Expert Exchange: Training on Molecular and Computer-based techniques

Expert Exchange: Training on Molecular and Computer-based techniques

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Ermias Balcha from Addis Ababa Science and Technology University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, visited Karen Olsson-Francis and Dr Michael Macey at the Open University, UK, from 18-24 October 2022.

The purpose of expert exchange was for Ermias Balcha to receive training in a combination of molecular and computer-based techniques to catalogue the diversity of microbes in samples collected from hyper-saline environments in the Afar Depression in Ethiopia. Ermias’s studies aim to identify the presence and diversity of novel antimicrobial and their associated production pathways, and potentially identify novel antibiotics within these extreme environments. This is the first time that these microbial communities, which often host unique metabolic adaptations due to their extreme nature, have been characterised in terms of the potential medical applications.

The visit was very successful: the data analysed will contribute to two or three data chapters of Ermias’s PhD thesis, and training has reinforced the exchange of experience between scientific communities in Europe and Africa.

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Early Career Support, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Visiting the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and the Esrange Space Center

Expert Exchange: Visiting the Swedish Institute of Space Physics and the Esrange Space Center

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

András Illyés of Wigner Research Centre for Physics, Budapest, Hungary, visited Mats Holmström of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna, Sweden, from 27 June – 1 July 2022.

András is a Mechatronics Engineering student at Budapest University of Technology and Economics, and a Research Assistant at Wigner RCP, working on atmospheric magnetic research and involved in the commissioning of a SERF magnetometer for future experiments.

The objective of the visit was to further expand knowledge on ESA-certified development processes and experiments at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF).

During the Expert Exchange, András visited and gained a better knowledge about the test facilities used at IRF, especially the thermo-vacuum chamber and other mechanical test instruments. He learned more about the IRF’s quality insurance system, their CAD/CAM systems and PCB design softwares and about soldering and its quality assurance in workshop. He also gained a better understanding of the usage of SERF magnetometers.

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Early Career SupportWidening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: New collaborations between Australia and Botswana for the investigation of terrestrial extreme environments

Expert Exchange: New collaborations between Australia and Botswana for the investigation of terrestrial extreme environments

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Andrea Borsato and Silvia Frisia of the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, visited Fulvio Franchi at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), Botswana, from 5-16 September 2022.

The visit was intended to initiate a new collaboration between Australia and Botswana and provide training for the academic and research staff in how to select, collect, preserve and analyse specimens of astrobiological and microbiological interest and set up an environmental monitoring program.

The first 4 days of the visit were dedicated to the field trip to Gcwihaba cave (Kwihabe, Ngamiland), which preserves thousands of years of climate and environmental history and can be utilised as an analogue to detect traces of ancient microbial life on Earth.

The following part of the visit took place at BIUST’s geochemical laboratories in Palapye, which include stable isotope MS and the trace element ICP-MS and ICP-OS facilities. The visitors discussed with technical and academic staff strategies and approaches in order to optimise the micro-sampling techniques and geochemical analyses. They also explored opportunities to analyse the trace element concentration of some Botswana continental carbonates samples at the X-ray fluorescence beamline at the Australian Synchrotron, as well as the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

During the visit, Dr Borsato and Dr Frisia delivered a workshop and lecture series attended by academic and technical staff as well as post-graduate candidates of the Earth and Environmental Science Department of BIUST. The lectures and workshop sessions were followed by Q&As. Attendees were given pratical and theoretical training in microscopy techniques.

Read the full report from Dr Borsato and Dr Frisia.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Early Career Support.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Collaboration Between Brazilian Exoss and Romanian MOROI Networks

Expert Exchange: Collaboration Between Brazilian Exoss and Romanian MOROI Networks.

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Marcelo De Cicco, from INMETRO, Brazil visited Iharka Csillik at the Astronomical Observatory of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, from 1-10 July 2022.

The aim of the visit was to develop code to model grazing meteors, attend the International conference on ‘Theory, Observations and Data Processing in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Space and Planetary Sciences’ and explore collaborations between the Brazilian EXOSS project, Romanian MOROI networks, FRIPON international network and a Hungarian meteor observations project.

This Expert Exchange visit came about through the Europlanet Mentorship programme, as Iharka is supporting Marcelo to develop skills in meteor science dynamics and publishing. The mentor-mentee pair were featured as a case study in a poster on the mentorship programme at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2022 (Stonkute et al. 2022).

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Early Career Support, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Improving the Laboratory of Electron Induced Fluorescence

Expert Exchange: Improving the Laboratory of Electron Induced Fluorescence

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Dr Juraj Orszagh and PhD student, Barbora Stachova, from the Laboratory of Electron Induced Fluorescence (LEIF), Department of Experimental Physics, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia visited Dennis Bodewits at Auburn University in Alabama, USA, from 26 June – 3 July 2022.

The aim of the visit was to deepen the existing scientific collaboration between the LEIF group at Comenius and the Department of Physics at Auburn, and to plan future cooperations. The overlap and common interests of the experimental research between the groups are extensive and provide many possibilities for further cooperation in the field of astrophysics and in wider molecular physics. In particular, LEIF output data serve as a reference for analysing astrophysical observations and are useful as input for various models of atmospheres and comas.

As well as visiting facilities and learning more abou the research carried out at Auburn, Juraj and Barbora participated in a colloquium where they introduced the Department of Experimental Physics, their research, and latest experimental results. This led to led to a rich discussion and a proposal for deeper collaboration in the near future, including cooperations to strengthen the capacity of LEIF to produce output data in a format most useful for astrophysical research and make the facility’s contribution to Europlanet efforts more valuable.

Prof Bodewits and Dr Steven Bromley were preparing for a Transnational Access to LEIF later in July 2022, so considerable time was spent discussing the details of the planned experiments aimed at electron-induced fluorescence of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

A further outcome of the visit is support by Auburn University in developing a more progressive teaching methods and active learning techniques to support teachers and students at Comenius University.

Read the full reports by Juraj Orszagh and Barbora Stachova.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Early Career Support.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Study of Technical Background in Space Development at IRF, Kiruna, Sweden

Expert Exchange: Study of Technical Background in Space Development at IRF, Kiruna, Sweden

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Dr Janos Nagy of the Centre for Energy Research at the Central Research Institute for Physics (KFKI) in Budapest, Hungary, visited Mats Holmstrom at the Swedish Institute for Space Research (IRF) in Kiruna, Sweden from 26 June – 1 July 2022.

The KFKI Campus in Hungary houses two entities, the Wigner Research Centre for Physics and the Centre for Energy Research, which are interested in space physics and space instrument development. The IRF has longstanding experience in instrument development and engineering activities gained from participating in 39 space missions in recent decades. In the past, IRF and Wigner have cooperated in research and space instrument development projects including for Venus Express, BepiColombo, as well as the ongoing work for the Particle Environment Package (PEP) on the upcoming Juice mission to Jupiter’s icy moons.

The development of Juice-PEP involved stricter requirements by ESA than for the previous projects that the KFKI teams had been involved in. To insure fulfillment of these requirements, KFKI aims to strengthen capacity in technology, labs, workshops and quality assurance.

Janos Nagy participated in a Europlanet Expert Exchange visit to give a presentation about KFKI’s activity in developing Direct Current Converter (DCC) for Juice, learn from the experiences and experimental set-up at IRF and to see the thermo vacuum test of the Data Processing Unit (DPU) and DCC designed by KFKI in operation.

A particular area of interest was the cooperation at IRF of researchers, electrical, mechanical, software engineers and technicians. The science/engineering ratio is about 50%, and IRF involves PhD students in the ongoing tasks, who get to know the institute well. Several PhD students continue their career in IRF after finishing their studies. KFKI aims to follow this practice by improving cooperation between scientists and engineers and involving students through topical projects during university diplomas.

Following the visit, the KFKI team plan to apply for funding to purchase a Nanovac TVC025 Thermal Vacuum Chamber (TVAC), similar to the one used by IRF in Juice project. 

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Expert Exchange: Mass spectrometry of Arctic Ice

Mass spectrometry of Arctic Ice 

Europlanet 2024 RI’s Expert Exchange Programme aims to support the planetary community to share expertise and best practice, and to prepare new facilities and services. The programme provides funding for short visits (up to one week). 

Fulvio Franchi, Botswana International University of Science & Technology (Palapye, Botswana) visited Dr Zoltán Juhász, Atomki (Debrecen, Hungary) from 24 – 30 May 2022 to trial techniques to characterise methane concentrations in Arctic ice as a potential analogue for studies of icy moons in the Solar System

The study of natural methane content in ice from the Arctic will have a strong relevance as an analogue for the study of Icy Moons such as Europa and Enceladus. Preliminary observation on these celestial bodies have reportedly shown the presence of methane. However, how the methane was produced and what relationship exists between the methane and potential habitability of this celestial bodies is still matter for speculations. The only way to get closer to the truth is by testing natural materials on Earth that resemble the conditions hypothesised on these icy moons.

Ice formed above and/or in proximity of methane seeps in the Arctic sea might provide the right substratum to characterise methane occurrences elsewhere in the Solar System.

Fulvio Franchi visited Zoltán Juhász at the spectroscopy laboratory at Atomki in Debrecen in Hungary through the Europlanet Expert Exchange programme. The aim of the visit was to start to develop a method to prepare natural ice from the Arctic for analysis and run mass spectroscopy for the characterisation of the methane contents. The work will continue back in Botswana where the lessons learnt will help improve the spectroscopy labs.

The main goals of this visit were as follows:

  1. Initiate a new collaboration between Botswana and Hungary for the investigation of potential analogues of Icy Moons;
  2. Train the applicant on the practical aspects on how to run a successful spectral facility in view of the development of a spectroscopy lab at BIUST.
  3. Widening the participation in Europlanet activities by creating a new collaboration between Africa and underrepresented country in EU;
  4. Involve into Europlanet project new potential stakeholders currently active in the study of climate but with potential interest in the field of planetary science.

This visit kick-started a new collaboration between BIUST and Atomki and has benefitted from the collaboration of Prof Panieri at CAGE institute of The Arctic University of Norway, which is active in the field of climate studies, and has shown interest in planetary science.

Read the full report.

Expert Exchange Objectives covered by this visit: Improvement of Facilities and Infrastructure, Training for Transnational Access, Widening Participation.

Find out more about the Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme.

Next Call For Europlanet Expert Exchange Programme

Applications should be made before the next call deadline of 31 December 2022. Visits through this call should take place between 1 February and 31 July 2023.

Observing the DART impact with DART – OPTiK Campaign in Kenya

Observing the DART impact with DART – OPTiK Campaign in Kenya

In this guest post, Megan Leishman reports on the activities of the DART – OPTiK team in Kenya, which have been supported through the Europlanet Coordination of Ground-based Observations Networking Activity and Ambassadors’ Programme.

Hello! We are the DART – OPTiK team, a collaboration of researchers from the University of Edinburgh, STFC UKRI, Technical University of Kenya and the Turkana Basin Institute. We will be working at the TBI base in Ileret for the next couple of months to set up a portable telescope which will then take observations of the equatorial sky for many nights to come, including the impact of NASA’s DART mission with asteroid Dimorphos in late September.

NASA’s DART Mission (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) is the first of its kind, a planetary defence mission aimed at testing asteroid deflection through impact. The test will be carried out on a binary asteroid system, which has a big asteroid (Didymos 780m) with a smaller moon (Dimorphos) orbiting it. These will imitate the Sun and a smaller asteroid, on course to collide with the Earth. The spacecraft, which NASA launched at the end of last year, will collide with the moon at the end of September this year. Astronomers will then monitor the orbit of the moon to measure how effective this ‘kinetic impactor’ experiment was.

None of the large observatories in the Americas will be able to see the actual impact until 4 hours later due to it being daytime when the collision happens. This is where our portable telescope comes in!

We will be able to observe the impact as it happens and be able to see anything that comes from the actual collision such as dust. After the impact, the telescope will also be able to monitor the orbit of the moon using its lightcurve. 

The telescope will also be used to do astronomical tests to discern whether the site is suitable for more permanent observatory to be built there in the future. This is the first time these kinds of images will have been taken in Kenya, and along with the help of the Kenya Optical Telescope Initiative (KOTI), we hope to be able to continue observations in the country and help to increase the astronomy that can be done here. Working with the Technical University of Kenya and the Kenya Space Agency, we will strengthen capacity for local astronomy and facilitate new research in the region. 

Whilst we are in Ileret, we will also be working with the local community to run school workshops and an open night at the base. We hope to learn from the local cultures about how astronomy has influenced them and to share cultural parts from our end, and learn from them about their culture.

DART - OPTiK Observing Campaign, Kenya

Europlanet Telescope Network main page

Updated Draft Programme Published for Workshop #3 on Fireballs and their Detection

Updated Draft Programme Published for Workshop #3 on Fireballs and their Detection

Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 August, University of Glasgow

Convened by: Günter Kargl (Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences; ), Ute Amerstorfer (Space Research Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Detlef Koschny (European Space Agency).

In cooperation with Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), a series of four workshops bringing together different networks of fireball observers and machine-learning experts are being arranged over two years. This series is aimed at: i) the development of a common data format and/or common entry point to the observational data of the different fireballs networks, and ii) machine-learning science cases for meteor observations. 

The next workshop will be held in conjunction with the 85th Annual Meeting of The Meteoritical Society in Glasgow (14–19 August 2022, https://www.metsoc2022.com/).

This is the third workshop of the series, and its main topics are: 

  • continue discussing and exploring the possibilities of a common entry point to all data, reports on recent activities;
  • continue discussing Lunar impact flashes, observation networks and software;
  • Introduce topics of meteorite recovery, strewn field estimation and dark flight calculation;
  • continue discussing and identifying machine learning science cases for fireball observations.

The workshop venue is in the Molema Building, Lillybank Gardens, University of Glasgow campus, Room 308. This is five minutes´ walk from the welcome reception of the Meteoritical Society conference, which will be held in the Hunterian Museum of the University of Glasgow, starting at 5 pm.

See details of the first and second workshops.

Pro-Am Comet Community (Hybrid) Workshop – Announcement of Draft Programme

Europlanet 2024 RI logo

Pro-Am Comet Community (Hybrid) Workshop

Draft Programme and Practical Arrangements

10 – 12 June 2022, Prague

In cooperation with Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), the British Astronomical Association, Planetum Prague, and the Czech cometary community SMPH, a Pro-Am Workshop is being organised to bring together professional and amateur members of the cometary science and observational community. The workshop will be held in hybrid format from 10-12 June 2022 at the Stefanik Observatory, Prague, and online.  The workshop will last for two and a half days, starting Friday morning, and will be in English.

We are pleased to announce a draft Programme for the workshop, along with associated Abstract details.  

The programme allows time for detailed discussions on areas important to the comet community, as well presentations.  We will be using Zoom for presentations and real time comment/questions.  We have also set up a Discord server which will host copies of the presentations, and allow discussions both during the workshop and later.  We will (after editing) also upload recordings of the sessions to Youtube.

The workshop has attracted professional and amateur participants from across the world.  A list of attendees is available here.

For those attending in person, our local colleagues have put together some very useful local information.

Our local colleagues are also working on some optional social activities.  

For those who are being funded by Europlanet, you need to ensure you comply with these reimbursement requirements.  (If accommodation costs more than the allowed maximum nightly rate your reimbursement will be capped at that maximum rate.)

We are looking forward to a fruitful and enjoyable time together during (and after) the workshop.


More about the Europlanet Telescope Network.

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