Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting (ERIM) 2023
The first Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting (ERIM) will take place from 19-23 June 2023 in hybrid format at the Hotel Sorea, Bratislava, Slovakia and online.
ERIM 2023 will bring together a range of planetary science and Europlanet community workshops, including interactive sessions on geological mapping, planetary space weather, the Europlanet Telescope Network, industry engagement, innovations in outreach tools.
The HORIZON R&D partnership, involving five industry organizations representing the whole supply chain, was launched in June 2021 along with other eleven research partnerships. However, long-standing strategic and political interests relating to space got in the way and Member States opposed the partnership. Following that, the Commission had to renegotiate.
This has resulted in a reduction of the scope, with the partnership now limited to the three areas of commercial telecoms, earth observation, and future space ecosystems.
What is more, the budget has been drastically reduced, from an initial €1.4 to €2 billion to €150 million for three years. With a new budget and smaller scope, partners now need to prepare a new strategic document for the partnership to replace the previous, more ambitious one, not an easy task though.
The full programme of the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022 is available on the meeting website. Registered conference participants, including registered media attendees, will be able to access recordings of the scientific sessions on the relevant pages of the programme. The recordings will be added 7-10 days following EPSC2022 and be available for one year.
Press Briefing on Monday, 19 September 2022s
ESA Hera Mission: Investigating binary asteroid (65803) Didymos and the DART crater 14:15 CEST / 13:15 BST / 08:15 EDT
One week ahead of the impact by NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft with the asteroid Dimorphos, representatives of the European Space Agency’s Hera mission, the Italian LICIACube mission and DART will present an update for the media.
Michael Küppers, Hera Project Scientist, European Space Astronomy Centre
Andy Rivkin, DART Investigation Team Lead, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
LICIACube Team representative (TBC)
Solar System Observations with Webb 15:00 CEST / 14:00 BST / 09:00 EDT
Geronimo Villanueva, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Ann-Carine Vandaele, Institut royal d’Aeronomie Spatiale de Belgique
Giuliano Liuzzi, University of Basilicata, Potenza, Italy
The Europlanet team has been taking part in a number of meetings and events over the past few weeks. For the first time since 2019, the Europlanet banner stand has been on display in exhibitions at conferences, including the European Astronomical Society (EAS) Annual Meeting and the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF).
EAS 2022, which took place in Valencia from 27 June – 1 July, was attended by close to 2000 people, with 1700 participating in person. An eight-strong team from the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) took part in the meeting, crewing a stand and presenting Europlanet activities on mentoring, the Europlanet Telescope Network, outreach and global collaboration. Europlanet was joined on its stand by its sister EU-funded project, EXPLORE, which is developing machine learning tools to exploit planetary and space data, as well as Planets In A Room (PIAR), the low-cost spherical projection system developed by Speak Science and INAF with Europlanet funding. The team talked to several hundred people over the course of the week, and distributed copies of the latest issue of the Europlanet Magazine, as well as stickers and leaflets.
ESOF 2022, held in Leiden from 13-16 July, was the tenth edition of the largest European interdisciplinary science conference. Europlanet organised a session ‘To Mars and Beyond’ in Pieterskerk, attended by around 50 delegates, on July 14 and took part in the exhibition throughout the meeting, giving participants and opportunity to hold some real rocks from space
Europlanet Society Statement of Support for Ukraine
The news of the outbreak of war within the European continent is undoubtedly shocking to us all. Europlanet has established many collaborations with Ukrainian scientists, especially through the three facilities in the Europlanet Telescope Network that are located in Ukraine.
We express our solidarity with the Ukrainian people in general and our colleagues in the planetary science community in particular, and condemn the invasion by Russia in the strongest possible terms.
Science is universal and demonstrates the best traits of humanity, the ability to collaborate and form a ‘family’ working without borders, each member being respected for their skills and knowledge, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marital status, age, nationality or socioeconomic background. When members of our family are attacked, we grieve together.
Europlanet is exploring all possible ways to provide practical help to our Ukrainian colleagues, particularly those who have been forced to travel into other European countries. For displaced colleagues needing support to travel within the EU, Europlanet can offer bursaries and mobility grants (please contact firstname.lastname@example.org). Members of our community, including the Austrian Academy of Science, the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange, have provided an excellent example by setting up support schemes for scientists in Ukraine to apply for a research stay to be able to continue their research. We urge you to discuss options with your own institutions and to contact your parliamentary representatives and governments to see what initiatives to support Ukrainian colleagues can be implemented, and to help us share details with the community.
Collaborations with Russian research institutes and researchers will undoubtedly now be restricted, despite years of joint ventures (for example on the ExoMars mission). Many of us have long standing links and personal friendships with Russian scientists. However, we strongly support the sanctions that are being implemented to try to stop the war and loss of life.
We show our solidarity with everyone that has spoken out against the Russian invasion, and we urge members of the Europlanet community to take all possible efforts to show support for our Ukrainian colleagues and help to bring an end to this war – something that we all hoped would never be seen again in Europe.
Astronet – Science Vision and Infrastructure Roadmap for Europe
Over the last year, a number of expert panels have been working on draft sections of a new Science Vision and Infrastructure Roadmap for European Astronomy, created by Astronet.
Astronet is a consortium of European funding agencies and community bodies, originally funded by the EU, which produced the original Science Vision and Roadmap in 2008 and its revision in 2015. It includes as observers ESA, SKAO and ESO as a full member, along with the European Astronomical Society.
The Science Vision aims to deliver a statement on the current status of our science, along with the needs for its future development; to inform those who fund and direct this exciting and important science area within Europe. The report is organized by science areas, with one panel covering Understanding the Solar System and Conditions for Life and another the Formation and Evolution of Planetary Systems. There are two cross-cutting chapters on computing and on societal aspects ( skills, sustainability, public engagement, diversity).
While the drafts have been available on the Astronet web site since the Spring for comment and there has been a community Webinar, we have not seen much comment from the Planetary Community. The aim is to publish the report by Easter 2022, so there is still time to comment and your views are really important to ensure the outcomes are inclusive and representative.
The ‘supermoon’ on 26th May was the closest Full Moon of this year. To mark the occasion, Edu INAF and Europlanet 2024 RI challenged the public to observe and portray our satellite. Participants in the SuperLuna Challenge were given free range to use their creativity to represent the Moon in its different phases through photos, videos, drawings.
Federica Duras of INAF says, “In fact, the over 40 works submitted, together with those collected through social media, give a multifaceted portrait of the Moon, many of which were shown during the live event in May of “Il cielo in salotto”. We’ve seen the Moon peeping shyly out from the dark foliage of the trees of Wales, soaring scarlet above the towers of a medieval castle in the Roman skies, or sleeping under the wing of Venus in a colorful Virginia sunset. Thank you to all participants for having been able to respond to such a challenging test combining science and art and encouraged us to keep our noses up, to admire, once again, the many faces of the Queen of the Night.”
The winning image comes from Vicenza, Italy, from the balcony of Roberto Vaccaro’s home.
Four works also deserve a special mention:
The work of the students of the school Fabio Filzi (Laives, Italy) who, with the guidance of their teachers, took a beautiful photo emphasising the lunar seas and craters.
This drawing by William is made up in red, yellow and bright as the Sun. (SuperBright Moon. Credit: William Rizzi).
The Supermoon drawn by Elisa and her little brother Francesco has a Supersister with whom to play at piercing the darkness. (Super Luna con mantello e Superluna in compagnia. Credit: Elisa e Francesco Oliverio).
Luca Nardi Interviewed Roberto Vaccaro about how he achieved his winning photo:
Roberto Vaccaro, congratulations on your amazing photograph of the Moon. Where did you take it from?
Thank you very much, the news of the prize was really a surprise! I took this photo from the terrace of my house: fortunately in order to shoot the Moon, especially when it is so bright, there is no need to move to isolated locations in search of dark skies.
And what instruments did you use?
I used a Newtonian telescope with 130mm aperture and 900mm focal length. I then connected a direct-focus mirrorless camera, so that the telescope acted as a lens for the camera itself. For the image I used the high-resolution method (which is used to shoot celestial bodies such as the Moon and planets) creating a video in 4K, from which I then extracted the individual frames. Next, I overlapped them with a processing program to eliminate noise and the distortions due to atmospheric turbulence: so I got the final image!
Was it more or less difficult to take a picture of the Supermoon compared to a normal Full Moon?
It is not more difficult, because the Full Moon is always extremely bright. However, for this reason a little care is needed because there is the risk of overexposing the photo (making it too bright), thus reducing the contrast effect of the lunar seas (which are the darkest regions of the Moon) and the details of the craters.
How was your passion for astrophotography born?
I have always been fascinated by astronomy and observations with a telescope, but my passion for astrophotography was born because I wanted to see celestial objects (such as nebulae and galaxies) that cannot be seen with a simple observation with the naked eye since they are too dim. They can reveal all their beauty thanks to a telescope, a camera and sufficiently long exposure time.
The theme for 2022 is “Interception”. With missions like Comet Interceptor and the DART in the headlines, this year’s contest looks at ideas around meeting, moving and impact in relation to planetary exploration! Show us how you have been inspired to create drawings, storytelling, pictures, videos, models, craft works or art installations at home.
To enter the contest, fill in the submission form. In the form, you will be asked to upload your photo or provide link to your video on YouTube or Vimeo. Make sure that the link to your video is working and is accessible to external people or your submission will not be evaluated.
If you want to submit storytelling or poetry, send a photo or image with the text, or make a short video of you performing your work or reading it with accompanying visuals.
You have the option to provide a pseudonym if you would like your artwork to be credited to another name (for instance your social media handle) when displayed online or in our gallery.
The videos and images may be shared in Europlanet outreach activities aimed at the general public and schools and via our social media channels.
For photo submissions, JPG, GIF (including animated GIF) or PNG formats are accepted. For video artworks, you will need to upload your video file to a sharing platform (Youtube, Vimeo, etc) so we recommend that you use a format accepted by the majority of platforms (the most common formats are .AVI and .MP4). This link has useful information on preparing videos to share on social media.
All artworks will be accessible through a dedicated online gallery on the Europlanet website. All artworks submitted will be considered by a panel of planetary scientists and artists. (Depending on entry numbers we may split into age/topic/type categories.) We will evaluate the submissions in each particular category according to the following criteria: inspiring idea, performance, original content and clarity.
Prizes will be awarded to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners.
All participants will be named Europlanet Participating Artists and featured on our website.
Art is meant to inspire. Art is meant to be shared. Art allows us to go beyond our limits. Planetary science takes us beyond the limits of our world. This year’s theme is “Ingenuity”. Let your imagination take us on a voyage through our Solar System and planets around distant stars! Show us how you have been inspired to create drawings, storytelling, pictures, videos, models, craft works or art installations at home. Get creative with InspiredByOtherWorlds!
ESPAS (European Strategy and Policy Analysis System)
ESPAS is an inter-institutional collaboration among the officials of the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the European External Action Service, with the support of the Committee of the Regions and of the European Economic and Social Committee, which monitors global trends and offers strategic foresight to the EU’s decision-makers.
The Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Commission’s science and knowledge service with a mission to bring science and knowledge into EU policy making, has made available the Science for Policy Handbook. The handbook is dedicated to researchers and research organisations aiming to achieve policy impact, and provides advice on how to bring science to the attention of policymakers, not just in the EU context. The book is available on this site, which also provides useful information and material on related topics, such as Evidence-Informed Policy and Science Diplomacy.
First successful observations at the Europlanet Telescope Network
One month after the first projects to observe at the Europlanet Telescope Network were granted in December, the first successful observations took place in January at the Moletai Observatoria in Lithuania.
The project “Reducing the selection effects in asteroid spins, shapes, and thermal parameters” is a long-term project aiming at determining physical parameters like spin, 3D shape, size, and thermal inertia of numerous asteroids that have been omitted by most of the previous studies. Their slow rotation and small amplitudes of brightness variations make them difficult targets for photometric observations, thus creating an observing selection effect.
Through coordinated observations from multiple sites, the project is gradually decreasing bias. This results in detailed spin and shape models based on high-quality photometric datasets of these asteroids observed at various viewing geometries.
Additionally, the models are being scaled in size down to 5% precision by thermophysical modelling with infrared data obtained from space, and fitting the shape models to stellar occultations by asteroids (Marciniak et al. 2018, and 2019: Astronomy Astrophys. 610, A7; and 625, A139). The new photometric observations, as shown in the image, gathered recently at Moletai Observatory, complemented with data from other sites, will result in fully covered lightcurves for five asteroids with rotation periods up to 38 hours, and should soon lead to the determination of spin and shape models of these challenging targets.
While this project already successfully observed its targets, further observations at the Europlanet Telescope Network are soon to come. Additionally, the second Science Advisory Board meeting was already taking place at the end of January to evaluate three more projects that want to exploit the small telescopes network. While the decision on the funding of these proposals will be announced soon, we are in the meantime inviting interested observers to apply with their project to the NA2 Call for Observations at the Europlanet Telescope Network.
The #InspiredByOtherWorlds Arts Contest has received 72 submissions artworks from artists, planetologists, space enthusiasts, and children from Europe, Asia, the US, and South America. This contest led the imagination of our participants on a voyage through our Solar System and planets around distant stars.
We are excited to announce its virtual award ceremony that will gather all participants and will share their inspiring artworks. At the ceremony 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes in Youth and Adult Categories, and three Public’s Vote Youth, Adult and Overall prizes will be given. You can see all the artworks in the gallery.
The ceremony will be held virtually on the 22nd of December 2020 at 16.00 CET. If you are not a participant but you want to attend the virtual meeting and learn who the winners are, you can contact us (stavro.ivanovski <at> inaf.it) to get the details of the meeting.
Amateur observations to support Parker Solar Probe flyby of Venus
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will flyby Venus on 11th July 2020. The mission will obtain observations of Venus that will be coordinated with the Akatsuki mission (JAXA), currently in a long eliptic orbit around the planet.
Scientists studying Venus have requested amateur observers to help by providing ground-based data on Venus’s atmosphere to put the mission data into context. This event will be followed up with a campaign of observations in July, August and October in support of the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo Mission, which will flyby Venus in October 2020.
The Europlanet Telescope Network is supporting a campaign to provide amateur support for these flybys and we are actively requesting Venus observations from the amateur community.
Calling all PhD students – showcase your research in #PlanetaryScience4All video contest
The Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Communication working group is giving all PhD students involved in planetary science the opportunity to showcase their research through a 4-minute video contest called #PlanetaryScience4All.
The deadline for submissions is 31 August 2020. All the videos submitted will be shown during a dedicated session during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020, which is being held as a virtual meeting for the first time from 21 September – 9 October. The winner will be announced at the end of the virtual conference.
The winner of the competion will receive a free registration for EPSC 2021, which will be held Helsinki, Finland, from 19-24 September 2021. The winning video will be also shared via the Europlanet website, newsletters and social media and will be used to inspire young people in future EPEC outreach activities.
In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Dr Billy Edwards, Twinkle Project Scientist and Research Associate on the Ariel space mission, describes how he is bringing cutting-edge exoplanet research into UK classrooms.
Last year I became involved in the Original Research by Young Twinkle Students (ORBYTS) programme. This educational scheme aims to allow secondary school pupils to work on new, exciting research linked to the Twinkle Space Mission under the tuition of PhD students and other young scientists (http://www.twinkle-spacemission.co.uk/edutwinkle/). To achieve this, ORBYTS connects science researchers with secondary schools, where, through fortnightly school visits over an academic year, the students are taught undergraduate-level physics. These classes allow the researchers to engage students with the subjects they themselves are studying. The ultimate goal of this project is to give students the opportunity to use this new knowledge to contribute towards publishable research.
The core idea is that pupils get hands on experience of scientific research and work closely with young scientists. By bringing together schools and researchers, the programme aims to not only improve student aspirations and scientific literacy, but also help to address diversity challenges by dispelling harmful stereotypes, challenging any preconceptions about who can become a scientist and I found the relative informality of the classes to a powerful way of connecting with the students. While projects have been run on a number of topics, mine focused on one of the core science targets for the Twinkle mission: exoplanets.
We currently know of over 4000 planets, which orbit stars other than our Sun. These range from small, cool rocky worlds such as those in the TRAPPIST-1 system to massive, hot gaseous planets such as WASP-76 b where it is thought to rain iron. However, while we have had some tentative insights, much about these alien worlds remains a mystery. Future space-based telescopes, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, Twinkle and Ariel will use spectroscopy to study their atmospheres, detecting the molecules present to give us a deep understanding of the planet.
However, in recent years, a problem has begun to develop. With so many known planets, keeping track of the exact time at which they are going to transit has become harder and harder. In the coming years, this is only going to get more difficult as surveys such TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, will find thousands more exoplanets. The only way to keep the ephemerides of these planets fresh is to frequently re-observe them and this will require an increasing amount of telescope time.
In this project, we used a robotic ground-based telescope network to observe planets which had high uncertainties in their orbital parameters. The students were given free rein to choose the planets they wished to observe and then planned the observations before reducing and analysing the subsequent data. However, given the expected number of planet discoveries, professional telescope networks may not be enough to keep the transit times fresh.
Luckily, help is at hand in the form of citizen astronomers. As many of these planets are around bright stars, even modest telescopes can capture the transit event and in recent years the number of citizen astronomers contributing light curves has increased drastically. As part of this ORBYTS project we also analysed data obtained by a number of citizen astronomers and contributing to the ExoClock initiative (www.exoclock.space). The students approached the project with real enthusiasm, analysing the transits of several planets. This work was recently published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS) with all the students and citizen astronomers as authors.
For me, this programme was challenging but extremely rewarding. Teaching your first class is always a scary moment, even when it is on a topic you know well. However, the classes soon became the highlight of my week and, as the programme progressed, the increased participation and engagement by the students was hugely gratifying. While they may not all become astrophysicists, it is my hope that this project has inspired them to embark on scientific careers or, at the very least, to make them consider their place in the universe.
Europlanet Telescope Network launched to support planetary research and build global pro-am collaboration
A new collaboration between telescopes around the world has been launched to provide coordinated observations and rapid responses in support of planetary research. The Europlanet Telescope Network will provide professional and trained amateur observers with access to telescopes located around the globe and ranging from 0.25 – 2m in diameter.
Initially linking 15 observatories, the network plans to draw in additional facilities and build new collaborations, particularly in geographical regions that are currently under-represented in the planetary science community.
The study of planets, asteroids and comets can require long-term monitoring or very precise timing by ground-based observatories. This combination of characteristics produces a unique set of challenges, as it matters both where on the Earth one observes from and precisely when.
“Relatively small telescopes can produce first-rate planetary science,” said Manuel Scherf, the coordinator of the Europlanet Telescope Network. “Our aim with this new network is to support a global community that can react fast and effectively to observational alerts and participate in coordinated observational campaigns related to objects in our Solar System and planets orbiting distant stars.”
Examples of research that could be supported via the network include monitoring of how atmospheric features on planets evolve, or how a comet’s activity changes as it orbits the Sun. The network will also be used in studies that require significant amounts of observing time, like searches for lunar impact flashes, and observations from multiple locations simultaneously, such as to reveal the size, shape and orbit of asteroids that might be hazardous to Earth.
“As planets and smaller bodies of our Solar System move against the background of distant stars, we can gather information about their physical properties and orbits,” explained Colin Snodgrass of the University of Edinburgh, deputy coordinator of the network and chair of its scientific advisory board. “A network of telescopes that can make long-term or time-sensitive observations from different locations across Europe and beyond will be very valuable for planetary astronomy.”
Professional and amateur astronomers can now apply to visit the facilities participating in the Europlanet Telescope Network and have their expenses covered for the time needed to make their observations, which can range from hours to several weeks. Visits will start from the autumn, subject to any local travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The project is coordinated through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure, which is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme.
Grazina Tautvaisiene, Director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy in Lithuania, said, “There are many small telescopes in facilities around the world, and particularly in Eastern Europe, that are under-used. By networking these diverse observatories, we can take advantage of their geographical spread and relative lack of time constraints to carry out exciting, cutting-edge research.”
The network also aims to strengthen collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers and provide training to widen participation in planetary research.
“Amateur astronomers are playing an increasingly important role in planetary research and in supporting missions to study objects in our own Solar System and planets orbiting other stars. The Europlanet Telescope Network aims to empower skilled amateurs to use professional facilities and to participate in international campaigns,” said Ricardo Hueso of the Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea.
The observatories participating in the project are:
Pic du Midi Observatory, IMCCE, Observatoire de Paris, CNRS, France: 1.06m-telescope
Moletai Astronomical Observatory, Vilnius University, Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy, Lithuania: 1.65m-telescope and 35/51cm-telescope
Kryoneri Observatory, National Observatory of Athens, Greece: 1.2m-telescope
Skalnate Pleso Observatory, Astronomical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia: 1.3m-telescope and 61cm-telescope
Faulkes Telescope Project, UK (accessing the Las Cumbres Observatory, LCO, global network): Two 2m-robotic telescopes, nine 1m-robotic telescopes, and ten 40cm-robotic telescopes
Tartu Observatory, University of Tartu, Tartu Observatory, Estonia: 1.5m telescope, 60cm telescope, 30cm robotic telescope
Danish 1.54m telescope at ESO La Silla Observatory (Chile), Copenhagen University, Niels Bohr Institute, Denmark: 1.54m mirror telescope
Beacon Observatory, University of Kent, UK: 42cm remote controllable astrograph
Observatorie del Teide, Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, Spain : 82cm IAC-80 telescope, 45cm telescope
Calar Alto Observatory, Junta de Andalucia and the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia, Spain : 1.23m telescope
Lisnyky Observation Station, AO KNU, Ukraine: 70cm telescope
Chuguev Observatory, Institute of Astronomy of V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine: 70cm telescope
Terskol Peak Observatory, International Center for Astronomical, Medical and Ecological Research of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (IC AMER), Ukraine: 2m telescope, 60cm telescope
Konkoly Observatory, Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences, Hungary: 1m telescope, 80cm telescope
Rozhen Observatory, Institute of Astronomy and National Astronomical Observatory, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Bulgaria: 2m telescope, 60cm telescope, 50/70cm telescope
Observatorio Astrofísico de Javalambre, Centro de Estudios de Física del Cosmos de Aragón (CEFCA), Spain, 80 cm telescope.
Günter Kargl Space Research Institute Austrian Academy of Sciences Graz, Austria email@example.com
Gražina Tautvaišienė Institute of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy Vilnius University Vilnius, Lithuania firstname.lastname@example.org
Ricardo Hueso Alonso Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Universidad del País Vasco/Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea Bilbao email@example.com
Media Contact Anita Heward Europlanet Media Centre Tel: +44 7756 034243 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
In light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, EPSC2020 will be held as a virtual meeting.
The Scientific Organising Committee of the EPSC2020 invites all planetary scientists to participate in the congress, submit contributions to the topical sessions and share their research with colleagues and friends.
EPSC2020 is the first time that EPSC has been held as a virtual meeting. We believe that virtual meetings are likely to play an increasingly important role in supporting our community, widening participation from under-represented groups and tackling the global challenge of climate change. EPSC2020 is an opportunity for us to be creative in developing innovative and supplementary ways for our community to interact. For details of the planned format for the EPSC2020 virtual meeting, please see: https://www.epsc2020.eu/virtual_meeting/overview.html
The meeting will consist of oral and poster sessions. The current list of sessions is organised around the following Programme Groups:
Information on participation fees, a separate online request form for splinter meetings & workshops, as well as tutorials and tools for the online presentations will be available soon on the meeting website.
We look forward to welcoming you to the virtual EPSC2020 in September.
Is anyone out there? From the possibility of microbial life on Mars and elsewhere in the solar system across the multitude of exoplanets all the way to the Fermi Paradox, astrobiology tries to find the answer to this age-old question and more – like how life originated here on Earth, what are its physical limits and what forms might life take under different conditions.
A new freely available anthology released by the European Astrobiology Institute delves into these questions via Science Fiction (SF) stories by world-renowned authors, followed by essays about the science of each story.
The anthology, titled Strangest of All (a nod to H. G. Wells’s War of The Worlds), was edited by the author, editor and scientist Julie Nováková, who leads the outreach working group of the European Astrobiology Institute. The book contains reprint SF stories by G. David Nordley, Geoffrey Landis, Gregory Benford, Tobias S. Buckell, Peter Watts and D. A. Xiaolin Spires, plus a bonus story by the editor.
Nordley’s “War, Ice, Egg, Universe” takes readers to an aquatic civilization inhabiting a Europa-like world with an ice-covered ocean, and the accompanying essay focuses on what we know about conditions for life on Europa, Enceladus, Ganymede and other ocean worlds. In “Into The Blue Abyss” by Landis, the protagonist dives into an entirely different ocean – the high-pressure liquid water layer on Uranus, where chemistry signifying possible life had been observed. Could life really exist in such conditions – and could high-pressure environments actually be one of the most common habitats in the universe?
Continuing the journey outward of the Sun, “Backscatter” by Benford finds life in an improbable place: an icy asteroid in the Kuiper Belt. The follow-up essay provides background on the possibility of life in asteroids and comets, and dives into the topic of exotic silicon-based life in such cold places with no liquid water.
In Buckell’s “A Jar of Goodwill”, we leave solar system and environments similar to it entirely, visiting a strange exoplanet where plants metabolize chlorine – but the main problem the hero faces is whether its ant-like inhabitants are intelligent creatures. Halogen-based photosynthesis was actually proposed in theory – so we can look at where we could expect such exotic life. Even more exotic is the titular creature in Watts’s novelette “The Island”: a live Dyson sphere. In the essay, we look at how we can search for Dyson spheres, what the surveys yielded up-to-date, and whether we could presume anything about the origin and thought processes of a nigh-impossible being like the Island.
Benford returns with a microstory “SETI for Profit”, an interesting take on how to revive interest in SETI. What efforts to listen to potential extra-terrestrial messages have been taken so far, and what can we expect in the future? The topic of SETI is inextricably linked with the Fermi Paradox, one of the themes of Spires’s “But, Still, I Smile”. How can we explain the paradox with what we know so far, and how does the explanation in the story relate to our world? Finally, in the bonus story by Nováková, “Martian Fever”, we look at Mars exploration gone awry – and the risks of interplanetary biological contamination and the question of planetary protection.
Each story is followed not only by the science essay complete with references for readers craving more, but also a couple of ideas for classroom discussions or tasks (best-suited for higher high school grades or undergraduate university students), such as thinking of how to devise a message for a potentially listening alien civilization, bearing in mind what we know of sensory and cognitive differences between species here on Earth. For most of the questions, there is no definitive answer – but all the more curiosity should they elicit.
Strangest of All is the first of major outreach projects coming from the European Astrobiology Institute (EAI). EAI was founded in 2019 with the aims to support interdisciplinary research in astrobiology across Europe and beyond, disseminate scientific results and promote education and outreach in astrobiology and related fields by organizing summer schools, supporting the AbGradE forum for graduate students and creating materials such as this book, among other ways. Astrobiology is an exciting and booming scientific field, and science fiction is a perfect tool to bring it closer to people and enable them to imagine the incessant drive of curiosity and the joy of discovery that are at the heart of both science and SF. More such efforts are considered by EAI’s project team “Science Fiction as a tool for Astrobiology Outreach and Education”, which also welcomes new members who are interested in developing similar outreach materials.
The anthology Strangest of All can be downloaded for free in several formats on the websites of the European Astrobiology Institute and the editor, Julie Nováková.