Europlanet 2017 Highlights
December 27, 2017

Review of Europlanet Highlights in 2017

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

December – Europlanet steers a path to the future

The first meeting of a Steering Group that will oversee the establishment of a new Europlanet Society, open to individual and institutional members, was held on 20th December at the European Science Foundation in Strasbourg. The Society, which will be launched in 2018, will ensure the longterm, sustainable future for Europlanet in supporting the European planetary science community.

November – PhysisArt

PhysisArt exhibition opening in Bologna. Credit: ALMA MATER STUDIORUM – Università di Bologna

This autumn saw the launch of PhysisArt, an exhibition of images and works by the artist, Samantha Tistoni, who accompanied Europlanet researchers for a field trip to Danakil in January 2017.  The exhibition has been supported by a series of talks on Danakil and planetary science by Dr. Barbara Cavalazzi, a researcher at the Department of Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Bologna, who also took part in the field trip. Following its launch in Bologna in October, the exhibition went on display in Modena from 18-26 November. You will have further chances to catch the exhibition in Chieti and Pescara in March 2018. Read more

October – Planetary Space Weather Services

Evolution of a solar flare through the inner Solar System. Credit: Futaana/Swedish Institute of Space Physics

Space weather – the monitoring and prediction of disturbances in our near-space environment and how they are controlled by the Sun – is an important aspect of understanding our Earth and protecting vital assets such as orbiting satellites and power grids. Europlanet’s Planetary Space Weather Services (PSWS) virtual access facility provides toolkits for tracking planetary or solar events through the Solar System to assist researchers and industry planning for space missions. In October, PSWS held a workshop to review observations of planetary space weather and space climate obtained by space missions, as well as to identify ways to improve modelling of space weather and space climate in our Solar System. A topical issue of Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate about planetary space weather will be published in the spring of 2018 summarising the presentations at this workshop and sessions at EPSC and the 14th European Space Weather Week. Read more

September – European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2017, Riga, Latvia

The registration team at EPSC 2017. Credit: Mareks Matisons / / LMT

The European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2017, held from 16-22 September in Riga, Latvia, was attended by 808 participants from 40 countries. This was the first time EPSC had been held in the Baltics. EPSC 2017 was a very successful meeting, not just for the science presented but also for the public and political engagement activities around the event. Read our highlights

August – Anticipating our Astrobioloby animation

In August, we prepared to launch our third animation, “Astrobiology – Life in the Universe”, which shows how planetary scientists are looking for signs of life on other planets and using our very own Earth as a laboratory. Read more

July – Europlanet Summer School 2017

Participants at the Europlanet Summer School 2017. Credit: Andrius Zigmantas

Europlanet’s outreach activity joined forces with its science networking activity to run the 2017 Europlanet Summer School “Space missions: ground-based observations and science communication” from 18-28 July at the Molėtai Astronomical Observatory in Lithuania. The summer school was attended by 21 students from 13 countries who carried out observations of exoplanet transits and variable stars, as well as taking part in science communication training workshops. Read more

June – Europlanet Prize Announcement 2017

“Comets – The Rosetta Mission” Exhibition at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin. Credit: CD Werbeagentur/Eventfotograf Gerald Schmidt.

In June, we announced that the Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement 2017 had been awarded to the team behind the outstandingly successful exhibition, “Comets – The Rosetta Mission: Journey to the Origins of the Solar System”, at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin. Ulrich Köhler, Dr. Barbara Stracke and Dr. Ekkehard Kührt, of the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, accepted the award on behalf of the exhibition’s curation team at EPSC 2017 in Riga. The calls for the 2018 prize and Europlanet public engagement funding scheme are open until the 31st January.

May – Europlanet passes its mid-term review

In May, the Europlanet 2020 Research Infrastructure (RI) had its first mid-term review at the European Commission in Brussels. Before the review, we submitted a 190 page report covering our progress since the project started on 1st September 2015. Some of the achievements by the end of the reporting period (28th February) include:

  • 181 applications to our Transnational Access programme, with 31 visits having taken place, supporting the work of over 140 researchers.
  • 32 tools available online in VESPA, the virtual planetary observatory , 21 of which were developed during the first 18 months of Europlanet 2020 RI. A further 10 services are being developed, and the tools and services will be increased and enhanced throughout the rest of the project.
  • Workshops, meetings and conferences engaging more than 3000 researchers organised through Europlanet 2020 RI.
  • 33 press releases, 2 animations, 13 briefings with politicians, 2 collections of educational resources disseminated through Europlanet’s outreach activity.

The review went very well. In her report, the reviewer commented on the “significant results” delivered by Europlanet so far. Our next review will be in October 2018, at which point we will have many more updates for you on our activities during the next phase of the project.

April – Mapping surfaces workshop

Participants at the workshop in Roscoff

Europlanet’s science networking activities has a wide ranging programme of workshops and meetings on planetary topics, technology foresight and engaging with amateur astronomers. In April, Europlanet held a workshop in Roscoff, France, on planetary mapping, as well as using and enhancing the “VESPA” virtual observatory. There were 30 participants on site and 7 people took part remotely in presentations, discussions, tutorials, hands-on sessions and hackathons. Read more

March – Monthly Webinars

School in Mozambique participating in Europlanet monthly webinar.

In March, we started a new collaboration with Nuclio to run monthly webinars aimed at schools and teachers. The series has so far covered: Tales of geology and education in Ethiopia,  Saturn’s Icy Moons as Possible HabitatsCassini-Huygens and The Lord of the Rings, Dust Devils on Earth and Mars, Impact Cratering and Diamonds, time capsules from the deep Earth.  Read more

February – First publication on new technique for sample analysis

Diamonds with inclusions. Credit: M. Gress, VU Amsterdam

In February, the first paper was published on Europlanet’s joint research activity to improve capabilities for analysing the mineralogical, geochemical and isotopic composition of rare or unique samples, such as material from sample return missions or meteorites.  By allowing for the analysis of smaller samples, this work is expected to open up totally new areas of research providing new understanding of planetary formation and evolution. The peer-reviewed paper in “Earth and Planetary Science Letters” reported a study of tiny mineral ‘inclusions’ within diamonds from Botswana, which showed that diamond crystals can take billions of years to grow. Read more

January – New Transnational Access sites

The Danakil Depression. Credit: B Cavalazzi, U. Bologna

In January, the Europlanet team returned to the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia to complete characterisation of the site as a planetary analogue of Venus and the early Earth. The process of characterisation for both Danakil and Lake Tirez, a new martian analogue site in Spain, has included the creation of biological distribution maps that will help understand the processes that control the interaction between biology and geology of the habitat. Danakil and Lake Tirez can now be visited by the wider scientific community through Europlanet’s transnational access scheme, along with other field sites and laboratory facilities. Read more