December 15, 2016

Europlanet 2016 Highlight Reel

It’s been a busy year for Europlanet. Here are the outreach team’s picks of some of the project highlights from the past 12 months.

December – Discussing the most extreme environment on Earth

Expedition to Danakil. Credit: B. Cavalazzi/U. Bologna

A highlight for December was the Europlanet workshop on the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, held in the stunning Sala Rossa, Scuola Superiore di Studi Umanistici, Università di Bologna, Italy. The workshop brought together a diverse mix of geologists, astrobiologists, biotech industry, film-makers, artists, educators and outreach professionals to discuss access to this extraordinary place on Earth that is helping us redefine the conditions for life on our own planet and elsewhere in the Universe. Read more

November – Europlanet exhibits in the European Parliament

MEP Andrey Novakov at the exhibition opening in the European Parliament. Credit: Europlanet

In November, Europlanet was invited to take part in an exhibition in the European Parliament in Brussels, as part of a week of events for the 8th European Innovation Summit (8th EIS) from 14-18th November and the Science and Technology Options Assessmen (STOA) Annual Lecture. Read more

October – One of the biggest planetary science meetings in the world


In October, the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) took place in the US for the first time as part of a joint meeting with the American Astronomical Society’s Division of Planetary Science. The meeting took place in Pasadena (the city that’s home to JPL and Caltech) and was attended by 1415 members of the planetary community from the US, Europe, and around the world. Read more

September – Asteroid mining workshop, Luxembourg


In September, Europlanet looked to the future of space exploration with a workshop on asteroid mining in Luxembourg. The workshop included discussions on the specific properties of asteroids andthe engineering needs of space missions that utilize asteroids. By all accounts, the conference was a success. ASIME 2016 had 84 participants for the two-day meeting:  41 presentations with 37 ‘listeners’. Read more

August – Europlanet 2020 RI’s first birthday

The Europlanet team at the project Impact Board Meeting. Credit: Europlanet

In August, Europlanet 2020 RI celebrated its first birthday. Once the flurry of report writing was out the way, we had an opportunity to step back and admire everything our team had achieved over the first 12 months: six expert exchanges, nine scientific workshops, multiple visits to laboratory and field sites, virtual access services… Read more

July – Juno arrives at Jupiter

Juno, from the Europlanet animation, Jupiter and its Icy Moons. Credit: Europlanet

Early on the morning of 5th July, NASA’s Juno mission arrived at Jupiter early in the morning. The goal of the Juno mission is to understand the origins and evolution of the giant planet. Europlanet highlighted the many European scientists and engineers involved in the mission, held a public event in Athens and created a 5-minute animation on Jupiter and its icy moons.

June – 3D visualisation of planetary data

Europlanet RPIF Training Workshop. Credit: UCL 2016

From 9-7 June, 25 early career scientists were invited to Mullard Space Science Laboratory for a training workshop on the range of 3D visualisation tools available through the UK NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility (RPIF). Each afternoon was dedicated to a practical session using state-of-the-art computer systems for downloading and processing planetary images e.g to create fly-bys of surface features. Read more

May – Amateurs prepare big-picture observations for Juno

High-resolution observations of Jupiter obtained by the leading amateur astronomers Damian Peach and Christopher Go. Credit: D. Peach/C. Go

Some of the world’s leading amateur and professional astronomers met on 12-13 May to prepare for a campaign of ground-based global observations in support of NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter.  High-resolution observations obtained by amateur astronomers will allow Juno mission scientists to characterise the state and evolution of Jupiter’s atmosphere over the course of the mission, which is due to end in February 2018. Read more

April – Europlanet dinner debate in the European Parliament


On 27th April 2016, Europlanet organised a dinner debate in the European Parliament, hosted by Ms Clare Moody MEP. The topic was ‘The Impact of the EU on Planetary Science’ and aimed to discuss the impact of EU Funding on planetary research and innovation, and priorities for ensuring the future competitiveness of this world-leading community. Read more

March – Lift off for Planetary Space Weather Services


Europlanet’s new virtual access facility, Planetary Space Weather Services (PSWS), held its kick-off meeting in March. PSWS will offer five ‘toolkits’ that will extend our understanding and prediction tools for space weather to the other planets in our Solar System and the spacecraft that voyage through it. It will also provide an ‘diary’ for predicting and detecting events like meteor showers and impacts. Read more

February – VESPA virtual observatory

Europlanet’s Virtual European Solar and Planetary Access (VESPA) closed its first call for data services in February. The aim of VESPA is to make planetary science and Solar System data accessible and searchable throguh an astronomical “Virtual Observatory”. Up to 50 new databases are expected to be made available on-line during the 4-year Europlanet2020-RI programme. Users of VESPA can retrieve data files based on location, time, observing conditions, viewing geometry, etc, and can view and analyse data online with virtual observatory tools. Over 25 data services are now connected to VESPA so far, covering all aspects of planetary science, including surfaces, atmospheres, plasma, small bodies, exoplanets, etc. including the Encyclopedia of Exoplanets in Paris Observatory (which had ~ 250,000 visit in 2016) and amateur observations of Jupiter (RadioJove). Read more

January – Expeditions to Ethiopia

Hydrothermal system at the Danakil Depression. Credit: Felipe Gomez/Europlanet 2020 RI

The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. Water at near-boiling temperatures bubbles up from underground, high salt concentrations create multi-coloured structures, and chlorine and sulphur vapour fogs the air. The first visit led by Dr Barbara Cavalazzi from 18th to 29 January 2016 involved collecting samples to reconstruct environmental changes in the area over the past 3 years. In a follow-up expedition in April, Europlanet researchers led by Dr Felipe Gómez  investigated the site’s geology, mineralogy and biology, found that the Danakil Depression hosts at least three extreme ecosystems that have the potential to help us understand how life might arise on other planets and moons. Read more