Farinella Prize 2022 – deadline extended

Extended deadline for 12th ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize, 2022

The DEADLINE for nominations for this year’s Farinella Prize is extended to May 15th 2022.

The 12th Paolo Farinella Prize will be awarded to a young scientist with outstanding contributions in the field of planetary science concerning ‘Asteroids: Physics, Dynamics, Modelling and Observations‘, including theoretical, modelling, experimental and observational work on asteroids. The award winner will be honoured during the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022 in Granada (Spain).

For the 12th ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize the terms and rules are as follows:

  1. A competition is announced to award the ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize for the year 2022. The Prize consists of a plate, a certificate and the amount of 1500 €. The winner is expected to give a Prize lecture during EPSC2022.
  2. The winner will be selected on the basis of their overall research results in the field of ‘Asteroids: Physics, Dynamics, Modelling and Observations‘. 
  3. Nominations must be sent by email not later than May 1st to the following addresses: michelp@oa.eu, acb@ua.es and david.lucchesi@inaf.it, using the downloadable form.
  4. The nominations for the ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize can be made by any researcher that works in the field of planetary sciences following the indications in the attached form. Self-nominations are acceptable. The candidates should have international and interdisciplinary collaborations and should be not older than the age of Paolo when he passed away, 47 years, as of 1 May 2022. 
  5. The winner of the Prize will be selected before 20 June 2022 by the ‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize Committee composed of outstanding scientists in planetary sciences, with specific experience in the field. 
  6. The Prize Committee will consider all the nominations, but it will be entitled to autonomously consider other candidates.

To honour the memory and the outstanding figure of Paolo Farinella (1953-2000), an extraordinary scientist and person, a Prize has been established in recognition of significant contributions in the fields of interest of Paolo, which spanned from planetary sciences to space geodesy, fundamental physics, science popularisation, security in space, weapon control and disarmament.

The Prize has been proposed during the ‘International Workshop on Paolo Farinella, the scientist and the man‘, held in Pisa in 2010.

Previous recipients of the ‘Paolo Farinella Prize’ were:

‘Paolo Farinella’ Prize homepage.

Light up the sky of the world – Expo in Dubai

Light up the sky of the world – Expo in Dubai

On March 16, 2022Let’s light up the skies of the world took place in the Italian Pavillion of the 2020 EXPO in Dubai. The event, organised by OAE Center Italy and INAF, was constituted by two different moments: a hands-on laboratory for the pupils of local schools, and a roundtable on the topic Astronomy for Teaching: from theory to practice, which took place both in person and in live streaming.

The team organizing the event was composed by Caterina BoccatoStefano SandrelliAlessandra Zanazzi and Livia Giacomini, with the support of the staff of the Italian Pavillion, led by Lorenzo Micheli. The INAF team was also supported by Marcos Valdes, CEO of VIS (Virtual Immersions in Science), who, in the course of event, presented Moon Landing VR, a virtual-reality 360° video to live the Apollo 11 Moon landing.

In the teaching lab, called Let’s light up the skies of the world, about twenty girls from the GEMS Al Khaleej International School, an International school based in Dubai, lit up the stars with LEDs and paper circuits, inventing their own constellations and connecting them to the legends and myths of different cultures of the world. They were led, in addition to the INAF team, by two teachers – Ruba Tarabay, STEAM Coordinator and Responsible for junior secondary classes, and Mohammed Kheder, Astronomy teacher.

In this laboratory, we reason on the fact that constellations do not exist, because they are formed by stars which are not connected to each other,’ Alessandra Zanazzi say. ‘However, constellations are important from the practical point of view, as a reference in order to measure both time and seasons. They also have an important cultural meaning, because all peoples of the world have always observed the sky and connected the dots of the stars to form drawings of what was important for their culture. In the laboratory, we started building a paper circuit, so as to light up a constellation made of LEDs, taking inspiration from a teaching proposal developed by the INAF Play Group. Then, based on the intercultural activities “Cieli del mondo” [World Skies] who inspired several proposals of EduINAF, each participant was free to give vent to their own creativity, overlaying on “official” constellations, the ones coming from different cultural traditions, or of their own design. Here in Dubai, we saw dromedaries, butterflies, and desert oasis being drawn…’

In the second part of the morning, a roundtable took place with Markus Poessel, Responsible for the IAU-OAE Office, Stefano Sandrelli and Sara Ricciardi of the OAE Center Italy, Hamid Al-Naimiy and Ilias Fernini of SAASST (Sharjah Academy for Astronomy, Space Sciences & Technology) and Pedro Russo of Leiden University/Ciência Viva.

Stefano Sandrelli, Director of the new OAE Center Italy says: ‘We are happy to be here today, because the theme of the Dubai EXPO is sustainability. The world can only be sustainable if it has at its heart a culture based on hospitality, on the mutual respect for differences and on true and profound dialogue. That is why the main issue of the roundtable is the codesign, which OAE Center Italy is carrying out with all the countries bordering the Mediterranean. In this project, each country proposes activities addressed to primary school pupils, which are later discussed and modified together. All this will result in a teacher training course which is going to be organized in the island of Lampedusa next summer.

Enjoy the photo-gallery of the event and the voices of the protagonists.

Light up the skies!

Banner image credit: INAF

James O’Donoghue and his animated Universe

Is it possible to make good scientific communication in a simple and intriguing way? The answer is yes, and Dr James O’Donoghue, winner of this year’s Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement, is proof of that.

James, ground-based infrared astronomer of Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus at JAXA, Japan, has a simple goal in mind: to paint an accurate picture of the Solar System in people’s minds, at the same time highlighting its most relevant features in an intuitive way. Its trademark are short and content-rich animations, now with more than 200 million views on his social networks and used by teachers, in outreach events, for press releases and space missions descriptions.

“I’m lucky because the Universe is a cool topic,” he says. We, on the other hand, think that his idea of making science simply using images and animations is incredible, and so we decided to find out more.

Federica Duras and Livia Giacomini interviewed James about his outreach activity, how it started and what it means for him.

James, what is your scientific area and background? Which is your favourite planet and mission, i.e. the one you never get tired of talking about?
My area of expertise is in observing the uppermost parts of the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn. After Earth, I’d have to say my favourite planet lately is either one of the Ice Giants Uranus or Neptune! It used to be Saturn, but I changed my mind recently as these freezing cold giants have so many unknowns. That’s mostly because they’ve only ever had 1 fly-by of a spacecraft ever, in the 1980s, so you could say that I’m getting somewhat obsessed by their mysteriousness! The Cassini spacecraft is my favourite mission, it was a real tank of a spacecraft that orbited Saturn for 13 years and made countless discoveries.

Is it easy to combine your scientific and your communicator activity? What does making and sharing scientific animations represent for you?
I would say that my communication is mainly through the medium of animations or images, I think it’s the fastest way to get the information across and the most fun! I enjoy making animations, I feel that it’s finally a way for me to have a creative outlet, especially as I was never good at more traditional forms of art. Making these animations allows me to blend science with design and share my personal view of space with people directly. In other words, I often have some picture about how some space phenomenon works in my head, and while I could explain that to someone with words, I much prefer to show them that picture. When some of my first videos went viral, it was a bit of a psychological shock to my system as an introvert, actually, as it felt like millions of people were getting a direct line into my thoughts that I had displayed in the animation! After getting over that, however, I have since started to really enjoy that connection with people and made almost 100 new videos since then. My motivations began and continue with the feedback received from the public and educators out there who have continued to be fascinated and surprised by how the universe works, without them I might have stopped or slowed down early on.

What is your best animation, the one you are never tired of looking at and are very proud of having made?
My favourite animation is the light speed one, as it is something I have wanted to get across for a long time. Since I was a teenager I realised the vast distances in space take a long time to cross, even at light speed, and honestly it fills me with horror to think about how distant we are from even the nearest planets. It would take at least several thousand years to get to the nearest star with our fastest spacecraft, and that’s just over 4 light years away! The entire galaxy is 100,000 light years across and the nearest large galaxy is 2.5 million light years away. These distances are unthinkably vast even at light speed, and it’s been my pleasure to share this nightmare with tens of millions of people.

James in a Japanese documentary. Credits: James O’Donoghue

Which scientific fact or idea you would like to explain and never managed to explain with an animation (yet)?
I would like to explain general and special relativity, but I need time to investigate how best to teach it visually.

You once were in NASA and now are at Jaxa, in Japan. How would you describe the life of a space scientist to a young student deciding for his/her future?
The main thing I would say is that space science will keep you busy by growing dozens of different skills simultaneously. It’s not just about observing with a telescope or receiving data from a distant spacecraft, the job entails a large amount of computer programming and writing. You will not get bored at all and will never run out of things to do. You can certainly find the things you are best at and become the world’s expert in it quite quickly, since there are usually very few people working in each area. There are only 10,000s of astronomers and space scientists out there and we have an entire universe to cover. To speak frankly and honestly, it is a tough job in terms of job security because most of the time you will be operating on an approximately 3 year contract until getting a permanent job. 

Coming back to you, what are your plans and dreams for your future working life? 
My dream job is certainly one which combines research and outreach with a bit of teaching. Right now my outreach efforts are mostly done in my free time, and as my free time is getting smaller every year, I would like to do it as part of my job in a more serious way.

And given the results, we cross our fingers!
Thanks James.

Il Cielo in salotto: aperitif with the Comet!

Monday 8 November, starting at 18:30 (CEST), a live online event of the EduINAF’s format “Il cielo in salotto“, to celebrate the return to our skies of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The comet studied by the Rosetta space mission has reached the perihelion on November 2nd, and it will be at its minimum distance from Earth (just over 60 million km) on November 12th: between these two dates the comet, visible with the help of a small telescope or large binoculars, will be at its maximum brightness.
The return of 67P is in conjunction with another important anniversary related to the mission: on November 12th it will be exactly 7 years since the landing of the probe Philae on the comet, the highlight of the adventurous Rosetta mission that accompanied 67P in its journey around the Sun between 2014 and 2016.

During the live event some special guests will show us images and videos of 67P collected by INAF telescopes and EduINAF readers fond of sky observations. The audience will discover some of the scientific secrets of comets and finally relive together some of the most exciting moments of the Rosetta mission. For the most enterprising, it will also be an opportunity to learn how to observe our celestial guest with a small binoculars or telescope and try to photograph it. Since a few weeks, indeed, 67P is the great protagonist of the observational campaign entitled “Cattura la Cometa!” organised by EduINAF together with the Unione Astrofili Italiani, AstronomiAmo, the Italian Association for Astronautics and Space and the Astronomical Observatory of the Autonomous Region of Valle d’Aosta and with the collaboration of Europlanet. The images collected are published on EduINAF and the most beautiful ones will be shown and commented during the live event.
The appointment is on the EduINAF’s YouTube channel: go here to find all the information!

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.

Inspiring Stories – #PlanetaryScience4All: A Video Contest for Virtual Science Communication

Inspiring Stories – #PlanetaryScience4All: A Video Contest for Virtual Science Communication

In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Melissa Mirino (doctoral candidate at The Open University and of the Chair EPEC Communications Working Group) shares how the extraordinary experiences of 2020 inspired her to launch a contest to bring together the early career community. This story is an extract from the first Issue of the Europlanet magazine.

The year 2020 will be always remembered as a year of isolation, disruption of the normal daily activities, and in extreme cases a year of loss. However, during this period we all did our best to find alternative solutions to carry on with our lives, jobs and activities and remain positive and connected with each other using the current available technologies. Research and academia have not been an exception. Both the Europlanet Society and the Europlanet Early Career Network (EPEC) did their best to remain active, and to guarantee the usual sharing of ideas and scientific results by transforming the EPSC 2020 Conference into a virtual meeting. 

As Chair of the EPEC Communications Working Group, I wanted to create an activity that could combine the EPEC goal of supporting early careers, our working group’s aim of communication, and the need to transform face-to-face activities into a shareable, interactive and online form to support the EPSC2020 virtual meeting. The idea of a video contest came to mind. This format is already considered by many universities as a good way to train and challenge students in science communication. Since the main subject of EPSC is planetary science, the topic of the video contest was easy to identify. With support from the EPSC2020 Outreach and Europlanet Communications teams, and many months of planning, creating and sharing the new activity, the #PlanetaryScience4All video contest became a reality. #PlanetaryScience4All challenges early career students to present their research in four minutes to a non-expert audience. 

The first edition (2020) of the contest was open to Ph.D. candidates involved in planetary science studies, asking them to explain their Ph.D. research using any type of creative video format (Lego movies, drawing, PowerPoint, storytelling, etc.). The videos were judged based on criteria of scientific content, communication skills, and creativity by a panel of experts from the Europlanet Community. All the contestants and their videos were featured in live sessions during EPSC2020, promoted on YouTube, and shared widely on social media. The winning video was highlighted through the Europlanet website and newsletters, and it has also been used for EPEC outreach activities. The winner of the 2020 edition, Grace Richards, received free registration to this year’s EPSC2021 meeting. Recently, Grace and Gloria Tognon, another contestant, have also joined the EPEC Communications Working Group to support our activities. Based on the success of the 2020 competition, I feel confident that #PlanetaryScience4All will become a traditional part of EPSC. 

The second edition is now open, this year welcoming Bachelor’s and Master’s students, as well as PhD candidates working on a thesis related to planetary science.

For more information FAQs, flyers, and the submission form visit: https://www.europlanet-society.org/early-careers-network/epec-communications-group/planetaryscience4all-video-contest/

Videos from the 2020 #PlanetaryScience4All contest can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/ playlist?list=PLPXeplhp1d00fmFd9vYXirNt_gyZrKOPA. The first Europlanet Magazine issue is available at: https://www.europlanet-society.org/europlanet-magazine/issue-1/?fbclid=IwAR38hwgnbbP6Y3Vn6RdQZNOZ_OPQhsFQuuvEGY5VhP4vUnebRRH_u9IJniQ#dearflip-df_16450/42/

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 EXOMARS/Ma_MISS, DAWN, ROSETTA/VIRTIS

The INAF-Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology (Rome, Italy) is seeking applicants for one “Postdoctoral Research Fellowship” in the context of the research project “Modelling of surfaces of solid bodies of the Solar System and comparison with data from space probes and terrestrial analogues in the laboratory”.

Deadline30 June 2021.

The grant is based on the project “EXOMARS Ma_MISS”, “DAWN” and “Rosetta/VIRTIS” and will be carried out under the scientific supervision of dr. Maria Cristina De Sanctis and dr. Fabrizio Capaccioni.

The expected start date is September 2021, with a duration of 12 months and the potential of renewal.

The successful candidate is expected to work on the surface and subsurface modelling; data analysis from space instrumentation (VIR instruments on DAWN, Ma_Miss on ExoMars 2022, VIRTIS on Rosetta) and laboratory data analysis (analogous materials and meteorites).

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

Inspiring Stories – Outreach activities in a European project like PLANMAP

Inspiring Stories – Outreach activities in a European project like PLANMAP

In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Gloria Tognon, a doctoral student at the Center of Studies and Activities for Space ‘G. Colombo’ of Padua (Italy), tells us about her experience of taking part in the European PLANMAP project.

Scientific knowledge is not just intended for a limited number of people and should be shared and made accessible to everyone. The Horizon 2020 PLANetary MAPping (PLANMAP) project is committed to the production of highly informative geological maps of Mars, Mercury, and the Moon, and every European partner dedicated part of its activities to communication and dissemination.

The main aim of PLANMAP was for several products (geological and spectral maps, 3D geomodels, and virtual environments) to be made freely available online to the scientific community as well as the general public. A particular focus was put on the promotion of planetary geology to young people through the creation of downloadable artworks, digital story maps, and a comic novel published in a special issue of the PLaNCK! Magazine about PLANMAP, “Geomapping other worlds” , which also contained interviews with young researchers working on the project.

Within the framework of outreach activities for young people in the general public, all PLANMAP partners actively organised and participated in festivals, public talks, seminars and school activities. Kids in particular were the main targets of European Researchers’ Nights, and although the events were open to the general public, I can tell you that young people from 5 to 10 years old constituted the real audience. The creation of games and video presentations as a way to engage and hold their attention while explaining difficult ideas in the easiest and funniest way was a crucial step. It may not always be easy for adults to think of ways to communicate science to young people, but for me, videos and games represent a recreational pursuit and a super rewarding experience.

Stands of planetary geology at the European Researchers’ Nights 2018 and 2019 at the University of Padua.
Credit: PLANMAP

Less imagination and more practical thinking were required in February 2021 when the PLANMAP project concluded its activities, and put its last efforts into organising the virtual ‘Geology & Planetary Mapping Winter School’, which engaged more than 50 instructors from at least 9 European institutions to address 150 registered participants from all around the world. During the school, I had the great opportunity to share my knowledge of planetary geologic mapping with the students, and to organise the final event displaying the ‘Virtual Reality environments for planetary applications and training for astronauts’. Promoted, funded and sustained by the Ambassade de France en Italie-Institut Français en Italie, Center of Studies and Activities for Space “G. Colombo” of Padua and the PLANMAP project, this event provided online lectures and a virtual reality experience simultaneously held in Padua and Nantes. Participants had an amazing chance to have a real-world perception of another planet, and take a field trip to Mars to perform scientific measurements in the field.

Interactive VR experience with geologic science measurements inside the PLANMAP environment. 
Credit: PLANMAP

I can assure you that engaging with people and sharing your knowledge with them will help you develop your communication skills and self-confidence. Above all, it is the most worthwhile life experience!

Do you like this story and want more? Browse our archive of EPEC Inspiring Stories and get inspired!

Il Cielo in salotto: superLuna!

Wednesday 26 May, starting at 21:30, the largest and most spectacular full moon of the year will be the main character of the first episode of the new EduINAF’s format “Il cielo in salotto“.
Meaning “the sky in your living room”, it aims at bringing science and astronomy closer to the public with live astronomical observations. For this specific occasion, the supermoon will be observed, weather permitting, by the astronomers of some INAF Observatories scattered throughout Italy, (Trieste, Asiago, Rome and Palermo). To comment on the beauties of the sky, Sandro Bardelli, from Bologna, will be our guide on this journey on the Moon, between astronomical curiosities and the latest scientific missions and discoveries, accompanied by guests such as Maria Cristina De Sanctis and Francesca Altieri, researchers at the INAF IAPS in Rome, the geologist Matteo Massironi of the University of Padua, Caterina Boccato, in charge of the INAF Teaching and Outreach, Simone Iovenitti, PhD student at INAF and University of Milan and together with many other partners and guests who will help us to look at the Moon with new eyes.

Special guest of the evening is Samantha Cristoforetti, who will tell us, in a video, her point of view on the Moon and its exploration, and who will receive as a gift the collective portrait of the asteroid 15006 Samcristoforetti made as a tribute to our astronaut in the recent astrophotography challenge, organised by EduINAF in collaboration with the community of italian amateurs.

The appointment is on the EduINAF’s YouTube channel: go here to find all the information!

Happy SuperLuna!

View the recording:

Europlanet 2024 RI has supported the SuperLuna! campaign. Europlanet 2024 RI has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

From Italy to Mars through Rio Tinto

From Italy to Mars through Rio Tinto

The second call for applications for the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access (TA) programme returned a positive response to the Ma_Miss (Mars Multispectral Imager for Subsurface Studies) team for a geological and spectroscopic field analysis campaign at the Rio Tinto site in Spain.
The main objective of the project is to collect spectral data and samples useful for testing the ExoMars2022/Ma_MISS spectrometer. Ma_MISS is the miniaturized visible and near-infrared (VIS-NIR) spectrometer, integrated into the drilling system of the ESA ExoMars/2022 Rosalind Franklin rover, dedicated to the Martian subsurface exploration.
The Rio Tinto represents an example of how life can adapt to extreme environments: this may give us clues as to what kind of life may have once developed on Mars” says Marco Ferrari from the INAF/IAPS in Rome, “and scientific results from previous work with other drilling equipment and scientific instruments show that the Rio Tinto site has ideal mineralogical/biological characteristics to test the Ma_MISS spectrometer also in the context of Oxia Planum, the selected landing site of the ExoMars/2022 mission“.

During the field campaign, the team plans to perform a series of VIS-NIR measurements collecting a representative sample of each mineral that will be subsequently measured with the breadboard Ma_MISS at the INAF/IAPS laboratory. All the efforts focused on any spectral signature related to the presence of biomarkers in the collected data with the aim of understanding whether the Ma_MISS instrument can be of any help in detecting traces of life in the Martian subsurface, which is one of the main scientific objectives of the ExoMars/2022 mission.

The findings of this study will be published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at major planetary science-related international congresses, as well as during scientific public outreach events.

We can’t wait to find out more!


90th SGI Conference

90th SGI Conference

WHEN: 14-16 September 2021
WHERE: Virtual
DEADLINE: 28 May 2021

Geology Without Borders“: this is the theme of the 90th edition of the Italian Geological Society’s Conference, which will take place virtually on 14-16 September 2021. The conference wants to be a wish for an exchange of knowledge among researchers, not only Italian, to promote and strengthen the Earth Sciences, which should be considered not only as a necessary tool for the best understanding of the interior of planet Earth but also as a defense of the society from dangerous geological events, for the understanding of climate variations, the planning and use of geo-resources in an ethical way and with the respect and preservation of the environment.
The event will be of great interest for the whole international planetary community, which is invited to participate by registering here and submitting an abstract before 28 May 2021 – 7:00 p.m. CET. A list of the fees is reported in detail on the related page. Two different planetary sessions are indeed planned, both held in English, with two international keynote speakers, one per session:
P26. The cosmic challenge: from interplanetary dust to the bricks of life
Conveners: Lidia Pittarello, Cristian Carli
P27. The contribution of geology to the knowledge of Solar System bodies
Conveners: Valentina Galluzzi, Alice Lucchetti

During the conference the awards ceremony of the competition “On the rocks” will be held. This competition asks students, PhD students, researchers, professionals and geology enthusiasts of any age to describe their research or new ideas on Earth in a creative and absolutely informal way, by producing short films of any kind. More information on the competition, which will close on 25 July 2021, on the dedicated page.

A conference and a competition through which to have fun and learn at the same time: what more could you ask for?

Join our SuperLuna! Observing Challenge

Join our SuperLuna! Observing Challenge

Share your pictures and you could win a prize

Spring 2021 is a season of ‘supermoons’, with the Full Moon in April and May coinciding within 10% of the closest lunar orbital distance to Earth. These luminous supermoons, which are about 7% bigger and about 15% brighter than a typical Full Moon, provide a remarkable opportunity for engaging the public.

We thought it would be fun to gather images, or artwork, of the Moon in its different phases between the April Supermoon and the May one.  Making these observations is a great way to see how the Moon changes during the month: look for how the Moon rises and sets later each night, and how the illumination and so shape we see changes too.

The supermoon on 26th May will be the closest Full Moon of the year. Facilities from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) are joining forces to carry out a live event on EduINAF’s social channels. 

During the Italian streaming, aired on the 26th on EduINAF’s main social channels from 9.30pm to 11pm (CET), there will be an opportunity to learn much more about the Moon.  INAF astronomers will guide the audience through the live observations of the moon seen by the various observatories involved with images and insights from guests.

You have the chance for your images to be shown during this broadcast too – as images from our SuperLuna! Observing Challenging will be included in the live broadcast.  We will also be putting a gallery on our website.  This is not a competition, we would just like as many people to participate as possible, so we will make a random selection from the entries to receive an ESA goody bag.  

Join the SuperLuna Campaign!

If you are up for the challenge, upload your pictures to this Flickr group and post them on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #SuperLuna    If you do not use Flickr, you may submit your pictures via the form below.

SuperLuna!

Resources for observing the Moon

We have put together some resources to help you observe, photograph and find out more about the Moon. Read more.


If you have an image or animation that is too big to upload, you can send it by WeTransfer to aheward@europlanet-society.org.

See all the images on the Flickr Group.

Banner image © Valeriano Antonini – EduINAF – Associazione AstronomiAmo

An Asteroid For Samantha

Are you an amateur astronomer, a professional or a simple sky enthusiast? Get involved with An Asteroid for Samantha, the astro-photography campaign dedicated to the return to orbit, in 2022, of Samantha Cristoforetti.

Edu INAF, in collaboration with the Italian Association for Astronautics and Space, the Astronomical Observatory of the Autonomous Region of Valle d’Aosta and with the support of the Italian Amateur Astronomers Union, invites you to hunt 15006 Samcristoforetti, the main belt asteroid dedicated to Samantha, take a picture and share it with the Edu INAF editorial team. Your image, along with the others that will arrive, will be given as a gift to Samantha to accompany her on her journey to the International Space Station!

Use the hashtags of the event #UnAsteroidePerSamantha #Samcristoforetti #AnAsteroidForSamantha.

More information here.

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.

Italy Homeplate

Established in 2019

The Italy Hub was established in October 2018 to promote planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the Italian and European community, within the new Europlanet Society.

Italy is partner of the Europlanet Society collaborating with many different activities and also hosting the Italian Regional Hub of Europlanet.

Know more about the Europlanet Society>>

Italy participates as a beneficiary of the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project (here the Italian webpage related to the project) with different institutions:
INAF (Istituto Nazionale di Astrofisica)
Universita Degli Studi Gabriele D’annunzio di Chieti-Pescara
Università di Bologna
University of Padova

Members of the Committee of the Italy Hub:

  • Chair: Stavro Ivanovski (INAF)
  • Advisor: Maria Teresa Capria (INAF)
  • Industry Officer: Laura Gatti (ALTEC / Thales Alenia Space Italia)
  • Outreach Officers: Livia Giacomini (INAF) and Federica Duras (INAF)
  • Diversity Officer: TBD
  • Early Career Officer: Alice Lucchetti (INAF)

EPEC Profiles – Melissa Mirino

EPEC Profiles – Melissa Mirino

In this new series from the EPEC Communication Working Group, we meet members of the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) community and find out more about their experiences and aspirations.

Melissa Mirino is chair of the EPEC Communications Working Group
Melissa Mirino is Co-Chair of the EPEC Communications Working Group

Melissa Mirino is currently studying for a PhD in the field of planetary geology at the Open University (UK). For her doctoral dissertation, she is studying ancient river systems on Mars called inverted channels. 

Since she  was an undergraduate student at the University of Rome 3, Melissa’s main research interests have focused on the application of remote sensing in the geological study of rocky bodies in the Solar System. After pursuing her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Geology, she took up many opportunities to study abroad, winning several scholarships and travel grants. As a result, she has collaborated with local and international research institutes and universities to develop projects in the field of planetary science. 

Melissa has worked with several kinds of datasets from the ESA Mars-Express, NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and NASA Dawn missions, analysing features on Mars, Vesta and Ceres in collaboration with the Italian institute INAF-IAPS and Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. In 2017 she took part in an internship at the European Space Agency (ESA/ESTEC) to work with both radar and spectral data from the North Polar Cap on Mars. 

Melissa has also collaborated in international projects related to:

  • Astronaut Analogue Simulations (in collaboration with ESA, the Space Generation Advisory Council and Lunares).
  • A stratospheric balloon project (promoted by the International Space University and the University of South Australia)
  • Rover trials (as part of the OU team and Exo-fit simulation in support of the Exo-Mars rover mission).
Melissa Mirino. Credit: Maciej Urbanowicz

Melissa also has a personal interest in inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in science. As an undergraduate student she worked in a museum and planetarium located in Rome (Museo Geopaleontologico Ardito Desio) to engage students  with topics related to geology and astronomy. She worked as PhD tutor for the Brilliant Club, an award-winning charity that works with schools and universities across the UK to increase the number of pupils from under-represented backgrounds progressing to leading universities. As a PhD tutor, she developed and delivered tutorials about planetary geology. 

She was part of the organising team for the Space Rendezvous in Rome to organise informal meetings to discuss space-related topics with space enthusiasts (see Europlanet Inspiring Story – July 2019). Currently she is supporting EPEC’s activities as Co-Chair of the Communications Working Group.

“It is an honour for me to be the Co-Chair of the EPEC Communication Working Group. EPEC is allowing me to collaborate with other enthusiastic space professionals. This experience enables me to improve both my communication and leadership skills. This is a great experience to create something new in support of all Early Career space scientists.

Melissa Mirino

More info about Melissa Mirino: https://it.linkedin.com/in/melissa-mirino-616730121

Contact: melissa.mirino@community.isunet.edu

If you are an Early Career member of the Europlanet Society and would like to be featured in an EPEC Profile, find out more about how to submit your profile.

Inspiring Stories – A Space Rendezvous in Rome

Inspiring Stories – A Space Rendezvous in Rome

In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Melissa Mirino from the Open University in the UK, tells us how she is helping to organise meetings where the public can meet planetary scientists!

Space Rendezvous Rome official logo

In February 2018, during the lunch of the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch, a group of space enthusiasts joined an informal meeting in Paris to talking about their passion for space and their personal experiences.

After this event the group of young scientists realised that space enthusiasts from their neighborhood were lacking opportunities to informally discuss their passion for space. This was the start of the Space Rendezvous Project which is running in many cities all over Europe. I had the amazing opportunity to be one of the founders of Space Rendezvous in Rome which is now supported by the Space Generation Advisory Council and Woman in Aerospace Europe.

Our rendezvous in Rome are providing an opportunity for undergraduates, Ph.D. students, and space enthusiasts without any limit of age or expertise, to discuss about topics and news related with the Space sector and Planetary Science.

So those who are interested in space exploration can be inspired from people already involved in the space research and possibly follow their examples in the future. Professionals have the opportunity to share their work and their knowledge with the attendees. In this context, professionals can also get fresh, innovative and sometimes crazy ideas for future research projects or developments

In May 2019, we decided to make our rendezvous a bit different, and dedicated it to Space Art. We thought about the best way to inspire the younger generation to be more involved in our work, and decided to let them be the main characters of the art competition. We asked them to choose a title and give an explanation about what inspired them about Space. As you can see from the examples below, the results were amazing:

By organising these meetings I have learned a lot: how to manage a meeting, and cooperate within an international team. Other members of my group are from all over Europe and around the world, so we have various backgrounds and diverse work habits. I have also had a valuable lesson in science communication, both in the real and virtual world as we are promoting our actions on social media. We are also having fun organising games and deciding what the event topic will be each month. It is challenging, but one of the rewards is the great chance to network with others interested in space around Rome area. I would therefore recommend young professionals to find out if Space Rendezvous is happening in their city, and if not to take the initiative and become one of the founders in their area. From personal experience I can assure you that it will be very rewarding and super fun. 

If you find yourself in Rome, join our meetings for an interesting chat and a good pizza! Visit our official facebook page @Spacerendezvousrome and discover the upcoming topic of the month. New volunteers and sponsors who would like to support our activities are welcome! So if you are interested please contact me at: melissa.mirino@community.isunet.edu. All participant cities host their Space Rendezvous on the final Thursdays of each month.

Do you like this story and want more? Browse our archive of EPEC Inspiring Stories and get inspired!

Inspiring stories – Back home, back in time

Inspiring stories – Back home, back in time

In the third of our Early Career Inspiring Outreach Stories, Erica Luzzi of Jacobs University Bremen shares her impressions of revisiting her old school.

A very long time has passed since the last time I was in my old school. That’s where I decided to start my outreach experience. As a sensitive person, I just thought that feeling at home would have relieved some of the pressure, helping me to actually reach the kids I was there for.

Just walking through those corridors, I realised how much I missed that place. I remembered the dreams of becoming someone one day, with something to say to the world. I remembered the infinite mornings sitting behind that desk, no clue what the future might be.

And then, I finally came back as an adult. As a scientist. Some of my former professors were still there, calling me “colleague”: it blew my mind. The awe I had back then for those figures who looked invincible. And now, they just look to me as they really are: humans. Frustrated, sad, disappointed, tired. Even the rooms that were looking so big to me, in that moment appeared to be the smallest place on Earth. Everything changes once you grow up, but some things don’t: some of us, are still dreamers.

My presentation for the kids was: “Planetary geology: how, where and why”. While I was telling them that I was happy to be back in my hometown and at my old school, they looked at me like an alien. They were wondering,  whispering to each other: “Is it possible to become a planetary scientist coming from here?”.

I reassured them, the answer was yes. They had the power to become whatever they wanted. In their smiles, full of hope and joy, I recognised my own dreams and my own innocence.

I asked them to interrupt me whenever they wanted to ask questions, express their curiosities, and not feel ashamed and embarrassed. And, against my expectations, they responded so actively to my presentation, that they had no idea how much it meant to me. They were not only asking silly questions just to show the professors they were involved in the presentation, they were really curious, smart and  aware. I have always had doubts about the next generation: I guess it is typical to believe that the good values of the old times are gone forever.  Somehow I was scared by the lack of interest and curiosity, I thought that since they were born in a society were everything is immediate – every piece of information, every human contact – they would not know the patience, the perseverance, the preciousness of waiting even for a small result. But I was wrong. Those kids showed me how passionate they are and mostly, how they are naturally provided with the logical and intellectual means to process the inputs coming from the outside.

They kept the discussion alive for the entire hour of the presentation, feeding it with their curiosity, facts they knew, looking for confrontation, even challenging my knowledge sometimes.

When I was leaving, their smiles were a testament to an unexpected gratitude. They filled my heart, they really did.

This outreach experience was my first one and I am glad I took the chance to let this happen. Now I know, there is something noble that makes us even richer than improving our scientific knowledge: spread it, make it a property of those who have an entire future to build with the eyes still full of hope. Make them participate to human progress, because they are our future, and it is way much brighter that we could possibly expect.

Do you like this story and want more? Browse our archive of Inspiring Stories and get inspired!