EXPLORE – Career Profiles

EXPLORE – Career Profiles

Europlanet’s sister-project, EXPLORE, has been funded by the European Commission to develop Machine Learning and advanced visualisation tools to support the astronomy and planetary communities. One of the real strengths of the EXPLORE project is the diverse skills-set of the team. As the project comes to a close, we’ve asked people working on the project to reflect on their careers, their inspirations and the advice that they would pass on. Click on the images below to read their career profiles. If they look familiar, many of the team are also part of the Europlanet 2024 RI project’s GMAP activity and comms team.

We have produced an edited set of the profiles for download:

EXPLORE has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004214.

Call for Submission – Atlas of Planetary Geological Maps

Call for Submission – Atlas of Planetary Geological Maps

The Europlanet 2024 RI GMAP infrastructure has opened a call for contributions for an Atlas of Planetary Geological Maps.

The Atlas aims to provide examples of geological maps of planets and small bodies to highlight different mapping approaches and adopted methodologies in various environments and for different purposes.
This collection is thought to provide guidance and inspiration to students and scientists willing to approach geological mapping in different planetary contexts. Thus, contributions focused on specific mapping tools and workflows will be warmly welcome.

Planetary Mapping illustration.
Banner and Illustration: Image Creator from Designer (Bing/DALL-E)

Given the didactic purpose of the volume, the maps can be also excerpts of already published maps, but they must be focused on definite geological environments and specifically accompanied with thoughtful explanations of the adopted work-flows and mapping tools.

The volume will have an ISBN number provided by ISPRA through the Geological Survey of Italy.

All the geological maps selected for the Atlas, and their underlying datasets, will also be included in the Europlanet-GMAP data portal, and relevant repositories for public use.

The volume will have a format of A4 cm with A3 maps. The exact number of pages for each contribution will be defined after having received the indications of interest.

As reference for the foreseen final product, you can check the ISPRA atlas “Mapping Geology in Italy”.

The received manuscripts will be revised by the editors, we do not foresee external reviews, specifically for already published maps, and map-related scientific results.

The final PDF will be openly accessible online.

Hard copies will be limited in number.

An indication of interest to submit your mapping work with a brief description of the topic should be sent to lucia.marinangeli@unich.it by Feb. 29.

Tentative Timeline:

Indication of Interest: February 29, 2024
Submission deadline: 15 May 2024
Contributions acceptance: June 2024
Advance publication of contributions Summer 2024

Editor:

Lucia Marinangeli and Marco Pantaloni – lead editors (& contacts)

Matteo Massironi, Riccardo Pozzobon, Angelo Pio Rossi, Monica Pondrelli, Pierre-Antoine Tesson, Ivan López Ruiz-Labranderas, Giulia Alemanno

Join the VESPA 2024 Warsaw Workshop 

Join the VESPA 2024 Warsaw Workshop – Open Call for Planetary Science Projects Now Open! 

We are delighted to extend an invitation to the scientific community for the VESPA 2024 open call, a unique opportunity to play a pivotal role in advancing Planetary Science and Solar System data accessibility. Aligned with the Europlanet 2024 RI programme, the VESPA activity is dedicated to creating an interoperable system grounded in the principles of Open Science. Here are three compelling reasons to consider participating in the VESPA 2024 open call:

  1. Amplify Your Impact: By joining the open call, you have the opportunity to contribute to the expansion of the VESPA interface. Up to 5 projects will be selected, allowing you to showcase your expertise and significantly enhance the data content available to the scientific community.
  2. Guidance and Collaboration: If your project is selected, you will be invited to a face-to-face workshop at the Space Research Centre Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland, from April 22 to 26, 2024. This workshop will provide a unique opportunity to collaborate with experts and receive guidance in designing and setting up your project. Follow-up teleconferences in March/April 2024 will further support the finalization of the selected services.
  3. Contribute to Open Science: The VESPA initiative aligns with the principles of Open Science, fostering transparency, collaboration, and accessibility. By participating, you actively contribute to the development of an interoperable system that promotes the sharing of Planetary Science and Solar System data, advancing the field as a whole.

Don’t miss this chance to be at the forefront of cutting-edge research and make a lasting impact on Planetary Science. Submit your project proposal for the VESPA 2024 open call and be part of a community dedicated to advancing our understanding of the Solar System.

For more information and to submit your project proposal, visit the VESPA 2024 Open Call Website.

EXPLORE Career Profiles: Iain McDonald

EXPLORE Career Profiles

Name: Iain McDonald
EXPLORE Project Role: Lead developer of S-Phot Stellar Scientific Data Application
Professional Role and Affiliation: Research Fellow, University of Manchester
Nationality: British
Current location: Scotland

1. What did you want to be when you were 10?

I didn’t really have a clue, but I’d just learned to programme and I guessed it would involve computers. 

2. What was your favourite subject at school?

Unsurprisingly, physics!

3. What did you study at university? Why did you choose those topics and the places to study?

I studied astrophysics at St. Andrews. I had always had a passion for astronomy, space and writing, and a career in astrophysics let me combine the three. I chose St. Andrews because it was the closest university, meaning I could still help out on the family farm when I had a break.

4. How did you get your first job? How many jobs have you had since?

I am still in my first “real” job, which was a fortunate combination of my examiner needing a researcher at the same time I was finishing my PhD. My role and research has changed throughout the years, and I have had other jobs at the same time, but I’ve been fortunate to have been in this job for over 14 years.

5. What’s been the biggest piece of luck or ‘surprise twist’ you have had in your career to date?

I never expected to research the diversity of science I do today. Branching out from stars into discovering exoplanets isn’t that unusual, but I would never have guessed that I’d be publishing textbooks on genetic genealogy and papers in medieval history journals!

6. Have you had a mentor or person that inspired you? How did they help you?

 I owe a great debt of gratitude to too many people to mention by name. Whether that’s been someone who has proof-read my latest fellowship proposal, or someone who has sorted out my travel problems when I’m stuck in another country, or being taught how to correctly deal with liquid nitrogen or read an autocue. I am grateful to work in a very friendly community who are supportive of each other.

7. What are the main things you do each day?

 Poke computers until they do what I want them to. That might be programming a new form of analysis, making plots to examine data, or writing papers.

8. What do you like best about the work that you do and what do you like least?

The best part of my job are still the occasional times I get to spend the night observing on top of some remote mountaintop in an exciting part of the world. More often, I still get excited about looking through a fresh set of data and seeing parts of how the Universe works that no-one has seen before. The worst part is needing the patience to analyse this new data rigorously – I always want to write up my papers quickly at tell the world what I’ve found.

9. Do you have ambitions or things that you would like to do next?

There are so many different things I would like to do but don’t have the time for. There are many details of the Universe that I would like to uncover, I would like to create a better model for how humans have migrated across the globe, I’d like to climb every mountain, learn to play the clarinet and buy a farm of my own. But the most important thing I will do over the next few years is bring up a family!

10. What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

Push yourself to try more things and get better at them. The more things you try, the more things you’ll like, and you never know when those things will become useful to you in the future. And don’t be so hard on the people who tell you to do your homework – they really do have your best interests at heart!

Quick CV

  • PhD (Keele 2009), MSc (Manchester 2005), MSci (St. Andrews 2004)
  • Research Fellow/PDRA, University of Manchester (2009-2024)
  • Lecturer, Open University (2020-2023)

More EXPLORE Career Profiles

EXPLORE has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004214.

EXPLORE Career Profiles: Lian Greijn

EXPLORE Career Profiles

Name: Lian Greijn
EXPLORE Project Role: Intern
Professional Role and Affiliation: Intern at Acri-ST & MSc student Aerospace Engineering at TU Delft
Nationality: Dutch
Current location: Toulouse, France.

1. What did you want to be when you were 10?

For a long time, I wanted to become a judge. However, when I was old enough to learn how monotone judicial texts are I quickly abandoned that dream. 

2. What was your favourite subject at school?

My favourite subject was history, I really like reading and I enjoyed how it offers a perspective on how past events shape our modern world.

3. What did you study at university? Why did you choose those topics and the places to study?

I am still studying and in my final year for my MSc in aerospace engineering, I also completed my BSc in this field both at TU Delft. I always had a big passion for space and was very intrigued by the complexity of space missions. They have such challenging design criteria and really push the boundaries of engineering, I wanted to learn more about how we design and develop them. I chose Delft because it has a very strong international aerospace programme.

4. How did you get your first job? How many jobs have you had since?

I am of course still studying and haven’t had my first ‘real’ job yet, but I found this internship by asking around a lot in my university. For example, by approaching professors, the alumni relation office, and people I met through career events.

5. What’s been the biggest piece of luck or ‘surprise twist’ you have had in your career to date?

I was very adamant about going to Toulouse for my internship due to the strong aerospace industry in this city and because I studied French for a semester. It is however quite tough to find a position from abroad especially as a non-native French speaker. I had found an alumnus of my university who worked here and asked if he could help me. He happened to approach my current supervisor at their kid’s schoolyard to ask if he would know a position, which is what got me on this project.

6. Have you had a mentor or person that inspired you? How did they help you?

I have been inspired by almost everyone I worked with. I think working together on assignments or just discussing problems can really help with thinking outside the box and with motivation in general.  

7. What are the main things you do each day?

As part of the project, I mostly spend my day programming in Python (and therefore also a lot of time googling issues). I also spend a bit of time working on public outreach, such as editing video tutorials. 

8. What do you like best about the work that you do and what do you like least?

I really enjoy the required creativity and problem solving that comes with programming. You constantly find a new issue and try to figure out how to solve it. Sometimes tasks seem very daunting at the start, but when you manage to solve it, it is very rewarding. 

What I like least is probably that most of the work is done just sitting behind a computer, I would love to move a little more and have a bit more of a change in scenery. 

9. Do you have ambitions or things that you would like to do next?

Mostly to graduate next year! 

10. What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

A bit cliché but I would say to just enjoy life as a kid. I would also tell myself that I am not nearly as bad at maths as I like to make myself believe. 

Quick CV

  • Academic qualifications
    • BSc in Aerospace Engineering
  • Main or selected jobs to date: 
    • Internship at Acri-ST

More EXPLORE Career Profiles

EXPLORE has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004214.

EXPLORE Career Profiles: Giacomo Nodjoumi

EXPLORE Career Profiles

Name: Giacomo Nodjoumi
EXPLORE Project Role: Co-leader of the development of L-EXPLO and L-HEX Lunar Scientific Data Applications
Professional Role and Affiliation: PhD Candidate, Constructor University
Nationality: Italian
Current location: Bremen, Germany.

1. What did you want to be when you were 10?

Space game developer, professional bass player, fighter jet pilot/astronaut… I had too many different interests and dreams.

2. What was your favourite subject at school?

Natural Sciences and informatics were the most interesting for me. But I also enjoyed chemistry and English. I really disliked humanities; now I regret that I was not more interested in those fields.

3. What did you study at university? Why did you choose those topics and the places to study?

Both my Bachelor’s and Master’s were in geology, so I mainly studies scientific fields, from chemistry to petrography and so on. My Master’z was focused on engineering geology and risk assessment and management, so the topics shifted a bit to more practical problems for risk assessment and mitigation, such as slope stability or geophysics, remote sensing and so on.

I chose these subjects for the love of natural sciences, and the desire to know more about our Earth. The Master’s was chosen essentially for the course in remote sensing (feeding my nerdy side).

4. How did you get your first job? How many jobs have you had since?

My Master’s thesis supervisor offered me one, since I made a working prototype of a multi-camera instrument for monitoring landslide. I’ve had two jobs including my actual position. The first one in the company of my supervisor, but it lasted only for three months, it was not fulfilling my expectations.

5. What’s been the biggest piece of luck or ‘surprise twist’ you have had in your career to date?

A colleague and close friend, aware of my passion for remote sensing and space, put me in contact with my current PhD supervisor. Since I always thought that working in planetary science was impossible for me, it was a life-changing event, especially since I had to move to another country for longer periods of time. The ‘surprise twist’ (even if I would describe it as a very, very biggest piece of bad luck for the whole world) was that the Covid-19 pandemic started almost immediately after my arrival in Bremen.

6. Have you had a mentor or person that inspired you? How did they help you?

No one in particular, maybe Baden-Powell (founder of the Scout Movement) inspired me in my “youth days”, but since then I’d say that any person that I met, lived with, or worked with, left me some sort of lesson which helped me grow up in different aspects of my life.

One of Baden-Powell’s mottos, ‘Estote Parati,’ which translates to ‘Be Prepared’ in English, inspired me to be ready for everyday challenges. Additionally, a point of the Scout’s Law, “A Scout’s duty is to be useful and to help others”, motivated me to strive to be a better person. 

7. What are the main things you do each day?

Drink coffee, analyse planetary data, develop Python tools, read scientific papers, write papers for my PhD, keep updated with trending technologies and – last but not least – drink more coffee!

8. What do you like best about the work that you do and what do you like least?

I really like the fact that I am pursuing almost all my passions, even if it can be very stressful and challenging.

9. Do you have ambitions or things that you would like to do next?

I would like to continue developing something that may help future generations that wants to join the planetary science community.

10. What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

I know that may sounds a classic answer but “Listen to your mother, think less, enjoy life more, and do more exercises!”

Quick CV

  • Academic qualifications
    • Bachelor’s in Geology
    • Master’s in Engineering Geology and Risk Assessment
    • PhD Candidate in Planetary Sciences
  • Main or selected jobs to date: 
    • MsC in Engineering Geology (2016-2019)
    • Junior Remote Sensing Analyst (2019-2020)
    • PhD Candidate in planetary sciences (2020-Present)

More EXPLORE Career Profiles

EXPLORE has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004214.

EXPLORE Career Profiles: Angelo Pio Rossi

EXPLORE Career Profiles

Name: Angelo Pio Rossi
EXPLORE Project Role: Lead developer of the L-EXPLO and L-HEX Lunar Scientific Data Applications
Professional Role and Affiliation: Professor of Earth and Planetary Science, Constructor University
Nationality: Italian
Current location: Bremen, Germany.

1. What did you want to be when you were 10?

Oscillating in between a coroner, an archaeologist, and a fossil (or mineral) hunter. I realised later a geologist is a bit of all of them. And medicine was not my thing anyway.

2. What was your favourite subject at school?

Natural sciences, and later Latin and Earth Sciences. Old dead things, mostly.

3. What did you study at university? Why did you choose those topics and the places to study?

I studied geology. I went through my high school years forgetting my childhood’s visceral attraction to geology, and somehow it came out again in the end. There was a geoscience program just started (the department was founded just 2-3 years before) in a nearby city, and I enrolled. That was it. 

4. How did you get your first job? How many jobs have you had since?

A PhD stipend perhaps does not quite qualify as job, but in the years I was doing my PhD, I also worked for a little while as a surveyor for the Italian geological mapping programme, as a new edition of the local systematic geological map was being prepared. Funnily enough, back then we were experimenting with digital mapping. Only, technology was not like now (digital mapping with tablets is nowadays quite normal): we had clunky devices, and obscure software that I goofily adapted from something developed by USGS in Alaska (and actually kindly provided by them).

I was then at ESA in the Netherlands for some years, then at ISSI in Switzerland, and at Constructor (formerly Jacobs University) for the last decade.

5. What’s been the biggest piece of luck or ‘surprise twist’ you have had in your career to date?

To be honest I had many lucks, but none uniquely shaped my career. They did shape my view on things, though. Since you ask, let me try and recall a small selection:

  • When I was working for my undergraduate thesis and, later, during my PhD, the lab hosting me had a few visitors and researchers. I want to list few of them: Goro Komatsu (later he became a professor at my Alma Mater), Jens Ormö (he is at CAB in Madrid now), and for a sabbatical also Paul Geissler (at USGS Flagstaff now, back then at University of Arizona), and shortly people like Jeff Kargel (UoA). For me, that was a very enriching time, being exposed to many research topics, but mostly different people, and backgrounds. You don’t have time for anecdotes now, maybe one day…
  • Later, when I was at ESA as research fellow, I had the luck – truly, this time, as I was there between 2005 and 2008 – to be involved with Mars Express, a mission that was in its early phases. It was then that I started appreciating openness with data (In this respect the MEX HRSC team was exemplary), rather than planetary mission experiments as exclusive club. A decade later this was one of the motivation inspiring the co-founding of OpenPlanetary
  • Finally, at ISSI in Bern, I had the luck to meet and interact with Johannes Geiss (see below), and many others. Apart from the fact that the entire ISSI staff is lovely, Johannes was an encyclopedic, deep scholar and an amazing character. 

6. Have you had a mentor or person that inspired you? How did they help you?

Yes, very much. I have a few. First and foremost my late palaeontology professor from my undergraduate times: Giovanni Jack Pallini. Then, many years later, the late Johannes Geiss, who was a legend and the funniest and most  – gently – iconoclastic scientist I have ever met. And Roger Maurice Bonnet, who is one of the most elegant leaders I recall (plus, decades later, we still chew planetary missions he has made possible…).  They helped me through their example, not just with words… with things adsorbed, and not necessarily realised immediately. 

7. What are the main things you do each day?

Curse my two cats jumping on my laptop while I work, or dipping their paws into my cup of tea. 

8. What do you like best about the work that you do and what do you like least?

  • I actually like geology because at the same time it deals with the past – the forgotten and the buried – and also what happens now, and what might happen in the future. I don’t think it is the only discipline to give this multi-scale view of things (spatial, temporal), but it is definitely one of those providing the broadest view. 
  • Regardless geology, since running projects is what I have been done in practice in all those years, what I like is to make things happen. 
  • What do I like least? Dealing with (most) academics, and their terrible time management skills.

9. Do you have ambitions or things that you would like to do next?

I prefer to answer to this question next year 😉 But if you really insist: to learn and explore new things.

10. What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

  1. I don’t know… I tried many paths, I messed up a few, and overall, if I look back, at certain junctions where life could have gone one way or another, I realise that I am OK with what I did. I own it, even if it is not the best way according to mainstream metrics. But metrics are a bit of a trap, anyway.  There is actually a drawing that I saw a couple of years ago, and I think it is all I would like just to show to my 10 year-old self. Rather sure that he would not get it. And that is fine, too.

Quick CV

  • Academic qualifications
    • 2004 – Ph.D., IRSPS, Univ. Chieti, Italy
    • 2000 – Degree in Earth Sciences, Univ. Chieti, Italy
  • Main or selected jobs to date: 
    • 2011-present – Constructor University (Bremen, Germany)
    • 2005-2008 – European Space Agency (Noordwijk, the Netherlands)
    • 2008-2010 – International Space Science Institute (Bern, Switzerland)

More EXPLORE Career Profiles

EXPLORE has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004214.

EXPLORE Career Profiles: Javier Eduardo Suárez Valencia

EXPLORE Career Profiles

Name: Javier Eduardo Suárez Valencia
EXPLORE Project Role: Researcher on the L-EXPLO and L-HEX Lunar Scientific Data Applications
Professional Role and Affiliation: PhD Candidate in Planetary Science at Constructor University.
Nationality: Colombian
Current location: Bremen, Germany

1. What did you want to be when you were 10?

I wanted to be an astronaut, especially to go to different planets.

2. What was your favourite subject at school?

Biology.

3. What did you study at university? Why did you choose those topics and the places to study?

Geology. I choose it because there was not an astronomy program in my country, and geology was still a really interesting natural science. Eventually, I was able to link the two

4. How did you get your first job? How many jobs have you had since?

My first job was as a risk management geologist, doing maps for a location in Colombia. Since then, I had two other jobs.

5. What’s been the biggest piece of luck or ‘surprise twist’ you have had in your career to date?

To start my PhD in Bremen Germany. I always worked in planetary science just for passion, but now I can make a living from it.

6. Have you had a mentor or person that inspired you? How did they help you?

Yes, another Colombian geologist, Fabian Saavedra. He showed me that we can study other planets – my professor did not have any idea of how to do that. 

7. What are the main things you do each day?

Working in my PhD, advising students in Colombia, reading.

8. What do you like best about the work that you do and what do you like least?

What I most enjoy is looking at spatial data of planetary surfaces to understand its geology. I do not enjoy debugging code!

9. Do you have ambitions or things that you would like to do next?

I want to be a university professor in a Colombian university.

10. What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

The Universe is big and full of wonders. No matter what happens do not lose your curiosity to learn from it!

Quick CV

  • Education
    • (2021-ongoing) PhD candidate in Planetary Science, Constructor University, Bremen, Germany.
    • (2015-2018) MSc in Geology, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia.
    • (2010-2015) Geologist, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia.
  • Work
    • (2021-ongoing) Researcher, Constructor University, Bremen, Germany.
    • (2019-2021) Occasional professor, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia.

More EXPLORE Career Profiles

EXPLORE has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004214.

EXPLORE Career Profiles: Albert Zijlstra

EXPLORE Career Profiles

Name: Albert Zijlstra
EXPLORE Project Role: Lead Developer of the EXPLORE Stellar Scientific Data Applications
Professional Role and Affiliation: Professor of Astrophysics, The University of Manchester, UK
Nationality: Dutch
Current location: Manchester, UK

1. What did you want to be when you were 10?

Undecided, I think! I was already very interested in astronomy, perhaps in part because of the Apollo landings but a future job was too far in the future. 

2. What was your favourite subject at school?

I studied mainly the sciences. Other topics were dropped as soon as it was allowed. It was required to study at least two languages for the final exams, but that was the only non-science I kept! 

3. What did you study at university? Why did you choose those topics and the places to study?

I went to the closest university, as the first one from the family to go there. I studied astrophysics. This largely follows the physics curriculum, so it was possible to do something I was really interested in without having to worry about employability.

4. How did you get your first job? How many jobs have you had since?

After my undergraduate degree, I was able to go the US on a junior research position, which became part of my PhD. I have worked in quite a few places, both academia and industry, involving 5 different continents.

5. What’s been the biggest piece of luck or ‘surprise twist’ you have had in your career to date?

I have never done career planning so all positions I have held have involved chance or ‘luck’. I worked in South Africa for a year and can say that I have seen Mandela in person on the day he was release. That was quite a year.

6. Have you had a mentor or person that inspired you? How did they help you?

I have learned from several supervisors and colleagues. There isn’t a single mentor but every time you move to a new place, you’ll find new ways and methods for doing science.  It is important to make use of those opportunities and not just keep doing the same things.

7. What are the main things you do each day?

Every day is different. There may be teaching to do, in large lectures, small groups or face to face. There are new papers to read on the latest research and of course there is my own research to work on, almost always in international collaborations. Every day is a learning experience.

8. What do you like best about the work that you do and what do you like least?

The work is great. The teaching is rewarding and the research is exciting. On the other hand, the work pressure can be very high and this has become worse since Covid. You have to be careful with your mental health.

9. Do you have ambitions or things that you would like to do next?

Not really. I will see what comes next!

10. What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

Not to worry. Everyone is different and everyone has a place.  Just do what you are good at and enjoy!

Quick CV

  • Academic qualifications
    • PhD
  • Main or selected jobs to date:
    • Professor of Astrophysics, The University of Manchester
    • Visiting Professor, University of Hong Kong (2016-2022)
    • Director Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics (2010-2015)
    • Lecturer/Reader, UMIST 
    • Astronomer, European Southern Observatory
    • Research Fellow, South Africa Astronomical Observatory
    • PhD student, Netherlands
    • Junior Research Fellow, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, USA
    • Desk Editor, Elsevier Science Publishers

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EXPLORE Career Profiles: Nick Cox

EXPLORE Career Profiles

Name: Nick Cox
EXPLORE Project Role: Project Manager
Professional Role and Affiliation: ACRI-ST, Research Engineer
Nationality: Dutch
Current location: Toulouse, France

1. What did you want to be when you were 10?

Already then, I was not very decided on what I wanted to be, and several professions caught my fancy,from being a chartered accountant (I liked numbers), an astronaut (the night sky was fascinating) to being a professional brick builder (the Danish kind of brick) 😉.

2. What was your favourite subject at school?

I don’t think I had a single favourite subject in high-school. I liked chemistry because of the hands-on experiments but also mathematics and economics (especially how it tried to capture the real world in numbers and equations). I also liked drawing and (practical) design to nurture my creative mind.

3. What did you study at university? Why did you choose those topics and the places to study?

After much deliberation I decided, at the last minute, to study astrophysics in Utrecht (Netherlands). At the time the curriculum in Utrecht was quite broad with electives in astronomy, geophysics, oceanography, computing, experimental physics, and physical chemistry. I also thought it would be challenging and give me good career prospects. Out of curiosity I did a minor in chemistry, but finally I chose to stick with astrophysics for my master’s degree.

4. How did you get your first job? How many jobs have you had since?

My first real job, after doing some temp work, was as a junior researcher/doctoral candidate. I wasn’t particularly looking to do a doctoral thesis when I stumbled upon a vacancy for an interesting research project (astronomy with a pinch of chemistry!). Since then I’ve had several academic jobs in Europe (notably Spain, Belgium, and France) before joining the company I work at currently.

5. What’s been the biggest piece of luck or ‘surprise twist’ you have had in your career to date?

After my doctoral thesis I was looking to stay in the Netherlands, and I applied for a fellowship at ESA/ESTEC (Netherlands). I did not get accepted for that position but was offered instead a position at ESA/ESAC near Madrid, Spain. This unexpected twist started my adventures abroad.

6. Have you had a mentor or person that inspired you? How did they help you?

Many persons inspired me throughout my academic journey. I have had amazing supervisors for my doctoral project, but also for my other academic posts. I learned different things from each of them, all making me a better scientist, but also a better teacher, and hopefully a better project manager 😉.

7. What are the main things you do each day?

I work mostly in the office, but I get to travel several times a year for project meetings or conferences (even though many meetings are now held online). Each day I typically spend some time to read and write emails, and do some admin. The larger part of the day I work on project tasks – with usually two or more projects running in parallel. Typical tasks are coding, data processing and analysis, writing and reviewing documents and articles, reading papers, preparing and holding meetings with colleagues, project partners and students.

8. What do you like best about the work that you do and what do you like least?

It is very gratifying to work on a code and, after many mistakes, make it work. I also like the travel part of the job, to see new cities and places, and meet colleagues/friends from all over the world. As a researcher / R&D engineer I’m continuously researching and learning new ideas and topics.

One of things that can be sometimes frustrating as a project manager is to need to chase people to answer questions or deliver inputs (but of course for the EXPLORE project this is never needed with all those amazing partners in the consortium 😉).

9. Do you have ambitions or things that you would like to do next?

For EXPLORE one of our ambitions is to further exploit the science platform we developed and to improve and create new scientific apps. Also, I’d like to create a start-up someday.

10. What advice would you give your 10-year-old self?

Follow your heart, but don’t entirely ignore your brain, to learn and work on what you find most interesting. Don’t be afraid of change, dreams evolve with time.

Quick CV

  • MSc in physics & astrophysics
  • PhD in astrophysics (2006)
  • ESA Research Fellow at European Space Astronomy Centre (2007-2010)
  • Researcher for Herschel space mission at KU Leuven (2010-2014)
  • Researcher for the Nanocosmos project at University Paul Sabatier/CNRS (2015-2016)
  • Research & Development Engineer at ACRI-ST (2017-current)

More EXPLORE Career Profiles

Create your own sky map, find the weirdest stars and explore the surface of the Moon with the EXPLORE astronomy toolkit

Create your own sky map, find the weirdest stars and explore the surface of the Moon with the EXPLORE astronomy toolkit

EXPLORE Project Press Release

A new set of tools for astronomers and planetary explorers use interactive visual analytics and machine learning to reveal and contrast properties of objects in our galaxy. From identifying the ‘weirdest’ outliers in a population of stars to creating maps of the dusty Milky Way, or combining datasets for an immersive exploration of the lunar surface, the open-source tools are designed to help astronomers investigate, annotate and work together on interesting results in a collaborative online environment.

The EXPLORE toolkit, which has been developed with funding from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 programme, was presented last month at the Astronomical Data Analysis Software & Systems (ADASS) XXXIII conference and during a technology workshop at the Italian Space Agency’s headquarters.

EXPLORE’s lunar tools allow users to navigate a 3D model of the Moon and upload, display and compare multiple datasets from lunar missions. Zooming in on a location, users can overlay basemaps with contours, visualisations at different wavelengths and spectral information on the mineralogy of the surface.  Pre-trained deep learning models help identify craters and map features. A ‘pedestrian view’ enables users to visualise themselves standing and moving around the lunar surface through digital elevation models.

Tools for stellar research are designed to investigate the properties of stars in the Milky Way observed by theEuropean Space Agency’s Gaia mission and in other large databases. Assigning a weirdness score to spectral data can help astronomers find unusual stars, or groupings that have similar characteristics, within a population of a million stars.  Comparisons of the brightness of stars at different wavelengths can reveal information on the temperature, age, size and amount of energy stars produce. When applied to a census of all the stars in the Milky Way, these collective results can help unravel the overall composition of our galaxy, and how it was built up.

Galactic tools enable users to look at dusty objects and the distribution of dust in the Milky Way in one, two or three dimensions. Slicing through the galaxy in any orientation can reveal where dust is densely clumped and where there are windows that offer potential sightlines to objects of interest. Interactive sky maps show how the dust band at the core of the Milky Way passes overhead through the day and night at any given location on Earth.

Nick Cox, the coordinator of EXPLORE, said: “These EXPLORE science applications are demonstrators for astronomers working in a broad range of fields, including stellar spectroscopy, galactic archaeology and lunar exploration. Both the EXPLORE tools and the platform they are deployed on are very flexible and can be adapted to other areas of astronomy and planetary science.”

Manuela Rauch, of the Know Center, who led the development of the visualisation tools and user interface, said: “Our goal for EXPLORE is to supply methodologies, tools and inspiration for others to create their own web apps and services!”

Giacomo Nodjoumi, of Constructor University, who developed the lunar exploration tools, said: “These new tools for the scientific community are completely open source, modular, expandable and scalable, with no installation required.”

Animations

Sky map animation showing the concentration of dust in the Milky Way above the skies of Brussels through the day and night. Credit EXPLORE consortium. The star catalogue used for the constellations is copyright 2005-2020, Marc van der Sluys, hemel.waarnemen.com and used under (CC BY 4.0) licence.

Full tutorial on using the G-TOMO tool to investigate dust in the Milky Way: 

Full tutorial on L-HEX and L-EXPLO tools to explore the surface of the Moon:

Full tutorial on using the S-PHOT tool to investigate properties of stars in the Milky Way: 

Full tutorial on using the S-DISCO tool to discover unusual stars in the Milky Way.

Images

The EXPLORE lunar tools include a ‘pedestrian view’ for visualising the exploration of the lunar surface.
The EXPLORE lunar tools include a ‘pedestrian view’ for visualising the exploration of the lunar surface. Credit: EXPLORE Consortium/TerriaJS/Smithsonian/NASA/GSFC/ASU/LROC Team/USGS.
Using the EXPLORE lunar tools, basemaps of visible imagery of the lunar surface can be overlaid by spectral data that indicate the mineralogy rocks present.
Using the EXPLORE lunar tools, basemaps of visible imagery of the lunar surface can be overlaid by spectral data that indicate the mineralogy rocks present. Credit: EXPLORE Consortium/TerriaJS/ISRO/NASA/JPL/GSFC/ASU/LROC Team/USGS.
Using the EXPLORE lunar tools, basemaps of visible imagery of the lunar surface can be overlaid by observations in other wavelengths. Clicking on points can reveal the spectral profile and chemical make-up of the rocks present.
Using the EXPLORE lunar tools, basemaps of visible imagery of the lunar surface can be overlaid by observations in other wavelengths. Clicking on points can reveal the spectral profile and chemical make-up of the rocks present. Credit: EXPLORE Consortium/TerriaJS/ISRO/NASA/JPL/GSFC/ASU/LROC Team/USGS.
Basemaps of visible imagery of the lunar surface can be overlaid by observations in other wavelengths. Clicking on points can reveal the spectral profile and chemical make-up of the rocks present.
Using the EXPLORE lunar tools, basemaps of visible imagery of the lunar surface can be overlaid by observations in other wavelengths. Clicking on points can reveal the spectral profile and chemical make-up of the rocks present. Credit: EXPLORE Consortium/TerriaJS/ISRO/NASA/JPL/GSFC/ASU/LROC Team/USGS.
With the EXPLORE lunar tools, pre-trained deep learning models help identify craters and map features.
With the EXPLORE lunar tools, pre-trained deep learning models help identify craters and map features. Credit: EXPLORE Consortium/TerriaJS/NASA/GSFC/ASU/LROC Team/USGS.
Screenshot of interface to create your own sky map showing the concentration of dust in the Milky Way overhead at your chosen location and time of day or night.
Screenshot of interface to create your own sky map showing the concentration of dust in the Milky Way overhead at your chosen location and time of day or night. Credit: EXPLORE consortium; the star catalogue used for the constellations is copyright 2005-2020, Marc van der Sluys, hemel.waarnemen.com and used under (CC BY 4.0) licence.
Taking a slice through regions of the Milky Way shows where there are dense clumps of dust and potential sightlines to interesing objects.
Taking a slice through regions of the Milky Way shows where there are dense clumps of dust and potential sightlines to interesting objects. Credit: EXPLORE Consortium.
The stellar tools reveal information on the temperature, age, size and amount of energy stars produce for a population of a million stars in the Milky Way.
The stellar tools reveal information on the temperature, age, size and amount of energy stars produce for a population of a million stars in the Milky Way. Credit: EXPLORE Consortium.

Science Contacts

Nick Cox
Coordinator, EXPLORE Project
ACRI-ST
nick.cox@acri-st.fr

Manuela Rauch
Know Center GmbH, Graz, Austria
mrauch@know-center.at

Giacomo Nodjoumi
Constructor University
gnodjoumi@constructor.university

Media Contact

Anita Heward
EXPLORE Communications Manager
Europlanet Media Centre
aheward@europlanet-society.org

About EXPLORE

Innovative Scientific Data Exploration and Exploitation Applications for Space Sciences (EXPLORE) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004214.  https://explore-platform.eu

The six scientific data applications developed by EXPLORE are: 

Galactic:

  • G-Arch: Galactic Archaeology
  • G-Tomo: Interstellar 3D tomography of dust and gas in the Galaxy

Stellar:

  • S-Phot: Stars and their blue infrared colour excess: signs of activity and circumstellar material 
  • S-Disco: Spectral discovery of stars 

Lunar:

  • L-Explo: Global multi-scale compositional higher-level products for the lunar surface
  • L-Hex: Human lunar exploration landing site characterisation and support 

EXPLORE is a consortium of seven beneficiaries:

Input has also been provided by Tel Aviv University (Israel). Dissemination for EXPLORE is supported by the Europlanet Media Centre: https://www.europlanet-society.org/media-centre/

Follow the hashtag #ExplorePlatform

YouTube channel @ExplorePlatform

Join the 2024 GMAP Geology and Planetary Mapping Winter School!

Join the 2024 GMAP Geology and Planetary Mapping Winter School!

The GMAP Geology and Planetary Mapping Winter School is an exciting opportunity to delve into planetary geological mapping with guidance from experienced scientists. The Winter School is led by GMAP, Europlanet’s geological mapping activity.

Building upon earlier editions targeting Mars, the Moon, and Mercury, the 2024 Winter School will cover exemplary geologic mapping aspects on VenusIcy Satellites and Small Bodies.

The Winter School will be largely hands-on, with the inclusion of seminars and time for asynchronous interaction and individual/project mapping work. Topics covered include: Basemap resources, QGIS project creation, and practical experience of map crafting.

The school will run synchronously in the week 22-26 January 2024, and asynchronously on the Streavent platform for the following month (February 2024). As usual, materials will be freely available after the school, for interested parties, to learn individually at their own pace.

Each body of interest will be introduced, hands-on activities will be described, and participants will be guided through the task, i.e. individual completion of a small mapping area. At the end of each day, specific time slots are dedicated to seminars, which will provide insights, perspectives and additional knowledge on related topics.

After the synchronous and asynchronous phases of the School, no dedicated support will be provided, but any interested party is welcome to participate to the monthly GMAP calls, as well as to join the GMAP Discord server for discussion and support.

Find out more

First BepiColombo Flyby of Mercury Finds Electron Rain Triggers X-Ray Auroras

First BepiColombo Flyby of Mercury Finds Electron Rain Triggers X-Ray Auroras

Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) Press Release

BepiColombo, the joint European Space Agency (ESA) and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission, has revealed how electrons raining down onto the surface of Mercury can trigger high-energy auroras. 

The mission, which has been enroute to the Solar System’s innermost planet since 2018, successfully carried out its first Mercury flyby on 1 October 2021. An international team of researchers analysed data from three of BepiColombo’s instruments during the encounter. The outcomes of this study have been published today in the scientific journal, Nature Communications.

Terrestrial auroras are generated by interactions between the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted by the Sun, and an electrically charged upper layer of Earth’s atmosphere, called the ionosphere. As Mercury only has a very thin atmosphere, called an exosphere, its auroras are generated by the solar wind interacting directly with the planet’s surface.

The BepiColombo mission consists of two spacecraft, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO) led by ESA, and the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO, named Mio after launch) led by JAXA, which are currently in a docked configuration for the seven-year cruise to the final orbit. During its first Mercury flyby, Bepicolombo swooped just 200 kilometres above the planet’s surface. The observations by plasma instruments onboard Mio enabled the first simultaneous observations of different kinds of charged particles from the solar wind in the vicinity of Mercury. 

Lead author, Sae Aizawa, of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), now at JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and University of Pisa, Italy, said: “For the first time, we have witnessed how electrons are accelerated in Mercury’s magnetosphere and precipitated onto the planet’s surface. While Mercury’s magnetosphere is much smaller than Earth’s and has a different structure and dynamics, we have confirmation that the mechanism that generates aurorae is the same throughout the Solar System.”

During the flyby, BepiColombo approached Mercury from the night side of the northern hemisphere and made its closest approach near the morning side of the southern hemisphere. It observed the magnetosphere on the daytime side of the southern hemisphere, and then passed out of the magnetosphere back into the solar wind. Its instruments successfully observed the structure and the boundaries of the magnetosphere, including the magnetopause and bow shock. The data also showed that the magnetosphere was in an unusually compressed state, most likely due to high pressure conditions in the solar wind. 

The acceleration of electrons appears to occur due to plasma processes in the dawn side of Mercury’s magnetosphere. The high energy electrons are transported from the tail region towards the planet, where they eventually rain down on the Mercury’s surface. Unimpeded by an atmosphere, they interact with material on the surface and cause X-rays to be emitted, resulting in an auroral glow. Although auroras had been observed before at Mercury by the NASA MESSENGER mission, the processes triggering the X-ray fluorescence by the surface had not been well understood and witnessed directly to date.

The study was carried out by a research team composed of the French Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), Kyoto University, ISAS, the Laboratoire de Physique des Plasmas (France), the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany), the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Osaka University, Kanazawa University, and Tokai University. The work was partially supported through Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure funding from the European Commission under grant agreement No 871149.

Publication Details

Aizawa et al. Direct evidence of substorm-related impulsive injections of electrons at Mercury. Nature Communications, 18 July, 2023.

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-39565-4

Link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-39565-4

Image 

Artist’s representation of ESA/JAXA’s BepiColombo mission flying through precipitating electrons that can trigger X-rays auroras on the surface of Mercury.

Artist’s representation of the ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission flying through precipitating electrons that can trigger X-ray auroras on the surface of Mercury. Credit: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) Thibaut Roger/Europlanet.

Science Contacts

Dr Sae Aizawa
Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), CNRS-UPS-CNES
Toulouse
France
also at ISAS, Japan and University of Pisa, Italy
sae.aizawa@irap.omp.eu

Dr Yuki Harada
Department of Geophysics, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University
Kyoto
Japan
haraday@kugi.kyoto-u.ac.jp

Dr Moa Persson
Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), CNRS-UPS-CNES
Toulouse
France
also at University of Tokyo, Japan
moa.persson@irap.omp.eu

Dr Nicolas André
Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), CNRS-UPS-CNES
Toulouse
France
Nicolas.andre@irap.omp.eu

Dr Go Murakami
Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Sagamihara
Japan
go@stp.isas.jaxa.jp

Media Contacts

Anita Heward
Press Officer
Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI)
+44 7756 034243
aheward@europlanet-society.org

Further Information

The study used data mainly from Mio’s Mercury Electron Analyzer, MEA, complemented by data from the Mercury Ion Analyzer (MIA), and Energetic Neutral Atom (ENA) instruments, which are part of the Mercury Plasma Particle Experiment (MPPE). The MPPE consortium is led by the Principal Investigator, Yoshifumi Saito, from ISAS in Tokyo, Japan. https://mio.isas.jaxa.jp/en/mission/#mission_01

About ISAS/JAXA

In October 2003, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was established as an independent administrative institution, integrating the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL). ISAS became one of four principal sections within the newly established organization. Its mission is to advance space science – scientific research conducted in outer space – in Japan, mainly by collaboration with universities. It also actively contributes to JAXA’s and Japan’s entire space development. 

ISAS’s new efforts and results in space science are published in Japan and shared with the international community, thus promoting JAXA’s status and enhancing Japan’s intellectual reputation in the world.

Web: https://www.isas.jaxa.jp/en/

Twitter: @ISAS_JAXA_EN

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. The 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. 

Europlanet 2024 RI project website: www.europlanet-2024-ri.eu

Europlanet Society website: www.europlanet-society.org   

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia

ERIM / EPEC Annual Week 2023 – Registration Now Open

Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting (ERIM)/Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Annual Week 2023 – Registration Now Open

The first Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting (ERIM), co-hosted with the fifth Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Annual Week, will take place from 19-23 June 2023 in hybrid format at the Hotel Sorea / Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia and online. 

Registration is free and accommodation and travel support is available for participants. 

Registration is now open.

Deadline for on-site registration: 19 May 2023

Deadline for virtual registration: 16 June 2023

About ERIM

ERIM is a new kind of meeting to support European planetary science and associated communities. The format of ERIM 2023 is a series of interactive workshops related to the activities of the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project, research infrastructures in general, and the Europlanet Society. The meeting will be co-hosted with EPEC Annual Week 2023, the training school for the Europlanet Early Career Network. 

How will it Work?

Workshops will be organised under a series of programme tracks. You can dip in and out of programme tracks, workshops and even sessions during the week. The aim is to make new connections, brainstorm ideas, develop synergies, increase opportunities for collaboration and help us build a strong, thriving, sustainable community for planetary science in Europe.

You don’t have to be a member of the Europlanet Society or the Europlanet 2024 RI project to participate in ERIM. We are looking for new people to engage with Europlanet, so everyone is welcome. However, we will be offering free accommodation and travel grants to a limited number (~150) of participants. If we are over-subscribed in requests for support, priority will be given to Europlanet Society members. (Find out about other benefits of joining the Europlanet Society).

Programme 

Many different topics will be covered within the ERIM programme tracks and workshops, including:

For full details of the meeting and registration, see: https://www.europlanet-society.org/erim2023/

If you have any questions, contact us.

We hope to see you in Bratislava!

The ERIM 2023 Organising Committee

SPIDER in the News

Europlanet 2024 RI logo

SPIDER in the News

Europlanet’s SPIDER (Sun Planet Interactions Digital Environment on Request) virtual access service has been in the news recently in two studies using data from ESA missions at Venus and Mars.

SPIDER provides services and databases to support researchers modelling planetary environments and solar wind interactions.

A paper published in Nature Communications, led by Dr Moa Persson of the University of Tokyo describes how the convergence of BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter at Venus in August 2021 has given a unique insight into how the planet is able to retain its thick atmosphere without the protection of a global magnetic field. 

In this video, Moa explains how SPIDER has been used to support observations by BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter of Venus’s induced magnetosphere and magnetosheath. 

Co-author of the study, Sae Aizawa of ISAS/JAXA, explains how the solar wind interacts with magnetic fields and atmospheres at different planets in our Solar System.

Back in December, a second paper led by Yoshifumi Futaana of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, showed how background radiation counts detected by ESA’s long-serving twin missions, Mars Express and Venus Express, revealed the relationship between intensity of high-energy cosmic rays and the influence of the Sun’s activity across our inner Solar System. The databases of the background radiation counts extracted for the study ere published and can be accessed through SPIDER. In this video, he explains more about his approach to his reasearch.

BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter compare notes at Venus

BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter compare notes at Venus 

Europlanet 2024 RI/ISAS/JAXA Press Release
Thursday, 26 January 2023

The convergence of two spacecraft at Venus in August 2021 has given a unique insight into how the planet is able to retain its thick atmosphere without the protection of a global magnetic field. 

The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission, enroute to study Mercury, and the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter, which is observing the Sun from different perspectives, are both using a number of gravity-assists from Venus to change their trajectories and guide them on their way.  On 9-10 August 2021, the missions flew past Venus within a day of each other, sending back observations synergistically captured from eight sensors and two vantage points in space. The results have been published in Nature Communications.

Unlike Earth, Venus does not generate an intrinsic magnetic field in its core. Nonetheless, a weak, comet-shaped ‘induced magnetosphere’ is created around the planet by the interaction of the solar wind – a stream of charged particles emitted by the Sun – with electrically charged particles in Venus’s upper atmosphere. Around this magnetic bubble, the solar wind is slowed, heated and deflected like the wake of a boat in a region called ‘magnetosheath’.

During the flyby, BepiColombo swooped along the long tail of the magnetosheath and emerged through the blunt nose of the magnetic regions closest to the Sun. Meanwhile, Solar Orbiter captured a peaceful solar wind from its location upfront of Venus.

“These dual sets of observations are particularly valuable because the solar wind conditions experienced by Solar Orbiter were very stable. This meant that BepiColombo had a perfect view of the different regions within the magnetosheath and magnetosphere, undisturbed by fluctuations from solar activity,” said lead-author Moa Persson of the University of Tokyo in Kashiwa, Japan, who was funded to carry out the study by the European Commission through the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project.

BepiColombo’s flyby was a rare opportunity to investigate the ‘stagnation region’, an area at the nose of the magnetosphere where some of the largest effects of the interaction between Venus and the solar wind are observed. The data gathered gave the first experimental evidence that charged particles in this region are slowed significantly by the interactions between the solar wind and Venus, and that the zone extends to an unexpectedly large distance of 1,900 kilometres above the planet’s surface.

The observations also showed that the induced magnetosphere provides a stable barrier that protects the atmosphere of Venus from being eroded by the solar wind. This protection remains robust even during solar minimum, when lower ultraviolet emissions from the Sun reduce the strength of the currents that generate the induced magnetosphere. The finding, which is contrary to previous predictions, sheds new light on the connection between magnetic fields and atmospheric loss due to the solar wind.

‘The effectiveness of an induced magnetosphere in helping a planet retain its atmosphere has implications for understanding the habitability of exoplanets without internally-generated magnetic fields,” said co-author Sae Aizawa of JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS).

BepiColombo comprises a pair of spacecraft, Mio, the JAXA-led Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter, and MPO, the ESA-led Mercury Planetary Orbiter, which have been stacked together for the journey to Mercury. The study combined data from Mio’s four particle sensors, the magnetometer and another particle instrument on MPO, and the magnetometer and solar wind analyser on Solar Orbiter. Europlanet’s SPIDER space weather modelling tools enabled the researchers to track in detail how features in the solar wind observed by Solar Orbiter were affected as they propagated towards BepiColombo through the venusian magnetosheath.

“The important results of this study demonstrate how turning sensors on during planetary flybys and cruise phases can lead to unique science,” said co-author Nicolas Andre, the coordinator of the Europlanet SPIDER service at the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP) in Toulouse, France.

Publication details:

Persson et al. BepiColombo mission confirms stagnation region of Venus and reveals its large extent. Nature Communications vol 13, 7743 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-35061-3 

Further information

Science and Housekeeping data for the study were obtained from eight sensors on three spacecraft:

  • Mio
    • Mercury Electron Analyzer (MEA)
    • Mercury Ion Analyzer (MIA)
    • Mass Spectrum Analyzer (MSA) 
    • Energetic Neutral Atom (ENA)
  • MPO 
    • Magnetometer (MAG)
    • Miniature Ion Precipitation Analyzer (MIPA) 
  • Solar Orbiter 
    • Magnetometer (MAG)
    • Proton Alpha Spectrometer (PAS)

Image

The convergence of BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter spacecraft at Venus in August 2021 was a rare opportunity to investigate the ‘stagnation region’, an area of the venusian magnetosphere where some of the largest effects of the interaction between Venus and the solar wind are observed. Credit: CC BY-Nc-SA 4.0 – Thibaut Roger/Europlanet 2024 RI

The convergence of BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter spacecraft at Venus in August 2021 was a rare opportunity to investigate the ‘stagnation region’, an area of the venusian magnetosphere where some of the largest effects of the interaction between Venus and the solar wind are observed.

Download full resolution image as JPG, PNG or PDF.

Video

Dr Moa Persson describes the observations by BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter of Venus’s induced magnetosphere and magnetosheath.

Dr Sae Aizawa explains how the solar wind interacts with magnetic fields and atmospheres at different planets in our Solar System.

Science Contacts

Dr Moa Persson
The University of Tokyo
Kashiwa
Japan
moa.persson@irap.omp.eu

Dr Sae Aizawa
Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Sagamihara
Japan
sae.aizawa@irap.omp.eu

Dr Go Murakami
Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Sagamihara
Japan
go@stp.isas.jaxa.jp

Dr Nicolas André
Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP)
Toulouse
France
Nicolas.andre@irap.omp.eu

Media Contacts

Anita Heward
Press Officer
Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI)
+44 7756 034243
aheward@europlanet-society.org

Further Information

About ISAS/JAXA

In October 2003, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was established as an independent administrative institution, integrating the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) and the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL). ISAS became one of four principal sections within the newly established organization. Its mission is to advance space science – scientific research conducted in outer space – in Japan, mainly by collaboration with universities. It also actively contributes to JAXA’s and Japan’s entire space development. 

ISAS’s new efforts and results in space science are published in Japan and shared with the international community, thus promoting JAXA’s status and enhancing Japan’s intellectual reputation in the world.

Web: https://www.isas.jaxa.jp/en/

Twitter: @ISAS_JAXA_EN

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. The 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. 

Europlanet 2024 RI project website: www.europlanet-2024-ri.eu

Europlanet Society website: www.europlanet-society.org   

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia

Cosmic Ray Counts Hidden in Spacecraft Data Highlight Influence of Solar Cycle at Mars and Venus

Cosmic Ray Counts Hidden in Spacecraft Data Highlight Influence of Solar Cycle at Mars and Venus

Europlanet and Swedish Institute of Space Physics Joint Press Release

EMBARGOED for 11:00 UTC / noon CET on Monday, 5 December 2022

Measurements by ESA’s long-serving twin missions, Mars Express and Venus Express, have captured the dance between the intensity of high-energy cosmic rays and the influence of the Sun’s activity across our inner Solar System. 

A comparison of data from the ASPERA plasma sensor, an instrument carried by both spacecraft, with the number of sunspots visible on the surface of the Sun shows how cosmic ray counts are suppressed during peaks of activity in the 11-year solar cycle. The international study, led by Dr Yoshifumi Futaana of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, has been published today in the Astrophysical Journal.

Cosmic rays are particles travelling at almost the speed of light that originate outside our Solar System. They are a dangerous form of high energy radiation that can cause electronic failures in spacecraft and damage the DNA of humans in space.

As well as the decadal-long relationship with the solar cycle, the researchers also looked at how cosmic ray detections varied over the short timescales of an orbit. Surprisingly, they found that the area protected from cosmic rays behind Mars is more than 100 kilometres wider than the planet’s actual radius. The cause of why this blocked area should be so large is not yet clear.

“The study shows the range of valuable insights that can be derived from what is actually background count information collected by the ASPERA instruments. Understanding the various relationships between cosmic rays and the solar cycle, the atmospheres of planets and the performance of spacecraft instrumentation is very important for future robotic missions and human exploration,” said Dr Futaana.

Launched in 2003, Mars Express remains in service around the Red Planet, while Venus Express operated from 2006 until 2014. The researchers compared the 17-year dataset from Mars and eight-year dataset from Venus with Earth-based cosmic ray measurements from the Thule neutron monitor in Greenland. Scientists took median value of cosmic ray counts over three-month periods to minimise the influence of sporadic solar activity, such as flares or coronal mass ejections. The databases of background radiation counts extracted for the study have been published and can be accessed through the Europlanet SPIDER planetary space weather service (http://spider-europlanet.irap.omp.eu/).

All the datasets showed a decrease in the number of cosmic ray detections as the peak in activity for Solar Cycle 24 was reached. In particular, the Mars Express data and the observations from Earth showed very similar features. However, there was an apparent lag of around nine months between the maximum number of sunspots and the minimum in cosmic ray detections at Mars.

“Previous studies have suggested that there is a delay of several months between solar activity and the behaviour of cosmic rays at the Earth and at Mars. Our results appear to confirm this and also provide further evidence that Solar Cycle 24 was a bit unusual, perhaps due to the long solar minimum between Cycle 23 and 24, or the relatively low activity during Cycle 24,” said Dr Futaana.

The analysis of the Venus Express data has been complicated by changes in the way onboard processing was carried out from 2010 onwards. In addition, while the ASPERA instruments carried by Mars Express and Venus Express were based on a common design, they were each tailored to the very different planetary environments in which they operated. This means that a direct comparison of cosmic ray fluxes at Mars and Venus is not possible using the available datasets. 

“The use of background counts to study the interaction of cosmic rays and high energy particles with planetary missions is relatively new. However, obtaining this information shows potential as a powerful tool, for example, in protecting the upcoming JUpiter Icy moon Explorer (JUICE) mission of the European Space Agency, which will explore the harsh environment around Jupiter’s icy moons,” said Nicolas Andre of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP) in Toulouse, France, coordinator of the Europlanet SPIDER service and co-author of this study.

Publication details

Futaana et al. Galactic Cosmic Rays at Mars and Venus: Temporal Variations from Hours to Decades Measured as the Background Signal of Onboard Micro-Channel Plates. The Astrophysical Journal. 2022. DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/ac9a49

Images

Artists’ impressions of Mars Express (left) and Venus Express (right). Credit: ESA/D Ducros/AOES Medialab.

Artists' impressions of Mars Express (left) and Venus Express (right).
Artists’ impressions of Mars Express (left) and Venus Express (right). Credit: ESA/D Ducros/AOES Medialab.

Artistic representation of galactic cosmic rays. Credit: M Eriksson/IRF.

Artistic representation of galactic cosmic rays.
Artistic representation of galactic cosmic rays. Credit: M Eriksson/IRF

Video

Interview with Dr Yoshifumi Futaana. https://youtu.be/5ZdwAEivOtY

Science Contacts

Dr Yoshifumi Futaana
Swedish Institute of Space Physics
Kiruna
Sweden
futaana@irf.se

Dr Nicolas André
Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP)/OMP
Toulouse
France
nicolas.andre@irap.omp.eu

Media Contacts

Martin Eriksson
Information officer
Swedish Institute of Space Physics
Kiruna
+46 72 581 33 33
martin.eriksson@irf.se

Anita Heward
Press Officer
Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI)
+44 7756 034243
aheward@europlanet-society.org

Further Information

About IRF

The Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) is a governmental research institute under the Ministry of Education. IRF conducts basic research and postgraduate education in space physics, space technology, and atmospheric physics.

IRF has over 60 years of experience in developing instruments for space research projects and participates in several major international collaborative projects using satellites and ground-based equipment.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. The 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. 

Europlanet 2024 RI project website: www.europlanet-2024-ri.eu

Europlanet Society website: www.europlanet-society.org   

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