Rocks from Space and Planetary Defence – Europlanet Workshop Series – Europlanet Workshop Series
Registration is now open for the workshop ‘Rocks from Space and Planetary Defence’, which will take place in hybrid format from 25-28 April 2023 at the Hôtel Club Val d’Anfa in Casablanca, Morocco, and online.
Register now before 31 March 2023. The workshop is free of charge but places are limited! Registration is compulsory and will close on 31/03/2023. You will receive via email confirmation of your acceptance. Only 25 people will be admitted in-person and up to 100 online. See the practical info for details. The Europlanet Workshop Series links travel grants to selected applicants who intend to attend the workshop.
This third event in the Europlanet Workshop Series will bring together space tech specialists, scientists and graduated students to discuss current topics in this rapidly developing space field and especially in meteorites, meteoroids, comets, asteroids and impact craters. This workshop format is focusing on content, collaboration and targets in order to create an African network in planetary science.
The workshop is open to post-graduate students, researchers and professionals interested in planetary surfaces, impact craters and meteorites, and planetary defense.
This Europlanet Workshop Series 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.
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
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
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 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.
Earth Observation Techniques and Data Analysis – Europlanet WorkshopSeries
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.
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:
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.
The winner will be selected on the basis of their overall research results in the field of ‘Asteroids: Physics, Dynamics, Modelling and Observations‘.
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.
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.
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:
2011: William F. Bottke, for his contribution to the field of ‘Physics and dynamics of small solar system bodies’.
2012: John Chambers, for his contribution to the field of ‘Formation and early evolution of the Solar System’.
2013: Patrick Michel, for his contribution to the field of ‘Collisional processes in the Solar System’.
On March 16, 2022, Let’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 Boccato, Stefano Sandrelli, Alessandra 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.‘
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 https://tinyurl.com/astronomy4edu
A link to follow the streaming will be sent by email after registration.
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).
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!
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, https://doi.org/10.5194/epsc2021-527, 2021.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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/EHUin 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 becoming 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.
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.
Oldest fossils of methane-cycling microbes expand frontiers of habitability on early Earth
EUROPLANET/UNIVERSITY OF BOLOGNA PRESS RELEASE
A team of international researchers, led by the University of Bologna, has discovered the fossilised remains of methane-cycling microbes that lived in a hydrothermal system beneath the sea floor 3.42 billion years ago.
The microfossils are the oldest evidence for this type of life and expand the frontiers of potentially habitable environments on the early Earth, as well as other planets such as Mars.
The study, published today in the journal Science Advances, analysed microfossil specimens in two thin layers within a rock collected from the Barberton Greenstone Belt in South Africa. This region, near the border with Eswatini and Mozambique, contains some of the oldest and best-preserved sedimentary rocks found on our planet.
The microfossils have a carbon-rich outer sheath and a chemically and structurally distinct core, consistent with a cell wall or membrane around intracellular or cytoplasmic matter.
Prof Barbara Cavalazzi, the lead author of the study, said: “We found exceptionally well-preserved evidence of fossilised microbes that appear to have flourished along the walls of cavities created by warm water from hydrothermal systems a few meters below the sea floor. Sub-surface habitats, heated by volcanic activity, are likely to have hosted some of Earth’s earliest microbial ecosystems and this is the oldest example that we have found to date.”
The interaction of cooler sea-water with warmer subsurface hydrothermal fluids would have created a rich chemical soup, with variations in conditions leading to multiple potential micro-habitats. The clusters of filaments were found at the tips of pointed hollows in the walls of the cavity, whereas the individual filaments were spread across the cavity floor.
Chemical analysis shows that the filaments include most of the major elements needed for life. The concentrations of nickel in organic compounds provide further evidence of primordial metabolisms and are consistent with nickel-content found in modern microbes, known as Archaea prokaryotes, that live in the absence of oxygen and use methane for their metabolism.
“Although we know that Archaea prokaryotes can be fossilised, we have extremely limited direct examples. Our findings could extend the record of Archaea fossils for the first time into the era when life first emerged on Earth,” said Prof Cavalazzi.
She added: “As we also find similar environments on Mars, the study also has implications for astrobiology and the chances of finding life beyond Earth.”
‘‘Cellular remains in a ~3.42 billion-year-old subseafloor hydrothermal environment’, B. Cavalazzi (Università di Bologna, Italy/ University of Johannesburg, South Africa), L. Lemelle (LGL-TPE, ENS de Lyon, Université de Lyon, CNRS, France), A. Simionovici (ISTerre, University of Grenoble-Alpes, CNRS, France), S.L. Cady (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, USA), M.J. Russell (Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy), E. Bailo (WITec GmbH, Germany), R. Canteri (Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Italy), E. Enrico (Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica, Italy), A. Manceau (ISTerre, University of Grenoble-Alpes, CNRS, France), A. Maris (Università di Bologna, Italy), M. Salomé (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, France), E. Thomassot (Université de Lorraine, CNRS, CRPG, France), N. Bouden (Université de Lorraine, CNRS, CRPG, France), R. Tucoulou (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, France), A. Hofmann (University of Johannesburg, South Africa), Science Advances, 2021. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/29/eabf3963.
The research was carried out with the support of Europlanet 2024 RI, which received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme (Grant No 871149).
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.
The University of Bologna has very ancient origins: founded in 1088 it is considered the first University of the Western World. It counts over 87,000 students, 232 degree programs, 84 of which are international, distributed over 5 Campus: Bologna, Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna and Rimini.
It has 32 Departments, 48 PhD courses, 53 Postgraduate Schools, 86 first and second level Masters and an average of 11,000 research products per year. The University of Bologna is among the first universities in Europe for the number of students participating in exchange programs, both outgoing and incoming.
Entro il 23 Luglio 2021 è possibile applicare per richiedere il rimborso della quota di iscrizione al congresso EPSC2021 (nel caso di registrazione anticipata), nonché della quota per l’Abstract Processing Fee.
Possono richiedere il rimborso: -professionisti a inizio carriera (entro 7 anni dall’ultima laurea) -studenti di dottorato -astronomi amatoriali -divulgatori -educatori -ricercatori da Paesi sotto-rappresentati
E’ necessario che i candidati abbiano un abstract accettato per per la conferenza (per presentazione orale o poster).
Per applicare è sufficiente compilare il form online. I candidati prescelti riceveranno comunicazione nella settimana del 26 luglio, per consentire loro di registrarsi prima della scadenza della quota di registrazione anticipata del 3 agosto.
L’Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) chiama la comunità scientifica e industriale nazionale a presentare, in un evento interamente virtuale, lo stato dell’arte delle proprie attività di ricerca e sviluppo di tecnologie per lo sfruttamento delle risorse in situ (ISRU) su Luna, Marte ed asteroidi. L’appuntamento è per il 6 Ottobre 2021 al workshop “Ricerca & Sviluppi Tecnologici per In-Situ Resources Utilization”.
La partecipazione è libera, ma è necessario registrarsi entro il 10 settembre 2021 attraverso il modulo online.
Le proposte e gli interventi possono riguardare uno dei seguenti argomenti:
Acquisizione, preparazione, classificazione delle risorse
• Tecnologie per la produzione di consumabili (es. acqua, ossigeno, propellenti)
• Tecnologie per la produzione di risorse per manufacturing
• Generazione e storage di potenza in-situ
• Estrazione e storage materiale per sample return mission
• Facility per testing e validazione a terra di tecnologie
Ulteriori informazioni sul workshop nella brochuredi presentazione.
The INAF-Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology (Rome, Italy) is seeking applicants for one “Postdoctoral Research Fellowship” in the context of the research project “Modelling of surfaces of solid bodies of the Solar System and comparison with data from space probes and terrestrial analogues in the laboratory”.
Deadline: 30 June 2021.
The grant is based on the project “EXOMARS Ma_MISS”, “DAWN” and “Rosetta/VIRTIS” and will be carried out under the scientific supervision of dr. Maria Cristina De Sanctis and dr. Fabrizio Capaccioni.
The expected start date is September 2021, with a duration of 12 months and the potential of renewal.
The successful candidate is expected to work on the surface and subsurface modelling; data analysis from space instrumentation (VIR instruments on DAWN, Ma_Miss on ExoMars 2022, VIRTIS on Rosetta) and laboratory data analysis (analogous materials and meteorites).
More information with the complete description of the position and the documents to fill out here.
Wednesday 26 May, starting at 21:30, the largest and most spectacular full moon of the year will be the main character of the first episode of the new EduINAF’s format “Il cielo in salotto“. Meaning “the sky in your living room”, it aims at bringing science and astronomy closer to the public with live astronomical observations. For this specific occasion, the supermoon will be observed, weather permitting, by the astronomers of some INAF Observatories scattered throughout Italy, (Trieste, Asiago, Rome and Palermo). To comment on the beauties of the sky, Sandro Bardelli, from Bologna, will be our guide on this journey on the Moon, between astronomical curiosities and the latest scientific missions and discoveries, accompanied by guests such as Maria Cristina De Sanctis and Francesca Altieri, researchers at the INAF IAPS in Rome, the geologist Matteo Massironi of the University of Padua, Caterina Boccato, in charge of the INAF Teaching and Outreach, Simone Iovenitti, PhD student at INAF and University of Milan and together with many other partners and guests who will help us to look at the Moon with new eyes.
Special guest of the evening is Samantha Cristoforetti, who will tell us, in a video, her point of view on the Moon and its exploration, and who will receive as a gift the collective portrait of the asteroid 15006 Samcristoforetti made as a tribute to our astronaut in the recent astrophotography challenge, organised by EduINAF in collaboration with the community of italian amateurs.
The appointment is on the EduINAF’s YouTube channel: go here to find all the information!
View the recording:
Europlanet 2024 RI has supported the SuperLuna! campaign. Europlanet 2024 RI has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.
The second call for applications for the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access (TA) programme returned a positive response to the Ma_Miss (Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies) team for a geological and spectroscopic field analysis campaign at the Rio Tinto site in Spain. The main objective of the project is to collect spectral data and samples useful for testing the ExoMars2022/Ma_MISS spectrometer. Ma_MISS is the miniaturized visible and near-infrared (VIS-NIR) spectrometer, integrated into the drilling system of the ESA ExoMars/2022 Rosalind Franklin rover, dedicated to the Martian subsurface exploration. “The Rio Tinto represents an example of how life can adapt to extreme environments: this may give us clues as to what kind of life may have once developed on Mars” says Marco Ferrari from the INAF/IAPS in Rome, “and scientific results from previous work with other drilling equipment and scientific instruments show that the Rio Tinto site has ideal mineralogical/biological characteristics to test the Ma_MISS spectrometer also in the context of Oxia Planum, the selected landing site of the ExoMars/2022 mission“.
During the field campaign, the team plans to perform a series of VIS-NIR measurements collecting a representative sample of each mineral that will be subsequently measured with the breadboard Ma_MISS at the INAF/IAPS laboratory. All the efforts focused on any spectral signature related to the presence of biomarkers in the collected data with the aim of understanding whether the Ma_MISS instrument can be of any help in detecting traces of life in the Martian subsurface, which is one of the main scientific objectives of the ExoMars/2022 mission.
The findings of this study will be published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at major planetary science-related international congresses, as well as during scientific public outreach events.
WHEN: 14-16 September 2021 WHERE: Virtual DEADLINE: 28 May 2021
“Geology Without Borders“: this is the theme of the 90th edition of the Italian Geological Society’s Conference, which will take place virtually on 14-16 September 2021. The conference wants to be a wish for an exchange of knowledge among researchers, not only Italian, to promote and strengthen the Earth Sciences, which should be considered not only as a necessary tool for the best understanding of the interior of planet Earth but also as a defense of the society from dangerous geological events, for the understanding of climate variations, the planning and use of geo-resources in an ethical way and with the respect and preservation of the environment. The event will be of great interest for the whole international planetary community, which is invited to participate by registering here and submitting an abstract before 28 May 2021 – 7:00 p.m. CET. A list of the fees is reported in detail on the related page. Two different planetary sessions are indeed planned, both held in English, with two international keynote speakers, one per session: P26. The cosmic challenge: from interplanetary dust to the bricks of life Conveners: Lidia Pittarello, Cristian Carli P27. The contribution of geology to the knowledge of Solar System bodies Conveners: Valentina Galluzzi, Alice Lucchetti
During the conference the awards ceremony of the competition “On the rocks” will be held. This competition asks students, PhD students, researchers, professionals and geology enthusiasts of any age to describe their research or new ideas on Earth in a creative and absolutely informal way, by producing short films of any kind. More information on the competition, which will close on 25 July 2021, on the dedicated page.
A conference and a competition through which to have fun and learn at the same time: what more could you ask for?
Spring 2021 is a season of ‘supermoons’, with the Full Moon in April and May coinciding within 10% of the closest lunar orbital distance to Earth. These luminous supermoons, which are about 7% bigger and about 15% brighter than a typical Full Moon, provide a remarkable opportunity for engaging the public.
We thought it would be fun to gather images, or artwork, of the Moon in its different phases between the April Supermoon and the May one. Making these observations is a great way to see how the Moon changes during the month: look for how the Moon rises and sets later each night, and how the illumination and so shape we see changes too.
The supermoon on 26th May will be the closest Full Moon of the year. Facilities from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) are joining forces to carry out a live event on EduINAF’s social channels.
During the Italian streaming, aired on the 26th on EduINAF’s main social channels from 9.30pm to 11pm (CET), there will be an opportunity to learn much more about the Moon. INAF astronomers will guide the audience through the live observations of the moon seen by the various observatories involved with images and insights from guests.
You have the chance for your images to be shown during this broadcast too – as images from our SuperLuna! Observing Challenging will be included in the live broadcast. We will also be putting a gallery on our website. This is not a competition, we would just like as many people to participate as possible, so we will make a random selection from the entries to receive an ESA goody bag.
Join the SuperLuna Campaign!
If you are up for the challenge, upload your pictures to this Flickr group and post them on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #SuperLuna If you do not use Flickr, you may submit your pictures via the form below.
Resources for observing the Moon
We have put together some resources to help you observe, photograph and find out more about the Moon. Read more.
If you have an image or animation that is too big to upload, you can send it by WeTransfer to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Europlanet 2024 RI has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.
Europlanet AISBL (Association Internationale Sans But Lucratif - 0800.634.634) is hosted by the Department of Planetary Atmospheres of the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB), Avenue Circulaire 3, B-1180 Brussels, Belgium.