Dancing around Venus

Dancing around Venus

A close flyby of the planet Venus between 9 and 10 August, led to an (almost) meeting of the Euro-Japanese BepiColombo and the Euro-American Solar Orbiter (SOLO) spacecrafts. Venus isn’t the final destination of either mission but the approach to the planet made it possible to collect valuable data for future studies.

The almost-contemporary flyby at Venus of Solar Orbiter is a great opportunity to have more data and an additional point of view of the Venus environment. We’ll take advantage of it!” says Valeria Mangano, coordinator of the ESA working group on Venus flybys of the BepiColombo mission. 

SOLO will use Venus’s gravity multiple times to get closer to the Sun and to change direction to get a good look at the Sun’s poles (a first for a spacecraft), while BepiColombo needs gravitational help from Earth, Venus and Mercury itself to reach its destination.  BepiColombo, named after the Paduan mathematician, physicist, astronomer and engineer Giuseppe Colombo, is the result of the collaboration between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) with European leadership. The aim of the mission is to unveil the deepest secrets of Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun and one of the least explored in the Solar System. Four out of the sixteen instruments and experiments on board BepiColombo were built by Italian industry and the Mercury Planetary Orbiter carries onboard the Italian instruments ISA, SERENA and SIMBIO-SYS, and the MORE radio-science experiment.

ESA’s SOLO spacecraft encountered Venus at an altitude of 7995 km 33 hours earlier than BepiColombo and on the opposite face of the planet. Its main mission is to observe the surface of the Sun and study the changes that occur in the solar wind that is emitted at high speed by our star. Among its ten instruments, SOLO carries Metis, the innovative coronagraph born through an international collaboration led by the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and supported by the Italian Space Agency (ASI), involving several universities in Italy and research institutes in the world. 

Approaching Venus has allowed the two spacecraft to make several science investigations of the planet’s atmosphere and its induced magnetosphere and ionosphere. During its flyby, the Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (SoloHI) was able to capture a view of the planet Venus’s nightside, which appeared as a dark semicircle surrounded by a gleaming, bright crescent of light. The day after and a few minutes after BepiColombo’s closest approach of 552km, the Mercury Transfer Module’s Monitoring Camera 2 took this beautiful black-and-white snapshot with the high-gain antenna and part of the body of the spacecraft visible in front of Venus.

Beautiful view of Venus on 10 August 2021 as bepiColombo passed the planet for a gravity assist manoeuvre.

The Venus Flybys Working group (VFBWG, here the relative ESA webpage), Valeria tells us, aims to promote discussion on Venus science as related to the BepiColombo passages nearby the planet, and also by taking advantage of some of the complementary observations from Earth-based telescopes and by amateur astronomers. Europlanet 2024 RI is actively involved in this, by supporting and encouraging the amateur observations through a campaign coordinated by Ricardo Hueso and Itziar Garate-Lopez from UPV/EHU in Spain. You can find some of the images collected after the first BepiColombo Venus flyby last October on the Planetary Virtual Observatory and Laboratory (PVOL) website. The working group also supports coordination of Venus observations by BepiColombo and other spacecraft. JAXA’s Akatsuki spacecraft, for instance, is now in orbit around Venus and joint observations of the plasma environment surrounding the atmosphere of Venus will enable, again, new insights concerning the planet that were not previously achievable.

Apparently the data for the public will be coming through and continuously being uploaded to the ESA’s dedicated webpage but it will take some time.

Now that the flyby at Venus has passed, we are all working hard at the data analysis, interacting among the teams to gain the most comprehensive view of what we measured. This is at the same time the most stressful and exciting moment of the flyby, when you realise if all the efforts we did of planning the ‘best possible measurements’ really worked and will bring us results or not,” Valeria Mangano continues.

Even more exciting is that all the data collected during the flybys will provide useful inputs to ESA’s future Venus orbiter, EnVision, which is scheduled to launch to Venus in the 2030s.

It seems that the heavens will continue to give us great, emotional highlights in the years to come and we can do nothing but wait, anxiously, for the next planetary dance. The next appointment is for the night of 1-2 October, when BepiColombo will finally see its long dreamed-of destination, making its first of six flybys of the planet Mercury.

EPSC2021: aperte le domande per richiedere il rimborso della quota di partecipazione

Entro il 23 Luglio 2021 è possibile applicare per richiedere il rimborso della quota di iscrizione al congresso EPSC2021 (nel caso di registrazione anticipata), nonché della quota per l’Abstract Processing Fee.

Possono richiedere il rimborso:
-professionisti a inizio carriera (entro 7 anni dall’ultima laurea)
-studenti di dottorato
-astronomi amatoriali
-divulgatori
-educatori
-ricercatori da Paesi sotto-rappresentati

E’ necessario che i candidati abbiano un abstract accettato per per la conferenza (per presentazione orale o poster).

Per applicare è sufficiente compilare il form online. I candidati prescelti riceveranno comunicazione nella settimana del 26 luglio, per consentire loro di registrarsi prima della scadenza della quota di registrazione anticipata del 3 agosto.

Worskshop virtuale “Ricerca & Sviluppi Tecnologici per In-Situ Resources Utilization”

L’Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI) chiama la comunità scientifica e industriale nazionale a presentare, in un evento interamente virtuale, lo stato dell’arte delle proprie attività di ricerca e sviluppo di tecnologie per lo sfruttamento delle risorse in situ (ISRU) su Luna, Marte ed asteroidi. L’appuntamento è per il 6 Ottobre 2021 al workshop “Ricerca & Sviluppi Tecnologici per In-Situ Resources Utilization”.

La partecipazione è libera, ma è necessario registrarsi entro il 10 settembre 2021 attraverso il modulo online.

Le proposte e gli interventi possono riguardare uno dei seguenti argomenti:

Acquisizione, preparazione, classificazione delle risorse

• Tecnologie per la produzione di consumabili (es. acqua, ossigeno, propellenti)

• Tecnologie per la produzione di risorse per manufacturing

• Generazione e storage di potenza in-situ

• Estrazione e storage materiale per sample return mission

• Facility per testing e validazione a terra di tecnologie

Ulteriori informazioni sul workshop nella brochure di presentazione.

Call for a PostDoc Research Fellowship on the analysis of Mars Oxia Planum @INAF-IAPS (Rome)

The INAF-Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology (Rome, Italy) is seeking applicants for onePostdoctoral Research Fellowship” in the context of the research project “Analysis of Oxia Planum from remote sensing data and terrestrial laboratory analogs of Mars and Ceres”.

Deadline: 22 January 2021.

The grant is based on the project “EXOMARS Ma_MISS” and “DAWN” and will be carried out under the scientific supervision of dr. Maria Cristina De Sanctis and dr. Francesca Altieri.

The expected start date is April 2021, with a duration of 12 months and the potential of renewal for further two years.

The successful candidate is expected to work on the data analysis of the Oxia Planum site and on laboratory activities for the preparation and characterization of analogs of Ceres and Mars.

More information with the complete description of the position and the documents to fill out here.


The great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn: the Italian eye

A few days ago, on December 21st, the entire world has raised its eyes to the sky to admire the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, popularly and somewhat erroneously known as the “Christmas Star”. For this particular occasion, which will not occur until the year 2080, in Italy, some headquarters from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) have joined forces and carried out live, on EduINAF‘s Facebook and YouTube channels, the event “Jupiter and Saturn: the meeting of the giants”.

What made last Monday a remarkable astronomical event was indeed the positions of these two planets: although being aligned in the sky about once every 20 years, it’s been nearly 400 years since Jupiter and Saturn passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since this alignment occurred at night, allowing nearly everyone around the world to see this “great conjunction”. The previous one was on July 16, 1623. However, on that occurrence the two planets were too close to the Sun to be easily observed. We must go back to the late Middle Ages, precisely to March 4, 1226, to find a celestial event of similar magnitude, potentially visible in the terrestrial skies.

During the italian streaming, aired on the 21st on EduINAF’s main social channels from 5pm to 7 pm, astronomers from the INAF guided the audience (of over 10000 people) through the live observations of the planetary conjunction seen by the various italian observatories involved (Roma, Trieste and Palermo) also showing images collected in the previous days both from Italy and other telescopes in the world. The experience was made even more interesting by the insights the astronomers gave about the most recent discoveries in the field of planetary physics and the relevance of this celestial event, exceptionally occurred on the day of the winter solstice.

An image taken from the Rapid Eye Mount Telescope (La Silla Observatory-Chile), used during the italian streaming to show the “Great Conjunction” event of Jupiter and Saturn in the sky on Dec. 21st.

If you missed it and you want to discover more and more about this fascinating encounter of giants, you can look to this gallery of images and watch the recording of the streaming (available in italian) here.

Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn – 21 December 2020

Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn – 21 December 2020

Over the last months of 2020, Jupiter and Saturn have dominated the night sky. Now, as the year ends and as their positions approach twilight, they will end up offering a final show: the Great Conjunction, a “Gathering of Giants”. Their closest apparent approach, as viewed from Earth, will occur on December 21 at 18:27 (UTC), at which time the angular separation of these gas giants will be only 6.11 minutes arc. Another similar conjunction will not occur until the year 2080. The previous one took place on July 16, 1623. 

The Spain and Portugal Hub of the Europlanet Society has joined forces with observatories across Spain and around the world to encourage the participation of professionals and amateur observers and outreach activities to celebrate this event. A series of online events are taking place, including a webinar this evening (21 December 2020 – 6:30 PM CET [5:30 PM UT]), with simultaneous connections to the different observatories.
Find out more on the Europlanet Society Spain and Portugal Regional Hub page.
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Soapbox Science: women scientists in Belgium speak about their research live on social media

Soapbox Science: women scientists in Belgium speak about their research live on social media

On Saturday October 10, from 2 p.m. to 5:10 p.m., seven women scientists in Belgium will tell you about their research during the first Soapbox Science event in Brussels, which will be exceptionally held online due to COVID-19. 

Soapbox Science is a science outreach initiative that aims to promote the visibility of women scientists and their research by bringing them on the streets to reach the public. Soapbox Science events transform public areas in discussion forums based on Hyde Park’s Speaker’s Corner where women scientists, on their soapboxes, talk about their research to the people passing by.

Why women scientists? Even today, women scientists constitute a minority in the research field, and their relative number dwindles as the seniority in the field increases. Recent research shows that women face a lot of obstacles from a very young age, notably due to strongly held stereotypes and biases related to the image of the scientist.

For those reasons, Soapbox Science aims at tackling stereotypes, and shows to the public that science is not an “old white man’s” business and that anyone has the opportunity to enjoy science in an interactive way.

Soapbox Science was founded in 2011 in London, by Dr Seirian Sumner, from the University of Bristol, and Dr Nathalie Pettorelli, from the Zoological Society of London. The concept went on with great international success, with 42 events in 13 countries in 2019.

Soapbox Science Brussels 2020 will be the first ever Soapbox Science event in Belgium, adding our country to the growing list. However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the event will be held online via livestream on the Soapbox Science Brussels YouTube channel and Facebook page instead of taking place in the streets of Brussels. Each speaker will talk about their research and answer questions coming in live from the audience for 20 minutes, with talks in French, Dutch and English. Follow all updates and programme on Twitter @SoapboxscienceB Come hear them talk to discover their fascinating cutting-edge research!

Watch Soapbox Science Brussels 2020 live on October 10, from 2 p.m. on the Soapbox Science Brussels YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/33wJRtP and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SoapboxScienceBrussels/.

Details of the event: http://soapboxscience.org/soapbox-science-2020-brussels/

Soapbox Science Brussels is sponsored by the Royal Observatory of Belgium, the Royal Belgian Institute of Space Aeronomy and Europlanet Benelux.

Contact:
Soapbox Science Brussels
Email: soapboxsciencebrussels AT oma.be
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SoapboxScienceBrussels
Twitter: @SoapboxscienceB

Soapbox Science flyer
Soapbox Science flyer
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