Results of Europlanet Society Committee Funding Scheme 2023

Results of Europlanet Society Committee Funding Scheme 2023

The results have been announced of a call by the Europlanet Society to support funding proposals of €1000 to €5000 from its Regional Hubs, Committees and Working Groups and the Society Membership. Five projects have been supported in 2023:

French Hub proposal: Careers workshop at French Planetary Science Congress (€4900)

The French Planetary Science Congress will be held in Nantes in July 2024 conjointly with the French Astrobiology Society (SFE) and National Programme for Planetary Science (PNP), where two days will be devoted to astrobiology topics and two others to planetary science more generally. Funding was requested from the Europlanet Society Committee Funding Scheme to support a one-day workshop devoted to early career researchers focussed on careers in planetary science, divided into talks from industry and academia about their diverse career paths, and workshops on topics such as “CV writing for industry”, “writing a good research grant”, a poster session in the afternoon will allow attendees to exchange with the invited speakers and other researchers at the conference. The whole event will be in French to maximise interaction between the masters and PhD students and the presenters.

Spain Portugal Hub proposal: Pro-Am occultations campaigns with a portable telescope (€3300)

Occultations of stars by small Solar System bodies provide relevant information about their atmosphere, rings, satellites and morphology. The most interesting results are usually obtained when several different chords of the same occultation event are gathered. Therefore, it is usually necessary to deploy different instruments across the predicted shadow path in order to maximise the probability of capturing relevant data.

Several members of the Sociedad Astronómica Granadina (an amateur astronomy group from the south of Spain) have collaborated in dozens of different ProAm occultation campaigns promoted by the IAA and other organizations, specially those involving transneptunian objects, Jupiter trojans and NEOs. Those campaigns usually involve traveling (sometimes thousands of kilometers) in order to correctly position the telescopes and auxiliary gear. To continue and improve collaborations, funding was requested from the Europlanet Society Committee Funding Scheme to acquire a more powerful (but still portable) telescope to obtain occultation data of fainter stars.

Central Europe Hub proposal: Orionids 2023 (€1400)

Funding was requested from the Europlanet Society Committee Funding Scheme to support “Orionids 2023”, a meteor astro-camp. During a weekend workshop that will take place in Banská Štiavnica, in central Slovakia, different astrophysicist and astronomers amateur will provide lectures about how to observe meteor showers and secondary meteor showers in a classical traditional way. This seminar will teach the participants how to be prepared theoretically for such an observation, what methodology (IMO) to use and how to practically observe a meteor shower in general. Afterwards, it will be given the knowledge of submitting the results in the IMO database. Another aim of the project is to teach a new lecturing team in order to maintain visual observation discipline, also nowadays in modern digital times. The plan for the future is to organize the observation of meteor showers at least 3 times a year. The best possibilities would be in Slovak dark sky parks or another convenient location. The expected number of participants of the Orionids 2023 is 12 with 4 lecturers. The first Orionids astro-camp is planned in Slovakia but international participants are also welcome

Central Europe Hub: Variable stars and exoplanet research meeting – support for international audience (€3060)

The Czech Variable stars meeting is traditionally organised by the Czech Astronomical Society, Variable stars and exoplanet section, association of professional and amateur astronomers predominantly from the Czech Republic, but also members from other european countries. This meeting has a long history, the last 54th meeting took place in November 2022 in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Average audience is between 50 and 100 participants, including online audience. Various topics with focus on pro-am research of variable stars and exoplanets are discussed. With the incresing number of international collaboration, there is a rise of international audience of the meeting. Last year’s meeting was also held in hybrid form. Funding was requested from the Europlanet Society to broaden focus of the meeting to the Central European international audience by formally dividing the meeting to consecutive international and Czech/Slovak sections, advertising the meeting on the European level and providing support for in-person participants – amateur astronomers and students. The support will comprise travel bursaries and support with translation of presentations and other material into English. Since 2021 there is also an student section in the form of a competition organised, where also students from other countries can participate.

Ireland-UK Hub: Europlanet Early-Career Networking at the British Planetary Science Conference 2024 (€4380)

The British Planetary Science Conference (BPSC) 2024 has been awarded by the UK Planetary Forum to Space Park Leicester (SPL). It will be held in June 2024 at Space Park and the adjacent National Space Centre in Leicester. Europlanet sponsorship was requested to raise awareness of society membership benefits in the UK. BPSC will start with a 1-day workshop for those new to the space and planetary science community, where experienced SPL engineers and project managers will lead examples of how space instruments and missions are developed. This will help facilitate wider access to new space exploration initiatives in the planetary and space science community, and is particularly focussed on connecting early-career researchers to new opportunities. The main 3-day part of the conference will consist of oral and poster sessions reflecting the range of topical planetary and space science activities in the UK, including results from sample return missions, Mars exploration, the Gas and Ice Giants, meteorites, Mercury. The main conference will also have an emphasis on careers and EDI, with input on careers in the space industry. On the final day will include a community consultation day with UKSA, STFC, and other interested stakeholders like Europlanet.

South East Europe Hub: Terrestrial Analogues for Solar System Studies Conference (€5000)

Co-funding was requested from the Europlanet Society Committee Funding Scheme for an already designed planetary-themed conference to be held in Greece, in the island of Milos, during the summer of 2024. The conference has both scientific and policy aspects, and aims to bring together planetary scientists from all over the world, with an emphasis on students and early career participants from Southeastern Europe, in a location of great relevance and interest for planetary geologic topics – the island of Milos. This region has experienced young volcanism and tectonism (Mars, Pluto), has undergone atmospheric shaping of volcanic deposits, and carving into yardangs (Mars, Titan, Venus, Pluto), and has current hydrothermal and fumarolic activity (Venus, Io, exoplanets). The conference will offer a combination of lectures, science discussions and filed trips, as well as policy and industry related discussions in a dedicated session. Planetary scientists with experience in field geology will interact with those who typically do modeling or laboratory studies, furthering the cross communication of topics and improving the research approach for all participants to lead to a better understanding.

EPEC: Early Career Activities at DPS-EPSC 2023 (€900)

EPEC has organised a programme of events for early career researchers at the joint DPS-EPSC meeting in October 2023 in San Antonio, Texas. The planned activities include a short course on mental health, a social event, mentoring for first-time attendees and the EPEC general assembly. In addition, EPEC will have a booth to help early careers find their way around and inform them about our work.

Find out more about the Committee Funding Scheme.

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:

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.

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