for a field trip on the Sicilian volcanano, Etna, in preparation for the arrival ESA’s next mission to Mars in 2022. In this campaign, organised through the EuroMoonMars initiative and presented for the first time at EPSC2021, the team simulated the landing of a basic rover and used it to explore the harsh environment of Etna and to collect and analyse data from a selection of instruments.

‘Sicily was chosen due to the fact that Mount Etna is a very similar environment to the Moon and Mars, both being fairly desolate, harsh environments,’ says Hannah Reilly, from Technological University Dublin, a member of the team. ‘The constant volcanic activity at Mount Etna means that the terrain and surrounding areas are constantly changing and covered in fresh volcanic soil, similar to soil found on other planets. Volcanic areas are usually chosen for campaigns like this.’

The rover used in the campaign was operated by the team to simulate the activities of the Rosalind Franklin Rover that will be used in the Exomars mission.

‘As you can imagine our rover is a lot smaller than the ESA one, but we developed our own camera system similar to that on ExoMars, including PanCam, which we used to generate 360 panoramas,’ explains Reilly. ‘Just like the ExoMars rover that will analyse the terrain, we also used different spectrometers including a Raman spectrometer and UV-Vis-NIR one. The in-situ analysis of samples collected was then carried out on site, as part of the simulation of what will happen with ExoMars. All the scientific results have been shared with the community in a selection of articles discussing different aspects of the campaign, like the rover and radio antenna, that have been presented at EPSC this year.’

The campaign was organised as part of the LEAPS project by the ESA/Leiden University, under the supervision of Prof Bernard Foing and with the collaboration of researchers from DLR and from INAF and University in Catania. The EuroMoonMars initiative was founded by the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG), as part of research efforts towards the exploration of the Moon and Mars. In the past, EuroMoonMars has carried out field campaigns in other Moon-Mars analogue environments like Hawaii and Iceland. Next summer, the project will return to Etna, collaborating with a new mission, called ARCHES, which will be run by DLR.

Aside from the scientific aspects and results, campaigns such as the Etna one are also an opportunity for young researchers.

‘Our team was made of students coming from all over Europe, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Ireland, England and Italy. It was a really nice opportunity, especially during Covid, in terms of academic and career experience, getting to work in an international team and learning how to put our university knowledge to good use. And Mount Etna was an amazing and beautiful place that I can’t wait to visit again. We even got the chance to see some volcanic activity – we spent one whole evening watching an eruption, a once in a lifetime opportunity!’ said Reilly.


Group photo : left to right : Gary Brady, Chiaryu Mohan, Dr. Armin Wedler, Yke Rusticus, Leander Schlarmann, Kevin McGrath, Christoph Hones, Prof. Bernard Foing , Anouk Ehreiser, Hannah Reilly
Credits: Hannah Reilly, Bernard Foing and Gaia de Palma

The Rover on site at Mount. Etna
Credits: Hannah Reilly, Bernard Foing and Gaia de Palma

Instrument set up : Mock Lander and rover
Credits: Hannah Reilly, Bernard Foing and Gaia de Palma

Setting up the spectrometer
Credits: Hannah Reilly, Bernard Foing and Gaia de Palma

Watching an eruption on Etna
Credits: Hannah Reilly, Bernard Foing and Gaia de Palma

EPSC2021: From walls and railings of our cities to…space: the story of Xanthoria parietina

EPSC2021: From walls and railings of our cities to…space: the story of Xanthoria parietina

One of the main topics in astrobiology is the study of life limits in stressful environments -very high temperatures, inhuman pressures, deadly radiations- in order to shed light on the possibility of life in space or in extra-terrestrial habitats such as Mars. You might think it’s difficult to find life forms suitable for these studies, but instead in some cases they are very common; so common as to grow on walls and railings of our cities. 

This is precisely the case of Xanthoria parietina, a yellow-orange leafy lichen selected by the research group of Dr John Robert Brucato, Senior Research Scientist at INAF, the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics, for their study presented at EPSC2021.

The Xanthoria parietina is so common in our cities because it is particularly tolerant to air pollutants as nitrogen oxides and heavy metals” says John, “but we chose it for its ability to produce a particular substance, the parietin, which allows it to protect itself from UV rays”.

In the study, presented at EPSC by Christian Lorenz, a Master’s Student in Environmental Biology at the University of Florence, John and his team tested the lichen under simulated UV space radiations in two different extreme and dehydrating environments, i.e. in nitrogen atmosphere and in vacuum, and demonstrated that it was able to survive. 

The innovative aspect of our study is the spectroscopic analysis we used.” says Christian. “This analysis allowed us to obtain for the first time the spectrum of this lichen species, which we monitored during the exposure, allowing us to appreciate the real time changes in it.

Is this silent inhabitant of our cities ready to colonise space? John thinks it’s too early to tell: “As the next step of our study, we will directly assess the presence of damages in the lichen through electron microscope analyses and expose it to other extreme conditions. Then, it would be really exciting to expose it in real space conditions, for example on the ISS!”.

For more information about the work, you can have a look at Christian’s presentation, Survival of Xanthoria parietina in simulated space conditions: spectroscopic analysis and vitality assessment during the EPSC2021 session TP5 on Friday 17 September. 

Comics “When the Earth Flares Up”

Download a unique educational tool, a comic book about the geomagnetic field and its importance for life on our Earth. The comic book is intended for primary school pupils. Once you get acquainted with the story of the geomagnetic field, play a board game designed for 1-4 players. You can download the game for free below, you will only need 4 game pieces and two dice.

Download the Comic Book and the board game free under the Creative Commons licence:

Comic book cover – profi printing version, PDF file

Comic book for home printing – PDF file

Comic book ofset, profi printing version – PDF file

Board game – profi printing version, PDF file

The comic book was created on the initiative of the staff of the Geophysical Institute Matěj Machek and Petr Brož in co-operation with David Píša from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics CAS.  It was drawn by Karolina Kučerová (whose work you can watch in this video or here) and written by Lucie Lukačovičová. The board game was designed by Julie Nováková. The work can be freely downloaded and freely distributed under a Creative Commons license.

Dancing around Venus

Dancing around Venus

A close flyby of the planet Venus between 9 and 10 August, led to an (almost) meeting of the Euro-Japanese BepiColombo and the Euro-American Solar Orbiter (SOLO) spacecrafts. Venus isn’t the final destination of either mission but the approach to the planet made it possible to collect valuable data for future studies.

The almost-contemporary flyby at Venus of Solar Orbiter is a great opportunity to have more data and an additional point of view of the Venus environment. We’ll take advantage of it!” says Valeria Mangano, coordinator of the ESA working group on Venus flybys of the BepiColombo mission. 

SOLO will use Venus’s gravity multiple times to get closer to the Sun and to change direction to get a good look at the Sun’s poles (a first for a spacecraft), while BepiColombo needs gravitational help from Earth, Venus and Mercury itself to reach its destination.  BepiColombo, named after the Paduan mathematician, physicist, astronomer and engineer Giuseppe Colombo, is the result of the collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) with European leadership. The aim of the mission is to unveil the deepest secrets of Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun and one of the least explored in the Solar System. Four out of the sixteen instruments and experiments on board BepiColombo were built by Italian industry and the Mercury Planetary Orbiter carries onboard the Italian instruments ISA, SERENA and SIMBIO-SYS, and the MORE radio-science experiment.

ESA’s SOLO spacecraft encountered Venus at an altitude of 7995 km 33 hours earlier than BepiColombo and on the opposite face of the planet. Its main mission is to observe the surface of the Sun and study the changes that occur in the solar wind that is emitted at high speed by our star. Among its ten instruments, SOLO carries Metis, the innovative coronagraph born through an international collaboration led by the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and supported by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), involving several universities in Italy and research institutes in the world. 

Approaching Venus has allowed the two spacecraft to make several science investigations of the planet’s atmosphere and its induced magnetosphere and ionosphere. During its flyby, the Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) was able to capture a view of the planet Venus’s nightside, which appeared as a dark semicircle surrounded by a gleaming, bright crescent of light. The day after and a few minutes after BepiColombo’s closest approach of 552km, the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2 took this beautiful black-and-white snapshot with the high-gain antenna and part of the body of the spacecraft visible in front of Venus.

Beautiful view of Venus on 10 August 2021 as bepiColombo passed the planet for a gravity assist manoeuvre.

The Venus Flybys Working group (VFBWG, here the relative ESA webpage), Valeria tells us, aims to promote discussion on Venus science as related to the BepiColombo passages nearby the planet, and also by taking advantage of some of the complementary observations from Earth-based telescopes and by amateur astronomers. Europlanet 2024 RI is actively involved in this, by supporting and encouraging the amateur observations through a campaign coordinated by Ricardo Hueso and Itziar Garate-Lopez from UPV/EHU in Spain. You can find some of the images collected after the first BepiColombo Venus flyby last October on the Planetary Virtual Observatory and Laboratory (PVOL) website. The working group also supports coordination of Venus observations by BepiColombo and other spacecraft. JAXA’s Akatsuki spacecraft, for instance, is now in orbit around Venus and joint observations of the plasma environment surrounding the atmosphere of Venus will enable, again, new insights concerning the planet that were not previously achievable.

Apparently the data for the public will be coming through and continuously being uploaded to the ESA’s dedicated webpage but it will take some time.

Now that the flyby at Venus has passed, we are all working hard at the data analysis, interacting among the teams to gain the most comprehensive view of what we measured. This is at the same time the most stressful and exciting moment of the flyby, when you realise if all the efforts we did of planning the ‘best possible measurements’ really worked and will bring us results or not,” Valeria Mangano continues.

Even more exciting is that all the data collected during the flybys will provide useful inputs to ESA’s future Venus orbiter, EnVision, which is scheduled to launch to Venus in the 2030s.

It seems that the heavens will continue to give us great, emotional highlights in the years to come and we can do nothing but wait, anxiously, for the next planetary dance. The next appointment is for the night of 1-2 October, when BepiColombo will finally see its long dreamed-of destination, making its first of six flybys of the planet Mercury.

Transnational Access Insight: Investigating Fingerprints of Life on the Greenland Ice Sheet

Transnational Access Insight: Investigating Fingerprints of Life on the Greenland Ice Sheet

In this guest post, Laura Sánchez García of the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB, CSIC-INTA) describes her recent trip to Europlanet 2024 RI’s Kangerlussuaq Planetary Field Analogue Site in Greenland to investigate molecular and isotopic fingerprints of life on Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) cryo-ecosystems with astrobiological interest for icy worlds.

Kangerlussuaq TA Field Trip (Spanish Team): Group Pictures

Glacial systems are interesting for studying habitability and the limits of life. They are extreme environments where microorganisms may survive prolonged exposure to sub-zero temperatures and background radiation over millions or billions of years. Glaciers and the surrounding icy “cryo” environments (permafrost, glacial lakes, or melting streams) can be used to study the development of microbial cryo-ecosystems and may have implications in the search for past or current life in icy worlds beyond the Earth.

In the Solar System, Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus have been recognised as the icy worlds with highest likelihood to harbour life, largely because liquid water could be in contact with rocks. Both moons are believed to contain a global ocean of salty water under a rigid icy crust that would enable interaction between briny water and rocks, and allow the conditions for life to arise.

The permanent Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is a potential analogue for such icy worlds, constituting an important historical record of microorganisms that can survive in extreme cold environments. Around the GrIS, different formations such as glacial lakes, permafrost, or further peat soils represent diverse stages of evolution of the GrIS and its thermal destabilisation.

We submitted a proposal to the second Transnational Access Call of Europlanet 2024 RI to visit the Kangerlussuaq Planetary Field Analogue Site in Greenland. In April 2021, we received the news that it had been successful, and our team’s visit took place from 19-29 July 2021.

Our project is an investigation of molecular and isotopic lipid biomarkers of microorganisms inhabiting different cryo-ecosystems at and around the GrIS. Through our results, we hope to obtain clues of a potential life development at an analogue site (ice sheet) of icy moons in our Solar System, and learn how ecosystems evolve (biological succession) when the ice cover retreats and gets exposed to the atmosphere (resulting in glacier-melting streams, bedrock-erosion sediments, lake sediments, glacial soils).

We searched for organics to study the molecular and isotopic composition of lipid biomarkers in environmental samples collected from different ecosystems in the Kangerlussuaq region on the west coast of Greenland, including: 

  1. The ice sheet cryo-environment,
  2. Nearby glacier-influenced ecosystems in and around glacial lakes
  3. Longer time-exposed and further-developed lake and soil ecosystems.

Ice sheet cryo-environment

Kangerlussuaq TA Field Trip (Spanish Team): Issunguata Sermia landscape

For the ice sheet study, we chose an ice sheet region in the Issunguata Sermia glacier system. There, we spotted four sites for sampling ice cores:

  • One near the glacier front, where ice is relatively older and carries plenty of dark, grey, fine material from the bedrock erosion during the glacier advance.
  • Two a bit further northeast in the ice sheet, where the ice is relatively younger and looked like slightly cleaner (i.e. whiter).
  • One further north, in the highest height, where the ice looked cleanest (i.e. whitest).

In the four sites, ice cores were retrieved down to 50-80 cm depth with a manual ice driller and, when the driller didn’t go deep enough, we dug a surface of about 35×35 cm2 with a geologist’s hammer to collect as much ice as possible down to the deepest depth reached by the drill.

Kangerlussuaq TA Field Trip (Spanish Team): Ice drilling on Issunguata Sermia

Together with the ice drills, we also collected additional samples from:

  • Melt water from a glacial stream flowing through the ice sheet.
  • Dark grey sand-sized sediments (with pebbles and small stones) from hill of deposits on the ice sheet coming from the erosion of the bedrock during the glacier advance.
  • Dark blackish, fine sediments outcropping from an ice wedge, also coming from glacial erosion of the bedrock.

The four ice drills were melted and, together with the melt water sample, were filtrated through 0.7 μm pore-size glass fibre filters, to recover the particulate matter and look for total organic carbon and lipid biomarkers.

Kangerlussuaq TA Field Trip (Spanish Team): Sampling Bedrock erosion sediments from Issunguata Sermia ice

2) Nearby glacier-influenced ecosystems in and around glacial lakes

Kangerlussuaq TA Field Trip (Spanish Team): Sampling on Glacial Lakes

For the study of the glacial lakes study, we chose two different systems:

A glacial lake (GL1) about 200 m apart from an edge of the glacier Issunguata Sermia.

In this lake, we sampled a surface sediment from near the shore, together with sediments from an exposed “terrace” near the shore, where material at ground level represented the oldest and that at top of the terrace the youngest. The terrace was assumed to be composed of sediments accumulated in the past when the lake had a higher water level compared to today.

A multiple-lake system next to an edge of the glacier Issunguata Sermia.

The lake system is composed of four interconnected glacial lakes, where the first lake (GL2; closest to the glacier edge) receives water from the melting glacier and feeds the second lake (GL3), which in turns feeds the third (GL4), and this the fourth (GL5).

Here, we collected water (for chemical analysis) and surface sediments (for lipid biomarkers analysis) from the four lakes, and a 25 cm-deep sediment core only from the fourth lake (i.e. furthest from the glacier edge).

3) Longer time-exposed and further developed lacustrine and soil ecosystem

We aimed to assess the organic-composition differences between glacial and non-glacial lakes, so we also sampled a number of non-glacial lakes fed by meteoric (rain and surface runoff) water:

  • A small lake (L6): a lake about 1 km long and 0.5 km wide that is about 3 km apart from Issunguata Sermia.
  • Long Lake (L7): a relatively larger lake about 10 km long and 1.5 km wide that is about 11 km apart from the same glacier.
  • Salt Lake (SL): a lake about 600 m long and 500 m wide furthest from the glacier, and about 3-4 km apart from Kangerlussuaq.

In the three lakes, we sampled water (for chemistry analysis) and surface sediments near the shore. Then, for the small lake (L6) and Salt Lake (SL), we collected a sediment core of 14 and 34 cm depth, respectively. At the Salt Lake basin, we also collected samples from a terrace in the shore, corresponding to past sediment/peat material piling up at the lake shore.

Kangerlussuaq TA Field Trip (Spanish Team): Sampling on Rain Lakes

4) Soil development on glacier retreatment

Finally, we wanted to learn about the soil development upon glacier retreatment, so we collected soil samples from a transect that included:

  • A young soil (poorly-vegetated so far) from recently exposed ground near the present margin of the Issunguata Sermia glacier.
  • A relatively older soil (more developed and vegetated) from the basin around the last lake of the four interconnected glacial-lakes system (i.e. GL5).
  • An even older soil (the most developed) from the Long Lake surroundings.

In order to get a glimpse of the fresh isotopic signatures from the vegetation contributing to the soil lipidic fingerprint, we also collected samples from the most representative vegetal specimens found in the studied area: sphagnum; grass; rounded-leave creeping plant with white flowers; orange, black, and pale-yellow lichens; and submerged and emergent macrophytes (from GL1). Most vegetal samples were collected from the surroundings of glacial lakes GL1 and GL4.

Soil & Vegetation studies at the Kangerlussuaq Planetary Analogue Field Site.  Credits: Laura Sánche-García/CAB (INTA-CSIC).

Following our return from Greenland, we are now starting on the analysis of samples and aim to publish our findings in a paper.

All photos from the trip

Kangerlussuaq TA Field Trip (Spanish Team) All Photos

The BioGreen Transnational Access visit was supported by Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastrucutre and received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

Transnational Access to the TA1.6 Kangerlussuaq Planetary Analogue Field Site facility is coordinated by Aarhus University.

Find out more about Europlanet 2024 RI’s Transnational Access Programme.

Central Europe Hub – Calling for a new chair

Central Europe Hub – Calling for a new chair

Submit your interest by September 2021

An opportunity to become the next Central Europe Hub chair. The Central Europe Hub was established in 2018 to promote planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the Austrian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovenian, Slovakian and wider European community, within the Europlanet Society.

If you’re interested in applying, please reach out to the Central Europe Hub team

An overview of explosive volcanism on Mars

An overview of explosive volcanism on Mars

Petr Brož (Institute of Geophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences) et al. 2021

Decades of space exploration reveal that Mars has been reshaped by volcanism throughout its history. The range of observed volcanic landforms shows that effusive and explosive eruptions have occurred, albeit unevenly in time and space.

In this paper:

  • We present an overview of explosive volcanism on Mars.
  • Evidence for explosive volcanism is less common than for effusive activity.
  • Still indications of explosive volcanism have been identified at various sites.
  • Explosive edifices are often different in shapes from their terrestrial analogues.
  • Explosive eruptions on Mars would behave differently from those on Earth.
  • ()

Read the paper>>

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Go back to the Europlanet Central Europe Hub>>

Inspiring Stories – #PlanetaryScience4All: A Video Contest for Virtual Science Communication

Inspiring Stories – #PlanetaryScience4All: A Video Contest for Virtual Science Communication

In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Melissa Mirino (doctoral candidate at The Open University and of the Chair EPEC Communications Working Group) shares how the extraordinary experiences of 2020 inspired her to launch a contest to bring together the early career community. This story is an extract from the first Issue of the Europlanet magazine.

The year 2020 will be always remembered as a year of isolation, disruption of the normal daily activities, and in extreme cases a year of loss. However, during this period we all did our best to find alternative solutions to carry on with our lives, jobs and activities and remain positive and connected with each other using the current available technologies. Research and academia have not been an exception. Both the Europlanet Society and the Europlanet Early Career Network (EPEC) did their best to remain active, and to guarantee the usual sharing of ideas and scientific results by transforming the EPSC 2020 Conference into a virtual meeting. 

As Chair of the EPEC Communications Working Group, I wanted to create an activity that could combine the EPEC goal of supporting early careers, our working group’s aim of communication, and the need to transform face-to-face activities into a shareable, interactive and online form to support the EPSC2020 virtual meeting. The idea of a video contest came to mind. This format is already considered by many universities as a good way to train and challenge students in science communication. Since the main subject of EPSC is planetary science, the topic of the video contest was easy to identify. With support from the EPSC2020 Outreach and Europlanet Communications teams, and many months of planning, creating and sharing the new activity, the #PlanetaryScience4All video contest became a reality. #PlanetaryScience4All challenges early career students to present their research in four minutes to a non-expert audience. 

The first edition (2020) of the contest was open to Ph.D. candidates involved in planetary science studies, asking them to explain their Ph.D. research using any type of creative video format (Lego movies, drawing, PowerPoint, storytelling, etc.). The videos were judged based on criteria of scientific content, communication skills, and creativity by a panel of experts from the Europlanet Community. All the contestants and their videos were featured in live sessions during EPSC2020, promoted on YouTube, and shared widely on social media. The winning video was highlighted through the Europlanet website and newsletters, and it has also been used for EPEC outreach activities. The winner of the 2020 edition, Grace Richards, received free registration to this year’s EPSC2021 meeting. Recently, Grace and Gloria Tognon, another contestant, have also joined the EPEC Communications Working Group to support our activities. Based on the success of the 2020 competition, I feel confident that #PlanetaryScience4All will become a traditional part of EPSC. 

The second edition is now open, this year welcoming Bachelor’s and Master’s students, as well as PhD candidates working on a thesis related to planetary science.

For more information FAQs, flyers, and the submission form visit:

Videos from the 2020 #PlanetaryScience4All contest can be found at: playlist?list=PLPXeplhp1d00fmFd9vYXirNt_gyZrKOPA. The first Europlanet Magazine issue is available at:

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