BepiColombo flies by Earth

BepiColombo flies by Earth

At 04:25 UTC this morning, BepiColombo made its closest approach to Earth at a low altitude of 12,700 km. This was its first and only flyby of Earth. BepiColombo, the first ESA mission to Mercury, will make a series of nine gravity-assist manoeuvres to reach its final destination. The next two flybys will be of Venus in October 2020 and August 2021.


Below are images of the flyby submitted by observers around the world for the BepiColombo Earth Flyby Photo Competition. The closing date for the competition is Sunday 19 April – 23:59 CEST.


Submitted images and videos with their full descriptions:

Credit: Kiso Observatory, UTokyo
Location of image or observation: Kiso, Nagano, Japan ( 137°37″31’5 [E], 35°47″50’0 [N], Altitude: 1132m )
Time of image or observation: 2020:04:10 20:56 – 21:08 (JST)
Time zone: JST (UTC+9)

YouTube
About your image or observation: This image was taken by the wide-field CMOS camera Tomo-e Gozen on 1.0-m Kiso Schmidt telescope without a wavelength-selective filter with a 12-min exposure from 11:56 on Apr. 10th 2020 (UT). The field-of view is 31.7′ x 17.8′. The center of the image is located at (RA, Dec) = (9:42:23, -0:13:26). North is up.


Credit: Alain Maury, Jean Marc Mari and Joaquin Fabrega
Location: IAU site number W94, or close to 22°57’09.8” South and 68°10’48.7” West
Time zone : Right now UT-4h (winter time)

The video is made mostly from individual frames taken with a 40cm telescope. I also included some of the ESA images because I thought they are quite impressive.


Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories
Location: 51.554679, -0.372070
Time: 10-04-2020 21:13 UTC
Time Zone: British Summer Time (GMT+1)

We used the observatories 0.25m Ritchey-Chretien and QHY42 CMOS camera to obtain astrometry on BepiColombo before it left the vicinity of Earth.
A piece of space debris also passes through the field of view. We identified it as INSAT 2D, a defunct geostationary satellite.


Credit: KURASHIKI SCIENCE CENTER. BepiColombo Earth Flyby 2
Credit: KURASHIKI SCIENCE CENTER
Location of image or observation: Hattoji, Okayama, Japan ( 134d15m6s [E], 34d54m50.0s [N], Altitude: 376m )
Time of image or observation: 11:57 – 12:09 UTC, 10 April 2020
Time zone: GMT+9 JST
Description: Image taken by Kazuhisa Mishima (Planetarium Director)
Telescope: Takahashi Epsilon E-180ED Astrograph(f=500mm)
Camera: NIKON D850 (ISO6400)
Exposure: 30 sec. x 19
Name: Go Murakami and Seiko Takagi (Credit: JAXA/Hokkaido Univ.). Taken by using Pirka Telescope (1.6 m) of Hokkaido University V-band 10sec exposure each, 70 images
Name: Go Murakami and Seiko Takagi (Credit: JAXA/Hokkaido Univ.)
Location of image or observation: 157-1 Nisshin, Nayoro-shi, Hokkaido 096-0066, Japan
Time of image or observation: 19:45-19:59 on 10 April 2020 (JST)
Time zone: JST
Social media contacts: Twitter: @gomuramura
About your image or observation: Taken by using Pirka Telescope (1.6 m) of Hokkaido University
V-band
10sec exposure each, 70 images

Credit: Hiroyuki Naito, Nayoro Observatory. Using a 40-cm Chura telescope + unfiltered CCD camera (STL-1001E). The image is combined with 30 frames (a total exposure time is 30 minutes).
Name: Hiroyuki Naito, Nayoro Observatory
Location of image or observation: 142 28 58.01 E, 44 22 25.10 N
Time of image or observation: 2020 April 19.51414 UT
Time zone: Japan Standard Time (JST)
Social media contacts: @kitasubaru
Description: Using a 40-cm Chura telescope + unfiltered CCD camera (STL-1001E).
The image is combined with 30 frames (a total exposure time is 30 minutes).

Credit: Nayoro Observatory, Hokkaido University. The image was taken using the 1.6-m Pirka telescope + MSI (unfiltered) with the exposure time of 120 sec.
Name: Nayoro Observatory, Hokkaido University
Location of image or observation: 142 28 58.01 E, 44 22 25.10 N
Time of image or observation: 2020 April 19.48402 UT
Time zone: Japan Standard Time (JST)
Social media contacts: @kitasubaru
Description: The image was taken using the 1.6-m Pirka telescope + MSI (unfiltered) with the exposure time of 120 sec.
Credit: Rikubetsu Space and Science Museum. BepiColombo
Credit: Rikubetsu Space and Science Museum
Location of image or observation: Uenbetsu Rikubetu-cho,Ashoro-gun,Hokkaido,Japan (E 143.770 N 43.453)
Time of image or observation: 2020/04/19 12:43:19~13:18:23(UT)
Time zone: Japan(+9)
Social media contacts: @ginganomori_obs
About your image or observation: 1.15m f/5.6 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and Canon EOS 6D. Stack of 32x 60-second exposures.

Credit: Yasuo Sano. BepiColombo Earth Flyby
Credit: Yasuo Sano
Location of image or observation: Nyoro Hokkaido Japan, E 142.446890 N 44.353290
Time of image or observation: 2020/04/10 11h02m49s(UT) – 11h09m17s(UT)
Time zone: UTC + 9
Twitter Handle name 佐野康男
About your image or observation: SCT-0.36m FL3850mm F11, 10secX34 , CCD FLI ML1001E

Credit: Yasuo Sano. BepiColombo Earth Flyby
Credit: Yasuo Sano
Location of image or observation: Nyoro Hokkaido Japan, E 142.446890 N 44.353290
Time of image or observation: 2020/04/10 10h13m46s(UT) – 10h19m04s(UT)
Time zone: UTC + 9
Twitter Handle name 佐野康男
About your image or observation:SCT-0.36 m FL3850mm F11, 5secX48 , CCD FLI ML1001E

Credit: T. Oribe @ Saji Observatory
Location of image or observation: N35 20 31 E134 07 10
Time of image or observation: 2020 04 10.4868 UT, 2020 04 11.4738 UT, 2020 04 14.4651 UT, 2020 04 16.5468 UT
Time zone: +9h
About your image or observation: 1.03-m reflector F4.6, STL-11000M, V filter

Credit: Masanori Mizutani
Location of image or observation: E 134.25 N 34.91 Okayama Japan
Time of image or observation: 2020 04 10 10:52 ~ 12:08 UT
Time zone: UT + 9:00

Social media contacts: Nozomigaoka Observatory
Description: OTA : 200mmRC 1600mm
Mount: Takahashi EM-400
Camera: MoravianG2 KAF 8300

Credit: Yuji Tanaka. BepiColombo Flyby
Name: Yuji Tanaka
Location of image or observation: Koryou-cho, Kitakatsuragi-gun, Nara, Japan
Time of image or observation: 2020′ 04/10 20:40:36
Time zone: JST

Description: Telescope: 0.20m Reflector F3.8 (C8N + Closeup lens AC No.4)
Camera: ASI174MM

Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories. BepiColombo, imaged on the evening of April 11th, using Northolt Branch Observatories' 0.25m f/8 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and QHY42 CMOS camera.
Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories
Location of image or observation: 51.554679, -0.372070
Time of image or observation: 10-04-2020 21:08-21:20 UTC
Time zone: British Summer Time (GMT+1)

Twitter: @NBObservatories, Facebook
Description: BepiColombo, imaged on the evening of April 11th, using Northolt Branch Observatories’ 0.25m f/8 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and QHY42 CMOS camera.
The data collected for this image, even though it was submitted to the Minor Planet Center as artificial satellite 2018-080A (BepiColombo’s official designation), led to it being mistaken for a Near Earth asteroid. The “discovery”, announced by the Minor Planet Center as asteroid 2020 GL2, was retracted soon after (https://minorplanetcenter.net/mpec/K20/K20G97.html).
This was the third time a spacecraft had been mistakenly announced as a “new asteroid” during an Earth flyby, after Rosetta a.k.a. 2007 VN84 and Gaia a.k.a. 2015 HP116. Incidentally, all three of these are ESA missions.

Credit: Hiroki Fukuyama. BepiColombo and satellite
Name: Hiroki Fukuyama
Location of image or observation: N34.69 E135.76
Time of image or observation: 2020/4/10 10:48:25(UT) 19:48:25(JST)
Time zone: Japan(+9)

About your image or observation: Celestron C8+Meade F3.3 FocalReducer+Vixen GP2 Equipmount
ZWO ASI174MC Gain254 3.0s×4 flames

Name: Gianluca Masi
Location of image or observation: Ceccano (FR), ITALY
Time of image or observation: 10 Apr. 2020, 03:40:32 UTC
Time zone: GMT+2 DST

Twitter: @virtualtelescop, @masi_gianluca
Description: I managed to track the exciting BepiColombi flyby. Incredibly, we grabbed the spacecraft while it was imaging planet Earth and our telescope location, exactly at the same time.
The image puts together several pieces. First of all, we have an image of our planet captured by BepiColombo, with parts of the probe in the foreground. It is part of a stunning movie released by the European Space Agency (ESA) and by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). In this image, we indicated with an arrow where the Virtual Telescope Project (VTP) is placed on the Earth (Central Italy). On the left, there is a snapshot of the simulated approach of the probe, again from ESA. On the bottom left, you see an image of BepiColombo we captured with our robotic telescope, where the spacecraft is indicated by an arrow. Incredibly, both the images (the Earth by BepiColombo and BepiColombo by the Virtual Telescope on Earth) were taken at the very same time: 10 Apr. 2020, 03:40:32 UTC. Of course the snapshot from the simulator comes from the same moment.
We find this to be a truly inspiring mutual glance, bringing us a very special feeling of global connection, so precious in the critical moment we are facing all together.
Godspeed, BepiColombo!

Credit: Kenichi Shirakami. BepiColombo Flyby
Credit: Kenichi Shirakami
Location of image or observation: N:34.9140231 E:134.2515778
Time of image or observation: 11:05:00-11:40:00
Time zone: UT

Facebook: Kenichi Shirakami
Description: TAKAHASHI ε-250 FL:854mm F3.4
Canon EOS 60Da ISO6400
70set of 28sec exp. + 2sec interval
70 flames composite

Credit: KURASHIKI SCIENCE CENTER. Image taken by Kazuhisa Mishima (Planetarium Director) Telescope: Takahashi Epsilon E-180ED Astrograph(f=500mm) Camera: NIKON D850 (ISO6400) Exposure: 30 x 40 sec.
Credit: KURASHIKI SCIENCE CENTER
Location of image or observation: Hattoji, Okayama, Japan ( 134d15m6s [E], 34d54m50.0s [N], Altitude: 376m )
Time of image or observation: 11:10:15 – 11:33:58 UTC, 10 April 2020
Time zone: GMT+9 JST

Description: Image taken by Kazuhisa Mishima (Planetarium Director)
Telescope: Takahashi Epsilon E-180ED Astrograph(f=500mm)
Camera: NIKON D850 (ISO6400)
Exposure: 30 x 40 sec.

Name: Cyprien Pouzenc. BepiColombo et (4904) Makio
Name: Cyprien Pouzenc
Location of image or observation: Lat: 44° 00′, Long: 5° 29′
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10, from 20:24 TU to 22:23 TU
Time zone: Paris/France
Description: Instrument: télescope ASA Astrograph 10N 254 mm F/3,6
Camera: Sbig STL11K
Exposure: 10 min. by unit (binning 1×1)
Processing in Siril and Darktable.
Asteroid (4904) Makio is on the picture too.
Full-size picture
Crop on BepiColombo
Crop on (4904) Makio
Webpage

Credit: Nick James. BepiColombo
Name: Nick James
Location of image or observation: 51 44′ N 0 29′ E
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-11 21:54
Time zone: UTC

www.nickdjames.com
Description: Image obtained using a HD11 SCT, FLI6303 camera and measured in Astrometrica. Astrometry from the image:
BEPICO KC2020 04 11.91010 09 02 55.12 +04 37 09.7 16.6 R 970
BEPICO KC2020 04 11.91547 09 02 50.88 +04 37 23.1 16.9 R 970

Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories. A tale of two spacecraft": As we were observing BepiColombo, we caught a second man-made object passing by. We identify it as an old geostationary satellite.
Name: Northolt Branch Observatories
Location of image or observation: 51.554679 N, 0.372070 W
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10 21:13-21:16 UT
Time zone: British Summer Time (GMT+1)

Twitter: @NBObservatories, Facebook
Description: “A tale of two spacecraft”: As we were observing BepiColombo, we caught a second man-made object passing by. We identify it as an old geostationary satellite.
Image taken with the observatories’ 0.25m f/8 Ritchey-Chretien telescope and QHY42 CMOS camera. Stack of 25x 5-second exposures.

Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories. We used the observatories' 0.25m Ritchey-Chretien and QHY42 CMOS camera to collect further astrometry of the spacecraft as it moves away from Earth. Each image in the sequence is a stack of 15x 10-second exposures, stacked on the spacecraft's apparent motion using synthetic tracking.
Credit: Northolt Branch Observatories
Location of image or observation: 51.554679, -0.372070
Time of image or observation: 11-04-2020 21:18-21:34 UT
Time zone: British Summer Time (GMT+1)

Social media contacts: Twitter: @NBObservatories, Facebook
Description: We used the observatories’ 0.25m Ritchey-Chretien and QHY42 CMOS camera to collect further astrometry of the spacecraft as it moves away from Earth. Each image in the sequence is a stack of 15x 10-second exposures, stacked on the spacecraft’s apparent motion using synthetic tracking.
24 hours after our last observations, and about 40 hours after the flyby, BepiColombo has faded to 16.9 mag.

Credit: Sergei Schmalz. BepiColombo observed on April 10, 2020 at the Astronomical Observatory of Castelgrande (MPC code L28) in Italy with a 22-cm telescope equipped with a FLI ML 09000 CCD camera.
Name: Sergei Schmalz
Location of image or observation: Astronomical Observatory of Castelgrande (MPC code L28), latitude = 40.817566, longitude = 15.463387, altitude = 1256.21
Time of image or observation: April 10, 2020 between 18:59:27 UT and 20:18:30 UT
Time zone: CET

Twitter: @SergeiSchmalz
Description: BepiColombo was observed by me on April 10, 2020 at the Astronomical Observatory of Castelgrande (MPC code L28) in Italy with a 22-cm telescope equipped with a FLI ML 09000 CCD camera; the observation lasted from 18:25:00 till 00:16:32. The presented animation is made of a selection of 49 subsequent images with exposure time of 15 seconds each. Original FITS images were fully calibrated in a typical procedure. During the observation BepiColombo was in the star field of the Hydra constellation. In the animation Bepi is passing by from the upper right to the lower left corner.

Credit: Gianluca Masi - Virtual Telescope Project. BepiColombo is a sharp dot of light, perfectly tracked. This man-made interplanetary traveler is “flying” in front of the stars on the background.
Image by Gianluca Masi – Virtual Telescope Project
Location of image or observation: Ceccano (FR) – ITALY
Time of image or observation: between 03:34:48 and 03:40:44 UTC, 10April 2020
Time zone: GMT+2 DST

At 03:20 UTC, when the target had to be in the clear part of my SE horizon, I did send to the remote telescope the command to slew to the BepiColombo expected position, asking it to track at the expected motion rates. Once the scope finished slewing and begun tracking, I started capturing images and… Bepicolombo was inside the field of view! It was breathtaking, to say the least. It was a sharp dot of light, perfectly tracked. Image after image, I could see this man-made interplanetary traveler “flying” in front of the stars on the background. I managed to capture a few tens of images before BepiColombo disappeared behind an obstacle I have in the SE direction. The last image I could capture was at 03:41:27 UTC, when the spacecraft was at about 22.300 km from my telescope. At that very moment, the motion rate of BepiColombo as seen from my observatory was of more than 54 deg/hour. Using 44 images taken back to back between 03:34:48 and 03:40:44 UTC, I managed to make this animation, where the spacecraft is moving 81X times faster than in reality. (Full Description)

BepiColombo passing through the Blue Horsehead Nebula. Credit: Sergio Silva
Image by Sergio Silva
Location of image or observation: Porto Feliz, SP, Brazil
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10UT04:39:58
Time zone: GMT-3

I looked at the ephemerids of the flyby and realized it would cross a region I’ve been photographing recently at the Blue Horsehead Nebula (IC4592). I pointed the telescope and trusted newtons laws… Sure enough, at 1:40AM local time in Porto Feliz, SP, Brazil the BepiColombo craft passed trough the field.
Equipment :
Telescope : Celestron C11 Edge HD
Lens: Hyperstar
Camera: ZWO ASI071MC-Pro
Mount: iOptron CEM60
Exposure: 3 hours for IC4592, 4×15 sec. for BepiColombo

Credit: INOUE Takeshi. BepiColombo Earth Flyby. The central objects are Antennae Galaxies,(NGC 4038 / NGC 4039).
Image by INOUE Takeshi
Location of image or observation: US – Mayhill, New Mexico
Time of image or observation: 2020 April 10 / 5:50:57 UTC / an exposure of 30 sec
Time zone: +6h

I am Director of Akashi Municipal Planetarium, JAPAN.
I took this image remotely with iTelescope T11 (20″ Planewave)
https://go.itelescope.net/Default.aspx
The central objects are Antennae Galaxies,(NGC 4038 / NGC 4039).
I made an observation plan using Stella Navigator 11, excellent astronomical software.
Special thanks to all concerned.

Credit: Edgar J. Kaiser. My first acquisition of Bepi-Colombo's X-band downlink signal after the flyby. Trees were obstructing in the beginning. Looks like all is in good shape.
Image by Edgar J. Kaiser
Location of image or observation: 54.353222° N, 10.279056 E
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10, 16:15 UTC
Time zone: CEST

My first acquisition of Bepi-Colombo’s X-band downlink signal after the flyby. Trees were obstructing in the beginning. Looks like all is in good shape. See also: https://twitter.com/df2mz/status/1248703447664414721

Image by Edgar J. Kaiser. Location of image or observation: 54.353222° N, 10.279056 E
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10, 04:10 UTC
Time zone: CEST. It was a very short encounter with Bepi-Colombo. The spectrogram shows the x-band signal on 8420.44 MHz. There is only a short blip at 03:55 and a 10 min long faint trace afterwards. The prognosed elevation was only 3° maximum and thus the spacecraft probably remained behind local obstructions and I only saw scatter signals.
Image by Edgar J. Kaiser.
Location of image or observation: 54.353222° N, 10.279056 E
Time of image or observation: 2020-04-10, 04:10 UTC
Time zone: CEST
It was a very short encounter with Bepi-Colombo. The spectrogram shows the x-band signal on 8420.44 MHz. There is only a short blip at 03:55 and a 10 min long faint trace afterwards. The prognosed elevation was only 3° maximum and thus the spacecraft probably remained behind local obstructions and I only saw scatter signals. The blip was strong though. So see you later this afternoon Bepi Colombo.

Image by Edgar J. Kaiser.
Location of image or observation: 54.353222° N, 10.279056° E. Time of image or observation: 2020-04-04, 19:48:04 UTC
Time zone: CEST. I observed Bepi-Colombo’s X-band downlink signal on 8420.43 MHz. I am using a 1 m parabolic dish antenna. I am planning to go ahead with these observations in the days ahead and I might have a short time window even during the flyby a few minutes before perigee. I am also planning to stream my observation live on Youtube during the flyby. For me Bepi-Colombo will not be out of “sight” after the flyby!

Official Kick-off for the Europlanet Telescope Network

Official Kick-off for the Europlanet Telescope Network

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) not only builds on but also extends the ambitious programme of its predecessor project Europlanet 2020 RI. The establishment of a network of small telescope facilities within Europe and beyond is one of these new activities that will be carried out within the course of the project.

To achieve this goal, a new Work Package, called “NA2 – Coordination of Ground-based Observations” was set-up, which officially started its activity on March 30, 2020, with a full-day virtual Kick-Off Meeting. The web-conference was attended by 37 participants representing Europlanet 2024 RI and the Work Package team but also a diverse set of different  telescope facilities from all over Europe.

Besides introducing these observatories, the main goal of the kick-off meeting was to discuss the aims and goals of NA2 for the upcoming four project years. These contain the development of a central website for observational alerts and the organization of coordinated compaigns,
amateur training workshops, and the establishment of the Europlanet Telescope Network itself. But besides building a network, NA2 will also provide a broad set of support and funding opportunities such as supporting:

  • scientists or amateurs who want to observe at specific facilities,
  • observatories who observe in coordinated observation campaigns
  • workshops for the organisation of such campaigns.

An unbureaucratic application system through which researchers will be able to apply for funding will be set-up by the team of NA2 and its Scientific Advisory Panel and is expected to go online in May 2020. 

While the current Europlanet Telescope Network comprises about 20 different facilities, this number is going to be expanded during the course of the project. We are not a closed club – any observatory that wants to join is highly welcome to get involved in the Europlanet Telescope Network!

Manuel Scherf, the Work Package Leader of the NA2 Europlanet Telescope Network said, “The NA2 Kick-Off Meeting was a successful starting point of a new and exciting activity. Let’s together take this opportunity to build a new network, bringing in new communities and fostering the coordination of ground-based observation campaigns in Europe and beyond.

If you are interested to become part of the Europlanet Telescope Network, feel free to contact Manuel Scherf: manuel.scherf@oeaw.ac.at.

NA2 Europlanet Telescope Network Main Page

Share your pictures of BepiColombo during its ‘goodbye flyby’

Spot BepiColombo during its ‘goodbye flyby’ – Share your pictures and you could win a prize

On 10 April, BepiColombo will be visible to amateur and professional astronomers during its first – and only – Earth flyby, as the spacecraft makes its way to Mercury, the innermost planet of the Solar System. The best place to spot it is the Southern Hemisphere, but observers in southern locations of the Northern Hemisphere might also catch a parting view of the spacecraft.

Share your pictures taken during the flyby and you could win a scale model of the spacecraft!

By the time of the flyby, BepiColombo will have travelled almost 1.4 billion km – roughly nine times the distance between Earth and the Sun – since the European-Japanese mission was launched in October 2018. Yet, passing over at an altitude of just 12 700 km, it will come within just a couple of thousand kilometres of our planet’s exosphere, the outermost layer of the atmosphere, providing us with the last chance to say hello – and goodbye.

This is the first of a series of nine gravity-assist manoeuvres that the spacecraft will use to reach its final destination. The next two flybys will see BepiColombo proceed towards Venus in October 2020 and August 2021, respectively, followed by six flybys of Mercury itself to further adjust the trajectory. Eventually, the mission’s two science orbiters – ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and Mio, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) – will separate from the Mercury Transfer Module in late 2025 and start their scientific operations at Mercury in early 2026.

Say goodbye to BepiColombo

BepiColombo will make its closest Earth approach at 05:24:58 BST (06:24:58 CEST) on 10 April 2020 as it crosses the sky from East to West. The spacecraft will not be visible to the naked eye, but observers with access to a small telescope, binoculars or a camera might be able to catch the Mercury explorer as it bids farewell to our home planet.

“The flyby has an emotional effect,” says Johannes Benkhoff, BepiColombo Project Scientist.  “It’s the last time that we can see the spacecraft from Earth, so we are inviting amateur and professional astronomers to observe it before it goes.”

The scheduled flyby takes place as billions of people across the world face an exceptional situation caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which limits human movement and therefore also the access to many professional telescopes. Amateur astronomers in suitable locations, far from large cities, can contribute from their home terrace or garden.

“BepiColombo should be visible with a small telescope, accessible to amateur astronomers in the Southern Hemisphere or in southern parts of the Northern Hemisphere,” adds Joe Zender, BepiColombo Deputy Project Scientist.

“If you live in southern Europe – south of Rome or Madrid, for example – you might be able to glimpse it for a moment, and the further south you are, the longer you should be able to see it. If something appears as a moving star in the field of view of your telescope or camera, that will be Bepi.”

The planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars – visible to the naked eye – will also be in the sky in the early hours of 10 April, providing an interesting configuration for astro-photographers. Unfortunately, another bright source will be in the sky too, the Moon, making BepiColombo more challenging to observe. 

“BepiColombo will be also visible from Japan in the late hours of 10 April, as it moves away from our planet,” says Go Murakami, BepiColombo Project Scientist at JAXA. “The conditions are not the best but some professional observatories will try to observe it, along with amateur astronomers.”

Besides their symbolic value, the observations will be useful for scientists to calibrate some of the onboard instruments and check their science operations tools.

You can compute your own plot of BepiColombo’s motion across the sky for your location, by adding your latitude and longitude in this tool developed by a team of BepiColombo scientists from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy: https://bepicolombo.iaps.inaf.it.

BepiColombo Photo Contest by Lelio Bonaccorso, a Sicilian comics artist and illustrator.
BepiColombo Photo Contest by Lelio Bonaccorso, a Sicilian comics artist and illustrator.

If you are up for the challenge, upload your pictures to this Flick-r group and post them on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #BepiColomboEarthFlyby for a chance to be published on the ESA website . If you do not use Flickr, you may submit your pictures via this form on the Europlanet Society website.

Under all circumstances, please remember to obey the appropriate social distancing rules and regulations of the country you reside in.

For anyone at northern latitudes or without access to telescopes and binoculars, follow @BepiColombo, @esascience and @esaoperations on Twitter for live updates. The three spacecraft modules also have personalised accounts (@ESA_Bepi, @JAXA_MMO, and @ESA_MTM) that you may follow for extra content and a unique take on the mission.

Look out too for the real-time animation on the Heavens-Above website depicting the spacecraft’s position, as it edges closer and then disappears into the dark sky forever: https://www.heavens-above.com/Flyby/Flyby.aspx

More information

Around closest approach, BepiColombo will have a magnitude of 8, meaning that it will not be visible to the naked eye (the faintest sources in the sky visible to the naked eye have a magnitude of 6, with lower magnitude values indicating brighter objects).

Further details about the visibility of the BepiColombo flyby from Earth are available here: https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/bepicolombo-flyby/ground-based-observations  

Covid-19 – Impacts on Europlanet Society and Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure

Covid-19 – Impacts on Europlanet Society and Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure

Europlanet is monitoring the global Covid-19 outbreak, with the aim of supporting international efforts to slow the spread of the virus and ensure the safety of individuals and communities.

08 May – new update on Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020: EPSC2020 will be held as a virtual meeting. Full details of the format of the meeting and the relaunch of abstract submission will be announced before the end of May here and on the EPSC2020 website.

Europlanet Society Executive Office and Europlanet 2024 RI Office: The teams in both Europlanet Offices are working remotely and will endeavour to respond to any queries you may have about the impact of Covid-19 on the Europlanet Society or Europlanet 2024 RI.

Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access Call for Applications: The first Call for Applications has now closed. The time period during which the TA visits can be undertaken has been extended to the end of 2021.

Europlanet Society Committee Funding Scheme: The review panel will take into account the possibility of timelines in submitted proposals changing due to Covid-19. Results will be announced by the end of May.

Europlanet Early Careers (EPEC) Annual Week 2020: The EPEC Annual Week has been postponed from June 2020.

Europlanet 2024 RI: Where possible, meetings and workshops are being held virtually. Other events and programmes requiring travel will be delayed until a time when it is safe for them to go ahead. If severe restrictions continue into autumn 2020, many deliverables and activities of the project will be disrupted. The Europlanet 2024 RI Management team will continue to monitor the changing situation and revise plans where necessary to maximise support for the community over the duration of the project, while ensuring the safety of those involved.

Education and outreach: Europlanet is starting to compile and translate educational materials that can support home-schooling in various languages. The call for nominations for the Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement and the call for applications for the Europlanet Public Engagement Funding Scheme will go ahead (closing date 24th June).

Stay safe and healthy.

Nigel Mason, President, and all the team at the Europlanet Society and Europlanet 2024 RI.

Motivational Journeys – Murthy Gudipati

Motivational Journeys – Murthy Gudipati

For the sixth interview in our series of Motivational Journeys, we talk to Dr Murthy Gudipati, an astrochemist working at NASA JPL-Caltech.

Dr. Murthy Gudipati’s research focuses on understanding the physics and chemistry of interstellar and Solar System ices through laboratory simulations, observations and instrumentation or simply evolution of ices in the Universe. Originally from a small village in southern India, Dr Gudipati tells us about the journey that his career has taken him on.

His key pieces of advice include to be resilient, think out of the box, keep reprioritising your activities and make sure that you have back-up plans.

Watch all the interviews in our series of Motivational Journeys.

EPSC2020 – Call for Abstracts

EPSC2020 – Call for Abstracts

The call for abstracts for the Europlanet Science Congress 2020 (EPSC2020) is now open.

Abstract deadline: 13 May 2020, 13:00 CEST.

EPSC2020 will take place at the Palacio de Congresos de Granada, Granada, Spain, from 27 September to 2 October 2020.

The Europlanet Science Congress (formerly the European Planetary Science Congress) is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 14 years and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, the Europlanet Science Congress is the largest planetary science meeting in Europe. It covers the entire range of planetary sciences with an extensive mix of presentations and workshops while providing a unique space for networking and exchange of experiences.

The current list of sessions is organised around the following Programme Groups:

  • Terrestrial Planets (TP)
  • Outer Planet Systems (OPS)
  • Missions, Instrumentation, Techniques, Modelling (MITM)
  • Small Bodies (comets, KBOs, rings, asteroids, meteorites, dust) (SB)
  • Exoplanets and Origins of Planetary Systems (EXO)
  • Outreach, Diversity, Amateur Astronomy (ODAA)

The scientific programme and the abstract submission tool are accessible at:

https://meetingorganizer.copernicus.org/EPSC2020/sessionprogramme

An online form for requesting splinter meetings & workshops will be issued at a later date.

All deadlines & milestones of the conference can be found at the following website: 

https://www.epsc2020.eu/information/deadlines_and_milestones.html

Information on registration and social event, as well as a separate online request form for splinter meetings & workshops will also be available soon on the meeting web site.

Funding Scheme Launched to Support Society Committees and Membership

Funding Scheme Launched to Support Society Committees and Membership

The Europlanet Society has launched a new funding scheme to support its Committees and Membership.

Applications can be submitted by any of the Society’s Regional Hubs, Committees (EPEC, Diversity) or Working Groups in support of their activities or those of the Society Membership.

The scheme is designed to support projects with funds of between 1000-5000 €. The proposals should further the aims of the Europlanet Society and actively involve Society members.

The scope of the funding scheme is deliberately broad to enable the community to propose diverse and innovative projects.

Members of the Society may approach their Regional Hub (or any of the other Committees or Working Groups) with suggestions for projects, which may be submitted on their behalf.

The closing date for applications is 31st March 2020.

To find out more, Members can log-in to access the applications page for the funding call.

Motivational Journeys – Athena Coustenis

For the fifth interview in our series of Motivational Journeys, we talk to Dr Athena Coustenis, Director of Research with the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) of France, working at Paris Observatory in Meudon, specialising in Planetology.

Athena’s research focuses on planetary atmospheres and surfaces, with an emphasis on outer Solar System bodies – in particular icy moons like Titan, Enceladus, Ganymede and Europa that have a high astrobiological potential. She is Co-Investigator of three of the instruments (CIRS, HASI, DISR) aboard the Cassini/Huygens space mission to Saturn and Titan and is a member of the Science Working Team and Co-I of the JANUS camera for the JUICE mission to Jupiter’s icy moons.

In this interview, Athena tells us about how she managed to study two degrees at a time – in English literature and astronomy – and excel in both. 

Watch all the interviews in our series of Motivational Journeys.

Post-doctoral position at the Early Life traces and Evolution-Astrobiology labororatory (University of Liège)

Post-doctoral position at the Early Life traces and Evolution-Astrobiology labororatory (University of Liège)

In the frame of the FNRS project “Life in Archean coastal environments” and the ICDP project BASE “Barberton Archean Surface Environments”, we are looking for a postdoctoral researcher with experience and interest in:

  • Astrobiology, Geobiology and Paleobiology (traces of life, microfossils, microbial mats)
  • Analyses of organics and minerals using light and electron microscopy (TEM), and Raman and FTIR micro-spectroscopy
  • Fieldwork and/or drill core sampling
  • In-situ analyses of C and N stable isotopes
  • Analyses using SR-XRF and SR-XANES

The project aims to characterize the past morphological and geochemical traces of early life preserved in fresh pristine cores drilled in the 3.2 Ga Moodies Group, Barberton Greenstone Belt, South Africa, the oldest best preserved siliciclastic succession preserving coastal sediments, from marine to terrestrial environments. The expected outcomes include a better understanding of early Earth habitability and evolution of the early microbial biosphere in coastal siliciclastic ecosystems, as well as a refinement of biogenicity criteria and fossilization (taphonomic) processes. This approach is also relevant to refine strategies for the detection of possible fossil life traces on early Mars during the ESA EXOMARS 2020 mission, which will use similar instruments in a siliciclastic setting on Mars (Oxia planum, with 4 Ga bedded clay-rich sediments in channels and plain), but also for the future NASA Mars 2020 sample return mission that will allow geochemical analyzes on Earth in clean labs.

Candidates should have a PhD degree in sciences, preferably in geosciences, biology and/or analytical chemistry. The ideal candidates will show scientific curiosity, ability to work in collaboration, and interests in early life evolution and astrobiology. The working language is English. The fellowship is competitive and allows comfortable living in Belgium. The fellowship will be exempted from taxes but subject to the employee social security. The researcher will be based in the laboratory Early Life traces and Evolution-Astrobiology at the University of Liège (promotor Prof E Javaux), and will also work in collaboration with the Laboratoire G-Time at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (co-promotor Prof V Debaille) and with the international teams of the ICDP BASE project. Appointment is for 1 year, renewable up to 2 times (3 years in total) depending on results and progress. The researcher in “international mobility” shall not have resided or carried out his/her main activity (job, studies…) in Belgium for more than 24 months during the last 3 years directly before the first stay as a Postdoctoral fellow. The first hiring period shall start at the latest exactly 6 years after obtaining the academic degree of doctor, after defense of a PhD thesis. The maximum period of time mentioned above is extended for one additional year per childbirth and/or adoption occurring after obtaining the PhD.

To apply, send your CV with a motivation letter in English, clearly indicating which of the skills above you have to offer (plus 2 potential referees) to the promotor of the project Emmanuelle Javaux (ej.javaux[at]uliege.be), before March 15th 2020. The position starts in July 2020 but the starting date can be adapted.

Second Afar Desert Class

Second Afar Desert Class

The second ‘Afar Desert Class’ will take place on 10th February 2020 at Hamed’Ela, Afar, Ethiopia. The class aims to engage children and the community from the village nearest to the Dallol planetary analogue field site. Through a playtime program, they will discover what the amazing environments of the Afar Desert and the Dallol volcano have to offer. To find out more, read this interview with Barbara Cavalazzi following the first ‘Afar Desert Class’ in February 2019.


Images from the first Afar Desert School in February 2019.

Afar Desert Class. Credit: M. Tamrat/B. Cavalazzi/Europlanet

12th European Space Conference – Report

12th European Space Conference – Report

Palais d’Egmont, Brussels, 21-22 Jan 2020

Ann-Carine Vandaele, Vice-President of the Europlanet Society reports on the 12th Annual European Space Conference.

During two days, representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament, national governments, the European space agencies, the scientific world and industries met in Brussels to discuss space-related subjects, covering areas like space for prosperity and sustainability, science and innovation, digitisation and connectivity, Space for society and economy. The plenary discussions and high level constructive debates were followed by a thousand participants representing stakeholders from the space sector and beyond.

J. Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission, gave an enlightening speech on space as the new geopolitical frontier, considering that several countries around the world now have created space defence agencies. Mr. Borrell urged Europe to take actions to strengthen the collaborative aspects of space and to secure European access to space. He introduced also the “3Cs” related to space: 

  • Congested (i.e. more and more people dealing with space, not only space agencies but also private companies; the number of satellites is growing with larger constellations with smaller life time; the augmented risk with the increasing space debris)
  • Contested (legal space is not yet official)
  • Competitive (i.e. the digital economy, broad security, research competitiveness). In the following days most of the discussions and debates developed these issues further, providing insights and points of view from different stakeholders.

Another idea largely shared through the speakers was cooperation and collaboration, culminating with the motto “United Space in Europe” of J.D. Wörner, Director General of the European Space Agency. Indeed the sole answer to the rising number of conflicts, to climate changes, is to unite forces – research, industry, policy makers – to raise the general public awareness and to propose new ways of using and sharing space resources. The talk of M. Vestager, Executive Vice-President of the EC was remarkable, insisting on the need for Europe to be proud of its achievements of which the citizens are not always aware, although space is now impacting more and more their every day life.

Artificial intelligence and big data were mentioned a lot, linked to the accrued number of data which request different and new ways for their interpretation. Security was also a major topic addressed during the two days: security and safety for the citizens, data and communication; but also secured access to space for Europe, which needs to be independent of the other main space actors like China and the US.

Another new aspect which was discussed at length, concerned the legal framework related to space which is still quite ill-defined. It is noteworthy that Luxembourg is the first European country that has voted a specific law to allow industrial organisations to possess, use and commercialise any space resources. This is a change of paradigm in the definition of space missions: today resources have to be processed on Earth and brought to space to support missions, so why not use the resources space can offer us?

The difficulty of having all European partners acting as one has been recognised by many, with a clear wish to be more transparent and faster in the decision making, and more efficient in investing in risky and disruptive projects.

A full programme can be found at: https://www.spaceconference.eu/programme.html

EPSC 2020 – First Announcement and Call-for-Sessions

First Announcement and Call-for-Sessions

The Europlanet Science Congress 2020 (EPSC2020) will take place at the Palacio de Congresos de Granada, Granada, Spain, from 27 September to 2 October 2020.

The Europlanet Science Congress (formerly the European Planetary Science Congress) is the annual meeting place of the Europlanet Society. With a track record of 14 years and regularly attracting around 1000 participants, the Europlanet Science Congress 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 while providing a unique space for networking and exchange of experiences.

The success of this meeting is founded on the excellence of its sessions and conveners. So, we encourage you to make session proposals on the conference website by 12th February 2020.

The meeting will cover the whole scope of planetary science and you can propose sessions for the following programme groups:

TP – Terrestrial Planets
OPS – Outer Planet Systems
MITM – Missions, Instrumentation, Techniques, Modelling
SB – Small Bodies (comets, KBOs, rings, asteroids, meteorites, dust)
EXO – Exoplanets and Origins
ODAA – Outreach, Diversity, Amateur Astronomy

We look forward to many good proposals for exciting sessions.

Please contact us at epsc2020@copernicus.org in case of any questions.

Best regards,

Maria Cristina De Sanctis
Scientific organizing committee chair

Maria Genzer & Harri Haukka
Executive EPSC committee chairs

Luisa M. Lara
Local organizing committee chair

Motivational Journeys – Linda Spilker

For the fourth interview in our series of Motivational Journeys, we talk to Dr. Linda Spilker of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Linda is the Cassini Project Scientist at JPL. She was inspired by the Gemini and Apollo mission during her early childhood to pursue a career in astronomy. When she joined JPL, she had the opportunity to work on the Voyager mission from its early phases. For her, the mission was like reliving her childhood days, when she used to look tiny Jupiter and Saturn through her telescope. She was one of the first people to look the images of these planets closely. Her piece of advice for early career would be: “Try as many things as you can through your career and find your passion through it.”

Watch all the interviews in our series of Motivational Journeys.

Europlanet 2019 Highlights

Review of Europlanet Highlights in 2019

2019 has been another packed year for Europlanet, with the first anniversary of the launch of the Europlanet Society, the first elections of the Society’s Executive Board, the completion of the Europlanet 2020 RI project and preparations for a new, bigger and more comprehensive research infrastructure. Here, the outreach team has chosen its highlights from the past 12 months.

December – Launch of Cheops

This December, the planetary science community has welcomed a new chapter in exoplanet research with the launch of the Cheops mission. Cheops, the Characterising Exoplanet Satellite, is a space-based telescope dedicated to observing exoplanets as they transit in front of their host stars in order to measure their density and find out more about the planet’s composition and internal structure. The mission is a partnership between ESA and Switzerland, with involvement from 10 ESA Member States. If you would like to find out more about the mission, you can catch up on a pre-launch press briefing with the Cheops team at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva back in September.

November – Motivational Journeys

This autumn, the Diversity Working Group of our EPEC Early Career network launched a new monthly video series of ‘Motivational Journeys’. In this series, EPEC has interviewed experienced scientists from various backgrounds and asked them to share personal stories about their early days, their motivation and their strategies for success. The videos are released monthly on the Europlanet Society website and you can watch all the videos on our YouTube playlist

October – Welcome to our newly elected Europlanet Society Executive Board

In October, the newly elected Europlanet Society Executive Board met for the first time. The Executive Board is responsible for overseeing the governance of the Society and consists of the five officers of the Europlanet Society (President, two Vice-Presidents, Secretary and Treasurer) and six other members.

The current members of the Executive Board of the Europlanet Society have been elected during the Europlanet General Assembly at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva. You can find out more about them here.

September – EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019

The 2019 Joint Meeting (www.epsc-dps2019.eu) of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) and the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) took place at the Centre International de Conférences de Genève (CICG), Geneva, Switzerland, from Sunday 15 to Friday 20 September 2019. The 2019 Joint Meeting was the biggest to to date with 1731 attendees, beating the records of 1532 participants in Nantes in 2011 and 1437 in Pasadena in 2016.

A total of 1938 presentations were scheduled at the meeting, including 1062 orals and 876 posters in 58 sessions, plus 39 splinter workshops and 16 community events. As well as almost 1000 European and over 600 US participants, we welcomed over 90 attendees from Asia as well as researchers from Africa, Australia, Canada, Central and South America.

Join us for the next EPSC in Granada from 27 September – 2nd October 2020.

August – Europlanet 2020 RI project comes to a successful conclusion

The Mars simulation wind tunnel at Aarhus was one of the 16 facilities offered in Europlanet 2020 RI’s Transnational Access programme.

August brought to an end the highly successful Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure (RI) project. From 1 September 2015 until 31st August 2019, Europlanet 2020 RI received €9.95 million funding under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme to implement an advanced research infrastructure for planetary science. Europlanet 2020 RI was coordinated by the Open University, UK, with 34 beneficiary institutions from 20 European countries. The project had significant achievements:

  • Europlanet 2020 RI provided access to the world’s largest coordinated collection of planetary simulation and analysis facilities. Over the five calls issued by Europlanet 2020 RI, in excess of 1480 access days were provided to the five field sites and 11 laboratory facilities.
  • Over 50 planetary datasets and 18.3 million data products are now accessible through the VESPA (Virtual European Solar and Planetary Access) Virtual Observatory developed through Europlanet 2020 RI. . Planetary Space Weather Service (PSWS) toolkits created to track planetary or solar events through the Solar System have attracted over 15,000 users from academia and industry worldwide.
  • 84 workshops and training sessions organised during Europlanet 2020 RI have been attended by more than 3,000 researchers, industrial representatives, outreach professionals, teachers and policy makers.

To read more about the outcomes of Europlanet 2020 RI, see the Final Report.

July – 2nd Planetary Mapping and Virtual Observatory Workshop

One of the final highlights of the Europlanet 2020 RI project was the 2nd Planetary Mapping and Virtual Observatory Workshop, which took place in July 2019. The workshop aimed to bring together the geologic, geospatial and VO communities at European scale to progress knowledge, tools and standards for mapping the Solar System. The programme included updates on VESPA, PLANMAP and Data / science infrastructures (OneGeology, INSPIRE, EPOS), as well as lightning talks, tutorials and hackathons. If you missed it, you can find all the presentations and livestreams of the lightning talks online.

June – Apollo 50, Summer Schools and Regional Hub meeting

Europlanet Summer School 2019. Credit: Edita Stonkute
Europlanet Summer School 2019 visiting the Museum of Ethnocosmology. Credit: Edita Stonkute

Europlanet marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing with events to support its Regional Hub network and early career researchers.

  • From 3-5 June, 23 representatives of Europlanet 2020 RI, the Europlanet Society, the Regional Hubs and the planetary science community met in Budapest to develop a strategy for the coming year in widening participation in under-represented states, building links with industry and developing a strong planetary science community supported by the Regional Hubs. Outcomes of the meeting included a successful submission for a session at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) 2020 in Trieste, plans for a systematic demographic survey of the community, and a coordinated Hub presence at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva.
  • From 11-21 June, Europlanet 2020 RI welcomed 21 students, early career researchers and amateur astronomers to a summer school at the Molėtai Astronomical Observatory in Lithuania. The 2019 course was the 20th anniversary of the inaugural summer school organised by the University of Vilnius at MAO and the third time that it has been supported by Europlanet 2020 RI. A priority for Europlanet is to support planetary science in under-represented states, so we were particularly delighted that the class of 2019 included students from Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey and Romania, as well as Austria, France, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Vietnam and the UK.

May – 2nd EPEC Annual Week

EPEC Annual Week 2019. Credit: EPEC

The 2nd EPEC (Europlanet Early Career network) Annual Week was held at the University of Lisbon, Portugal from 20th-24th May 2019. 44 early career professionals from all over the world and across the Europlanet community gathered to discuss current and future space activities in Europe. The workshop brought together experts and young professionals to share their ideas and experiences about research, outreach and future goals, in an effort to promote international collaboration and increase the interest of younger generations in science.  The talks given during the workshop covered several topics related to careers in space science, as well as science policy and future space research.

The 3rd EPEC Annual Week will take place in Padova, Italy, in 2020. Look out for details on the EPEC news pages of the Europlanet Society website.

April – Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement Announced

Dr Amelia Ortiz-Gil. Credit: M. Pallardó

In April, the 2019 Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement with Planetary Science was awarded to Dr Amelia Ortiz-Gil in recognition of her pioneering work in developing educational and outreach resources for people with a range of physical and cognitive special needs.

Dr Ortiz-Gil has more than 15 years’ experience working in outreach at the University of Valencia (Spain), and has led numerous initiatives to promote accessibility in astronomy, including the development of tactile 3D planetary globes of the Moon, Mars and Venus.

March – Planning for the future with the world’s largest collection of planetary simulation and analytical facilities

In March 2019, a consortium of 56 beneficiaries submitted a bid to the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme proposing a new, upgraded research infrastructure (RI) to support planetary science in Europe. The Europlanet 2024 RI project was selected in August 2019 and the consortium is currently in preparation of the Grant Agreement with the EC.

Europlanet 2024 RI represents a step-change in ambition for planetary science worldwide. The project will provide access to 31 Transnational Access facilities on five continents and four Virtual Access services linking over 100 data services and catalogues. Innovations include the establishment of a ground-based observation network to support space-based missions, the launch of an interactive mapping service to provide virtual exploration of planetary surfaces, and the development of machine learning tools for data mining to fully exploit and analyse planetary data sets. 

We look forward to starting this adventurous project in the spring of 2020!

February – Afar Desert Class

In February, Barbara Cavalazzi from the University of Bologna led the first ‘Afar Desert Class’, a learning experience supported by Europlanet 2020 RI for elementary and middle school students of the village located nearest to the Danakil Depression planetary analogue field site.  The course took place from February 23rd to 25th and involved 60 children from the Hamed’Ela elementary school, their six teachers and many members of the community of the village. Teachers learned about the geological peculiarities of their region, and  children were taken out to the site to discover what their region means from a scientific and geological point of view.

January – EPEC warms up winter with new series of Inspiring Outreach Stories

In January, Europlanet’s EPEC network kicked off an inspiring New Year with a series of stories by Early Career researchers telling us about their outreach activities. The stories are published monthly and you can find the complete archive on the EPEC Outreach Working Group page.

Europlanet 2020 RI Case Study – Isotope analysis for rare samples

Europlanet 2020 RI Case Study – Isotope analysis for rare samples 

Innovation has been a major part of the Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure (RI), particularly in its programme of Joint Research Activities. In the first two years of the project, Europlanet 2020 RI carried out a rigorous evaluation of the performance of 1013 Ohm amplifiers developed together with ThermoFisher for use in isotopic analysis of rare planetary samples, such as meteorites or materials retured by missions.

This work has resulted in a tenfold improvement in precision over conventional resistors, enabling significantly smaller sample sizes to be analysed.

ThermoFisher has released the 1013 Ohm resistors as a commercial product applied to a wide variety of instrumentation. The 1013 Ohm amplifiers have been installed at both the Vrie University Amsterdam (VUA) and the Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques (CRPG), and were used in Transnational Access (TA) visits supported through Europlanet 2020 RI between 2017 and 2019. 

This ground breaking technology has opened up new frontiers across the spectrum of analytical chemistry, with potential applications for a very broad range of non-planetary users for whom sample size is a key issue, e.g. in “non-destructive” analysis of archaeological and art objects.

As an example, an interdisciplinary study of tiny mineral inclusions in diamonds published in Nature Communications by VUA in 2017 discovered that the diamonds were geologically “young”. The results showed that certain volcanic events on Earth may still be able to create super-heated conditions previously thought to have only existed early in the planet’s history before it cooled. These findings have implications for diamond prospecting. 

The team at VUA is currently working with Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner to use isotopic analysis to assist in the identification of human remains for undocumented border crossers who do not survive the journey between Mexico and the United States. In 2017, researchers from the University of Oxford were awarded funding to apply micro-analytical techniques to museum quality artefacts to determine their place of origin (provenance). 

Collaborations with ThermoFisher will be ongoing beyond the Europlanet 2020 RI project to develop further improvements in the technology. Practical applications of the analysis of small samples and the work is expected to open up new areas of research in planetary science and other disciplines. 

Find out more about the outcomes of Europlanet 2020 RI in the Final Report.

Europlanet 2020 RI has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 654208.

Europlanet 2020 RI Final Report published

Europlanet 2020 RI Final Report published

The Final Report on the Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure (RI) project has been published.

The report concludes that Europlanet 2020 RI, which ran from 1st September 2015 until 31st August, has produced a step-change in research in Europe by providing the largest open access research infrastructure for planetary science in the world. The project has established the structures for longer term collaborations both within the European community and between Europe and international partners. In December 2018, the European Commission recognised Europlanet 2020 RI as a Horizon 2020 success story.

Overall, Europlanet 2020 RI has had major impacts for the community:

  • Europe’s planetary simulation and analytical facilities have been upgraded through the JRA programme and the Transnational Access programme has led to the publication of high-impact research.
  • Europlanet’s Virtual Access activities, VESPA and PSWS, have evolved into mature, well-used facilities with protocols and tools that have become standards in the worldwide Virtual Observatory communities.
  • Networking activities have been effective in disseminating the outputs of the project and developing capacity in under-represented states within the European Research Area and beyond.

The procedures implemented and lessons learned during the project have enabled Europlanet to refine the mechanisms and protocols necessary to enable mobilisation and collaboration within the planetary community and to maximise the impact of European talent and facilities .

Over the coming weeks, the Europlanet Society website will highlight some of the case studies from the report demonstrating how the Europlanet 2020 RI project has been working towards the strategic objectives for a research infrastructure (defined by the OECD):

  1. Be a national or world leading scientific research infrastructure and an enabling facility to support science.
  2. Be an enabling facility to support innovation.
  3. Become integrated in a regional cluster/in regional strategies/Be a hub to facilitate regional collaborations.
  4. Promote education outreach and knowledge transfer.
  5. Provide scientific support to public policies.
  6. Provide high quality scientific data and associated services.
  7. Assume social responsibility towards society.

Europlanet 2020 RI’s legacy, supported within the sustainable framework of the new Europlanet Society, will provide a solid foundation for a European planetary research infrastructure for decades to come.

Europlanet 2020 RI received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 654208.

Motivational Journeys – Thérèse Encrenaz

Motivational Journeys – Thérèse Encrenaz

For the second interview in our series of Motivational Journeys, we talk to Dr Thérèse Encrenaz of CNRS/Observatoire de Paris.

Thérèse Encrenaz studied astronomy/astrophysics and has been involved in various missions including Vega 1 & 2 to Comet Halley, Galileo to Jupiter, the Phobos and Mars Express missions to Mars, Venus Express to Venus, Rosetta to Comet 67P/Churymov-Gerasimenko. Challenges during the early stage of her career made her push the boundaries and motivated her to work harder. In this interview in our series of Motivational Journeys, Thérèse shares her experiences and tells us how she has managed her work-life balance.

Watch all the interviews in our series of Motivational Journeys.

Transit of Mercury 2019

A transit of Mercury will occur TODAY – 11th November 2019.  This is a relatively a rare event: the last took place 9th May 2016 and you’ll have to wait until 2032 to see the next one.

How to view the transit

There are plenty of ways to safely view the transit, both online and through public events with solar telescopes. You can find details of live webcasts at Space.com.

Visibility path of the transit of Mercury on 11 November 2019

Get involved

We’d like to see your pictures of the transit and of you or your friends viewing the event. Tweet your selfies using the hashtag #MercuryTransitSelfie

Mercury Transit from Chile
#MercuryTransitSelfie album from 2016

Share Europlanet’s video about the transit:

The video can be downloaded in various resolutions here: https://vimeo.com/161921266

Where is it visible?

Timeanddate.com has produced this animation to show when and where the transit of Mercury will be visible:

What’s it all about?

Read more:

Mercury is a fascinating planet and the target of the European Space Agency’s mission, BepiColombo, which launched in October 2018 and will arrive at Mercury on 5th December 2025. In the run-up to the last transit of Mercury in 2016, we invited European scientists that study the innermost planet or whose research relates to transits to contribute guest features about their work and to participate in a series of webinars.

Watch:

Links

Society for Popular Astronomy – Transit of Mercury 2019:

BepiColombo:
https://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/bepicolombo

Open University – Discover Mercury:
https://www.open.edu/openlearn/exploremercury

Observatoire de Paris – Le passage de Mercure (from 2016):
https://transitmercure.obspm.fr

Report from Diversity Committee

Report from Diversity Committee

Report by Victoria Pearson, Chair of the Europlanet Society Diversity Committee.

The members of the Diversity Committee have focused their attentions lately on the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019. Prior to the conference they worked closely with PCCS (their DPS equivalents) to identify further good practices that could be adopted at the conference.

A number of measures were put in place. These included:

  • revising the existing Code of Conduct to ensure it included expectations about professional conduct;
  • revising the guidelines for conveners to ensure diversity was considered when selecting presenters;
  • adapting the chair guidelines to include consideration of professional behaviour and access for all participants;
  • supporting the development of an incident reporting system for use by attendees.

At the conference, the Committee showcased the “Did this really happen?” cartoons and pronoun pins at the Committee’s booth, and hosted the – now annual – diversity keynote lecture, delivered this year by Nadar Haghigipour (University of Hawaii-Manoa).

The Diversity Committee and PCCS jointly convened the “Diversity and inclusiveness in planetary sciences” session. The Committee also supported the Allyship discussion meeting and the “Women in Planetary science Discussion Hour”, and with EPEC recorded a series of interviews to showcase diverse careers in planetary science.

The Committee is now reviewing feedback from the conference. We and welcome any additional contributions from the community so that EPSC 2020 and other Society meetings can build on the success of the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019.

If you have any feedback, contact diversity@europlanet-society.org

Impacts of Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure

Impacts of Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure

As we prepare to submit the final report for Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructre (RI), which ran from 1st September 2015 – 31st August 2019, we look back at some of the achievements and outcomes.

What was Europlanet 2020 RI?

Europlanet received €9.95 million funding under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme to implement an advanced research infrastructure for planetary science. Europlanet 2020 RI was coordinated by the Open University, UK, with 34 beneficiary institutions from 20 European countries.

As a mature service, Europlanet 2020 RI placed particular emphasis on widening the participation of previously under-represented research communities and stakeholders, including the newer EU Member States.

Europlanet 2020 RI has provided:

• Free transnational access to world-class laboratory facilities that simulate conditions found on planetary bodies, as well as analogue fields sites for Mars, Europa and Titan.
• Virtual access to the diverse datasets and visualisation tools needed for comparing and understanding planetary environments in the Solar System and beyond.
• Networking activities, including meetings, workshops and personnel exchanges, to strengthen the community, develop industry-academic collaboration, discuss the latest scientific results, and set the strategy and goals for planetary science in Europe for decades to come.
• Outreach and education programmes to engage Europe’s citizens, teachers, students and policy makers with cutting-edge planetary science and exploration.

Transnational Access impacts:

TA visit to the Danakil field site in Ethiopia. Credit: Alex Pritz
  • The 5 calls for Transnational Access generated 320 applications and 195 completed visits to facilities
  • Over 1400 days of access were provided to state-of-the-art planetary laboratory facilities and field sites, resulting in high impact publications, including in the Nature and Science family of journals.
  • Europlanet 2020 RI assembled the world’s largest coordinated collection of planetary simulation and analysis facilities.
  • Sample return handling protocols and ultra-sensitive isotopic analysis techniques have been augmented through Europlanet 2020 RI.
  • Capabilities have been extended at the Wind Tunnel Simulators at Aarhus for simulations under Mars and Titan environmental conditions with funding from through Europlanet 2020 RI.
  • New spectro-goniometers have been developed at Grenoble with improved sensitivity down to very low albedos and the ability to measure small samples such as rare meteorites.
  • DLR’s high temperature chamber has been upgraded; it is now the only facility worldwide capable of performing spectral measurements of Venus surface analogues at realistic surface temperatures.
  • The Danakil Depression has been characterised as a terrestrial analogue for extreme hydrothermal environments on Mars, Venus, Io and Ganymede.
  • 1013 Ohm resistors validated within Europlanet 2020 RI have been released by ThermoFisher as a commercial product, opening up new potential applications for a very broad range of planetary and non-planetary users.

Virtual Access Impacts:

2nd Planetary Mapping and Virtual Observatory Workshop. Credit: OpenPlanetary
  • Over 50 planetary datasets are now accessible through the VESPA (Virtual European Solar and Planetary Access) virtual observatory developed through Europlanet 2020 RI. http://vespa.obspm.fr/
  • The Europlanet Table Access Protocol (EPN-TAP) developed for VESPA has been adopted as standard by the International Planetary Data Alliance and ESA’s Planetary Science Archive.
  • Planetary Space Weather Service (PSWS) toolkits created to track planetary or solar events through the Solar System have attracted over 15,000 users from academia and industry worldwide.

Networking Activity Impacts:

Europlanet Summer School 2019. Credit: Marina Carmona Ruiz
Europlanet Summer School 2019. Credit: Marina Carmona Ruiz
  • 84 workshops and training sessions organised during Europlanet 2020 RI have been attended by more than 3,000 researchers, industrial representatives, outreach professionals, teachers and policy makers.
  • Over 1,200 EU companies have been identified with an interest in provision of solutions or services to planetary scientists, or with an interest in recruiting planetary graduates.
  • Thousands of media stories on planetary results have been generated around the world.
  • More than 130,000 Euros of seed-funding from Europlanet 2020 RI has supported outreach projects across Europe.