ERIM / EPEC Annual Week 2023 – Registration Now Open

Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting (ERIM)/Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Annual Week 2023 – Registration Now Open

The first Europlanet Research Infrastructure Meeting (ERIM), co-hosted with the fifth Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) Annual Week, will take place from 19-23 June 2023 in hybrid format at the Hotel Sorea / Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia and online. 

Registration is free and accommodation and travel support is available for participants. 

Registration is now open.

Deadline for on-site registration: 19 May 2023

Deadline for virtual registration: 16 June 2023

About ERIM

ERIM is a new kind of meeting to support European planetary science and associated communities. The format of ERIM 2023 is a series of interactive workshops related to the activities of the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project, research infrastructures in general, and the Europlanet Society. The meeting will be co-hosted with EPEC Annual Week 2023, the training school for the Europlanet Early Career Network. 

How will it Work?

Workshops will be organised under a series of programme tracks. You can dip in and out of programme tracks, workshops and even sessions during the week. The aim is to make new connections, brainstorm ideas, develop synergies, increase opportunities for collaboration and help us build a strong, thriving, sustainable community for planetary science in Europe.

You don’t have to be a member of the Europlanet Society or the Europlanet 2024 RI project to participate in ERIM. We are looking for new people to engage with Europlanet, so everyone is welcome. However, we will be offering free accommodation and travel grants to a limited number (~150) of participants. If we are over-subscribed in requests for support, priority will be given to Europlanet Society members. (Find out about other benefits of joining the Europlanet Society).


Many different topics will be covered within the ERIM programme tracks and workshops, including:

For full details of the meeting and registration, see:

If you have any questions, contact us.

We hope to see you in Bratislava!

The ERIM 2023 Organising Committee

Researchers develop AI method for mapping planets

Researchers develop AI method for mapping planets

Can the mapping of planets become an automated process? Scientists from Constructor University in Bremen, Germany, the University of Padua, and the University of Bologna have now developed a novel, open-source approach for the mapping of planetary landforms using artificial intelligence. “DeepLandforms,” the pre-release version of the deep learning program was published in the American Geophysical Union journal “Earth and Space Science” at the end of December.

Creating geological maps of planetary surfaces such as Mars is a complex process. From data collection to data analysis to publication in different formats – the production of maps is based on a time-consuming, multi-step process. Deep Learning techniques, which use artificial neural networks to analyse data sets, can significantly improve the production process, as broadly shown in both scientific literature and applications. However, until now, open-source, ready-to-use, and highly customisable toolsets for planetary mapping were never released.

“We were interested in designing a simple, out-of-the-box tool that can be customised and used by many,” said Giacomo Nodjoumi. The PhD candidate in the research group of Angelo Rossi, Professor of Earth and Planetary Science at Constructor University, was key to developing “DeepLandforms”. The program is open and available for further optimisation, and showcases an inexpensive, fast, and simple approach to mapping planets in outer space.

The scientists demonstrated the results that can be achieved with the help of the software for planetary mapping with a specific landform on Mars, which resembles lava tubes on Earth. Geological maps are an important tool in planetary exploration, because they also serve as a basis for possible explorations by robots or humans.

Link to Article:
DeepLandforms: A Deep Learning Computer Vision toolset applied to a prime use case for mapping planetary skylights


This study is within the Europlanet 2024 RI and EXPLORE project, and it has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement 871149 and 101004214. Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.

About Constructor University and Constructor group:

An international community, vibrant and diverse. Offering academic excellence, ensuring the highest standards in research and teaching. Empowering students to solve the world’s pressing challenges through knowledge and science: Constructor University is a top-ranked, English-speaking, private university. Founded in 2001, it provides a wide range of 25+ academic programs and PhD. The Constructor ecosystem comprises the university, located in Bremen, Germany and an institute in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Over 1.800 students from more than 110 nations on campus benefit from a unique interdisciplinary, foundational theoretical and practical education. Enriched with a buzzing entrepreneurial culture that prepares young professionals to thrive in the job market. With 6.000+ alumni worldwide our community keeps growing – with our highest cohort ever registered in 2022.

The research-centric faculty projects are funded by the German Research Foundation and the European Union’s Framework Program for Research and Innovation as well as by globally leading companies.
Constructor University benefits from partnerships with high-ranked universities such as Carnegie Mellon, the University of Geneva or the National University of Singapore School of Computing, and technology companies such as Anisoprint, JetBrains and ChemDiv.

The Constructor ecosystem is a global institution dedicated to addressing the main challenges of the world through science, education, and technology. Apart from the University, the ecosystem relies on several for-profit entities that provide technology infrastructures and solutions, life-long education programs, consulting services, and funding: Alemira by Constructor, Rolos by Constructor, Constructor Learning and Constructor Capital.

About Europlanet

Since 2005, Europlanet has provided Europe’s planetary science community with a platform to exchange ideas and personnel, share research tools, data and facilities, define key science goals for the future, and engage stakeholders, policy makers and European citizens with planetary science.

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149 to provide access to state-of-the-art research facilities and a mechanism to coordinate Europe’s planetary science community. The project builds on a €2 million Framework 6 Coordination Action (EuroPlaNet), a €6 million Framework 7 Research Infrastructure (Europlanet RI) and a €10 million Horizon 2020 Research Infrastructure (Europlanet 2020 RI) funded by the European Commission. 

The Europlanet Society promotes the advancement of European planetary science and related fields for the benefit of the community and is open to individual and organisational members. The Society’s aims are:

  • To expand and support a diverse and inclusive planetary community across Europe through the activities of its 10 Regional Hubs
  • To build the profile of the sector through outreach, education and policy activities
  • To underpin the key role Europe plays in planetary science through developing links at a national and international level. 

Europlanet 2024 RI project website:

Europlanet Society website:   

Follow on Twitter via @europlanetmedia


The EXPLORE project gathers experts from different science domains and technological expertises to develop new tools that will enable and promote the exploitation of space science data. Through EXPLORE, we are creating a series of scientific data applications (Apps) that support users who interact with the large space science data archives maintained by space agencies, observatories and other facilities (e.g. ESA Datalabs or ESCAPE SAP). Our applications will equip researchers with state-of-the-art Artificial Intelligence (AI) and visual analytics to enhance science return and discovery from ‘big data’, initially focusing on data from the Gaia mission (investigating the Milky Way galaxy and stars) and from various missions to explore the Moon. The EXPLORE Data Challenges aim to raise awareness of the Apps produced by the EXPLORE project, and to improve the accuracy of the Apps by harnessing expertise from other data analysis fields. 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101004214.

1st Announcement: 2023 GMAP Planetary Geologic Mapping Winter School

1st Announcement: 2023 GMAP Planetary Geologic Mapping Winter School

30 January – 3 February 2023 – Online

​The 2023 GMAP Winter School will be held online, with the main hands-on week (also for ansynchronous participation) from 30th January – 3rd February 2023. Registration is free!

Full details can be found at:

Interested participants are encouraged to review the content of the 2021 and 2022 Winter Schools

This content will serve as a good introduction to the 2023 GMAP Winter School.

The 2023 Winter School will be largely hands-on, with the inclusion of seminars and time for asynchronous interaction and individual/project mapping work.


  • 15 November 2022: Registration opens. The program outline will be available
  • 10 January 2023: Registration closes. The form will be closed at 13 GMT+1
  • 30 January – 3 February 2023: Winter School takes place.
  • March/April 2023: Post-school follow up activities

More information

For any question or expression of interest please feel free to email us at:

Further announcements will be distributed over the GMAP Community mailing list, Europlanet, and
OpenPlanetary channels.

​Please feel free to join writing an email to:

Using AI to Predict the Danger of Solar Storms for Earth

Using AI to Predict the Danger of Solar Storms for Earth

This press release has been translated from the original German version by the Know-Center.

Researchers from the Know-Center and the Space Research Institute are developing a prediction tool, funded through Europlanet 2024 RI, that determines the strength of solar storms. Better forecasts could prevent a blackout from a massive solar storm.

While there is a current focus on the energy crisis in Europe, less attention is paid to the danger threatening from space. Solar storms are usually so weak that the atmosphere and the earth’s magnetic field protect the planet sufficiently from them. However, according to experts, a solar storm could hit us at any time and have serious effects on power grids, radio networks and satellites.

Around ten percent of all satellites could fail during such an event, and this would cause problems in areas where precise positioning is required, such as shipping and air traffic. Widespread power outages due to increased transformer voltages and damage to undersea cables, leading to nationwide internet outages, are also conceivable.

Space weather researchers can observe whether a solar storm is heading towards Earth, but it is difficult to estimate how massive the storm will be once it hits Earth. Now, data experts from the Know-Center and the Institute for Space Research, funded by the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI), have developed a prediction tool, based on Artificial Intelligence (AI), to better-estimate the strength of solar storms. The results were recently published as part of a study in the peer-reviewed journal, Space Weather.

Magnetic field determines the strength of solar storms

Solar activity fluctuates every eleven years between quiet and active phases. We are currently in an active phase, the maximum of which is expected in 2025. A geomagnetic storm occurs when solar storms interact with Earth’s magnetic field. In extreme cases, solar storms can reach Earth in less than a day. The ability of solar storms to cause extreme geomagnetic storms depends largely on the orientation of their magnetic field, known in technical jargon as the Bz magnetic field component. The relative orientation of this magnetic field component to the Earth’s magnetic field determines how much energy is transferred to Earth’s magnetic field. The larger a southward Bz component  is, the greater the risk of a massive geomagnetic storm. To date, however, the Bz magnetic field component cannot be predicted with sufficient advance warning before the solar storm hits Earth.

Machine learning provides better forecasting

‘It only takes a few minutes for data measured by spacecraft directly in the solar wind to be transmitted to Earth. We first looked at whether information about the first few hours of a solar storm is sufficient to be able to predict its strength,’ explains Hannah Rüdisser from Know-Center.

Using Machine Learning (ML), the researchers developed a program to predict the Bz magnetic field component. The program was trained and tested with data from 348 different solar storms collected by the Wind, STEREO-A and STEREO-B spacecraft since 2007. To test the prediction tool in a real-time experimental mode, the team simulates how solar storms are measured by spacecraft and evaluates how the continuous feeding of new information improves the predictions.

‘Our forecasting tool can predict the Bz component quite well. It works particularly well when we use data from the first four hours of the solar storm’s magnetic  flux rope. New space missions will provide us with even more data in the coming years, further increasing the accuracy of the predictions. Our approach could thus lead to an improved space weather forecast and in the event of a massive solar storm, affected areas could be warned at an early stage and major damage prevented,’ says Rüdisser.

In the next step, the researchers want to use AI methods to automatically detect solar storms in the solar wind. This automation is necessary to be able to use the Bz prediction method in real-time without a human expert having to continuously identify the solar storms.

Innovation for space exploration

The use of AI to analyze and classify planetary data sets is still relatively new, but is becoming increasingly important. ML enables algorithms to be trained to analyze huge amounts of data and derive predictions and new solutions from them. Potential applications of ML in planetary science have exploded over the past decade, but tools tailored to this area of research are still rare.

‘The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure houses a large treasure trove of data that comes from space missions, simulations and laboratory experiments. Our goal is to extract the knowledge contained in this data and make it usable. For this we want to develop a series of ML tools that support researchers in planetary sciences in their work. This allows us to promote a broader use of ML technologies in data-driven space research,’ says Rüdisser.

More information

Machine Learning for Predicting the Bz Magnetic Field Component From Upstream in Situ Observations of Solar Coronal Mass Ejections‘, M. A. Reiss, C. Möstl, R. L. Bailey, H. T. Rüdisser, U. V. Amerstorfer, T. Amerstorfer, A. J. Weiss, J. Hinterreiter, A. Windisch. Space Weather, Volume 19, Issue 12.

About the Know Center

Know-Center is one of the leading European research centers for data-driven business and AI. Since 2001, well-known companies have been supported in using data as a success factor for their company. As an integral part of the European research landscape, the center successfully handles numerous projects and contract research at EU and national level. The K1 Competence Center, which is funded as part of COMET, is the leading training center for data scientists in Austria and also offers a range of Al training courses and advice for companies. The majority shareholder of the Know-Center is the Graz University of Technology, a major sponsor of local AI research, whose institutes carry out numerous projects together with the Know-Center. In 2020, Know-Center was the only Austrian center to receive the iSpace Gold Award from the Big Data Value Association, which was only given nine times in the entire EU.

Geology & Planetary Mapping Winter School

Geology & Planetary Mapping Winter School

The next Geology & Planetary Mapping Winter School will be held online 7th – 11th February 2022. The school will be dedicated to the process of creating planetary geologic maps on the Moon, Mercury and Mars.

The registration is now open. The registration deadline is January 15th 2022

The registrations is free. We will try to accomodate as many participants as possible, while keeping a reasonable participant/instructor ratio. The school will cover all the topics that are necessary to produce high-quality planetary cartography:

  • Introduction to features and processes specific to Solar System objects.t
  • Basics of remote sensing and multispectral data exploitation
  • GIS usage, based on QGIS Open Source software (project creation, and layout)
  • Practical collaborative mapping with dedicated instructor on each planetary body (1 full day each)
  • Principles of crater counting
  • Geologic cross section and stratigraphic sections creation
  • Seminars and talks from invited international guests
  • The school will include frontal lectures, practical demonstrations and group-work activities for practicing mapping on the Moon, Mercury and Mars.

Find out more at:

2020-21 VESPA Open Call Announcement

Europlanet 2024 RI logo

2020-21 VESPA Open Call Announcement

The VESPA activity in the Europlanet 2024 RI programme aims to make Planetary Science and Solar System data accessible and searchable through an interoperable system following the principles of Open Science. 

In the combined 2020-21 VESPA Open Call, up to 10 projects will be selected to enlarge the data content accessible via the VESPA interface.

A workshop will be organised with the selected participants to help them design and set up their project, and to open it to the user community. This workshop will be held online (over three half days from 29 November to 1 December 2021, with a follow-up period from 1-9 December), and organised by IRAP/CNRS Toulouse and Jacobs University, Bremen.

The 2021 Open Call for VESPA services is now out at:

The project submission form will be available later in the summer – please check the VESPA call page for updates.

Relevant deadlines and milestones: 

  • Call closes: 7 October 2021 
  • Selection of teams by 20 October 2021
  • Telecons with selected teams from 22 November 2021
  • Workshop: We are planning to schedule an initial period of common activities (29 November – 1 December) with support from the organising personel, followed by a finalisation period when specific issues will be handled asynchronously (spanning 1-9 December).
  • Post-workshop telecon, December 2021
  • A finalisation review performed with the proposers in December 2021
  • Service delivery date: the aim is to have the new services published by January 2022

Visit the call page

VESPA Portal

VESPA support site

Europlanet 2024 RI Virtual Access activities

Building a Community for Planetary Geological Mapping

Building a Community for Planetary Geological Mapping 

Europlanet Magazine - Issue 1

 Angelo Pio Rossi (Jacobs University) describes Europlanet’s new geological mapping activity, GMAP.   

Read article in the fully formatted PDF of the Europlanet Magazine.

 Planetary data have been used for geological mapping since the start of the space era half a century ago. Not only do geological maps increase our knowledge of planetary surfaces and their history, they are crucial for ‘In-Situ Resource Utilisation’ – identifying local materials that could be used sustainably for future human and robotic exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond. 

The Geological Mapping (GMAP) activity within the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project focuses on providing tools and services to create, publish and preserve geological maps of Solar System bodies. A major ambition of GMAP is to create an active user group that can provide standards, documentation and tools for the growing community of planetary mappers around the world. 

For decades, the process of geological mapping was manual, with hand-drawn and coloured units over a blank basemap. Digital mapping is now used, based on both orbital and rover/lander data, matched with modern technology and analytical tools.  Credit: C Montagna/PLANMAP/GMAP

Our first step in developing the GMAP user group was to hold a virtual Planetary Mapping Winter School in February 2021, co-organised with colleagues from the PLANMAP project. Registration was oversubscribed and the training school was attended by 200 early career researchers from every continent, with over 100 participating in live sessions, and around 70 accessing asynchronous content. Following up on the workshop, we launched the first call for registration of GMAP Community Mappers, and over 50 to date have signed up for information on the GMAP community mailing list.

GMAP already has links with several international partners, and the Chinese counterpart of GMAP has been funded recently within the framework of the China-EU co-funding mechanism. The project (Key Technologies and Demonstration of Standardised Planetary Geologic Mapping) aims to develop standardised geological mapping technologies and methods for extracting features from thematic maps, and to make them accessible for implementation in the of upcoming Chinese and European lunar and planetary missions, such as Chang’E-5-8, Tianwen-1 and BepiColombo. Products that come out of the project will be disseminated through the GMAP data portals, and the joint activities will foster collaborations between mappers in Europe, Asia and beyond. 

The GMAP Project Team: University of Padova, Jacobs University Bremen, CBK PAN, DLR, ISPRA, INAF, Jacobs University Bremen, Università d’Annunzio, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, China University of Geosciences (Beijing), Wuhan University, Peking University, Shandong University and National Space Science Center of China Academy of Science. 

Issue 1 of Europlanet Magazine

Europlanet Magazine Main Page

Virtual Fireballs Workshop #1 on Fireball Databases and Machine Learning

Virtual Fireballs Workshop #1 on Fireball Databases and Machine Learning

11 June 2021 @ 1:00 pm – 12 June 2021 @ 7:00 pm UTC+2

In cooperation with Europlanet, a series of four workshops that will bring together different networks of fireballs observers as well as machine learning experts is planned over the next two years. This series aims to culminate into 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 first of these workshops will take place virtually on 11-12 June 2021 and aims towards

  1. introducing and discussing the different fireballs networks, databases and data formats with a strong focus on its technical aspects;
  2. discussing and exploring the possibilities of a common data format and/or a common entry point to all data;
  3. discussing and identifying machine learning science cases for fireball observations.

The workshop will also introduce and discuss Europlanet, its Virtual Observatory for planetary sciences (VESPA; and the support it can offer to the fireballs community. Through EPN-TAP services, VESPA currently provides access to more than 50 decentralised databases worldwide, and it might be one option for a common entry point to the different fireballs networks that will be explored over the course of the workshop. In addition, Europlanet also provides support for the development of machine learning science cases, and the fireballs community is invited to discuss potential use cases during the second half of the first meeting. As an outcome, this workshop intends to provide an outline for the next months and to define first tasks towards the overarching meeting goals. The second workshop of the series is intended to be organized in autumn 2021.

Workshop Details:

Date: 11-12 June 2021
Workshop Program:

The registration is open until 31 May 2021.

The workshop is funded by Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure. Europlanet 2024 RI has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 871149.

Organizing Committee:
Manuel Scherf (
Ute Amerstorfer (
Detlef Koschny (
Günter Kargl (

All Eyes on Mars

All Eyes on Mars

Three missions are converging on Mars this week to study the Red Planet from orbit and explore its surface. With the United States, United Arab Emirates and China all sending missions to Mars, we look at how Europe’s planetary research community is contributing to Mars exploration in 2021 and at its plans for the next few years.

 First image of Mars from Hope. Credit: MBRSC / UAE Space Agency / CU-LASP/EMM-EXI 

It’s a busy time at Mars. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Agency’s first mission to Mars, Hope, performed a successful manoeuvre to enter a capture orbit on 9 February 2021. Once in its final science orbit, Hope will study dynamics in ​the martian atmosphere on a global scale, giving a more complete understanding of interactions between the atmospheric layers, and answering questions about how oxygen and hydrogen escape into space.

On 10 February, the Chinese Tianwen-1 (‘questioning the heavens’) mission, joined Hope in orbit around Mars.  Tianwen-1 will analyse the chemical composition of rock and dust and search for pockets of ice and liquid water and organics. Following three or four months of study of the surface, and a detailed survey of the proposed landing site, Tianwen-1 will release a lander and rover. If all goes to plan, the rover will explore Utopia Planitia, a flat plain within a large impact basin in the northern hemisphere of Mars. The region is covered by extensive sedimentary materials, with features that indicate that ice or water are present. 

Tianwen-1 carries 13 instruments, two of which have a small European involvement: The Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie (IRAP), France, has contributed to the calibration of the LIBS spectrometer on the Tianwen-1 rover’s Mars Surface Composition Detector. The Space Research Institute (IWF-Graz) has contributed to the calibration of the magnetometer on the main satellite.

Completing the trio, NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will arrive at Mars on 18 February. Mars 2020 mission will look for signs that there were habitable conditions on Mars in its early geological history, and seek evidence of past microbial life. The Perseverance rover and its helicopter partner, Ingenuity, will explore the terrain of Jezero Crater on Mars, which contains the remains of an ancient, partially-eroded river-delta. Jezero’s rocks date back to around the time that we think that life first arose on Earth. Perseverance will characterise its geological setting and collect a few core samples of the most promising rocks and soils. These will be set aside in a cache for collection and return to Earth by missions later this decade.

Annotated image of NASA Perseverance Rover
The instruments carried by NASA’s Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA

Of the seven primary scientific instruments carried by the Perseverance rover, three include significant European contributions: the weather station MEDA (provided by Spain with contributions from Finland), the remote-sensing laser micro-imaging SuperCam (provided by France/Spain) and the ground-penetrating radar RIMFAX (provided by Norway).

Although not part of the flotilla arriving at Mars this year, the ESA/Roscosmos ExoMars mission will set off in the late summer or autumn of 2022 and land in the spring of 2023. The ExoMars Rosalind Franklin Rover is equipped with a drill that will sample the subsurface in places that are most likely to have habitable conditions preserved in ancient rocks.

The first ExoMars mission, the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which arrived at Mars in 2016, carries a suite of instruments to study traces of methane and other atmospheric gases. TGO will also act as a data relay for Perseverance (a service it already provides for the Curiosity and Insight missions) and, later, for the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover. ESA’s highly successful first mission to the Red Planet, Mars Express, which has been in orbit since 2003 and is still making important contributions to studies of the martian surface, atmosphere and ionosphere, is also playing a part in monitoring local conditions at Jezero Crater.

To find out more about Europe’s contribution to Mars missions, watch this EPSC2020 Session Showcase TP16 – European Exploration of Mars: From Mars Express to ExoMars and Beyond:

Europlanet 2024 RI and Mars Exploration

The Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) Transnational Access field sites (TA1) include terrestrial analogues that are relevant to both the areas of Mars that will be explored by Tianwen-1 and Perseverance. Terrestrial analogues play a vital role in understanding where and how life exists under extreme conditions on Earth, such as in hydrothermal systems in Iceland and Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression, extreme acidic conditions at Rio Tinto in Spain and extreme salty conditions at Danakil’s Dallol volcano and the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in Botswana.  In turn, this informs the mission teams searching to identify where life might have arisen on Mars.

Europlanet 2024 RI’s TA2 laboratory facilities also support the exploration and the search for biomarkers on Mars. The Centre for Microbial Life Detection in Graz provides expertise in extracting and sequencing DNA from microbial samples collected in extreme environments on Earth, as well as quantifying bacteria, archaea and fungi, and cultivating specialist microbes (e.g. anaerobes) that survive under these conditions.

Simulations and calibration measurements carried out at the spectroscopy laboratories at DLR and Grenoble will be used to interpret the spectroscopic data obtained by the Tianwen-1 orbiter. The Aarhus Mars Wind Tunnel and Open University’s Mars Chamber also include facilities capable of simulating Martian atmospheric conditions.

Early life on Mars may have been destroyed after the loss of its atmosphere, which provided a shield against harmful ultraviolet radiation. This means that finding evidence for past life may be through indirect means, for example by identifying chemical changes to minerals or specific reactions that are only induced by life. Samples taken from terrestrial analogues and analysed in laboratories can help interpret data from in-situ missions and refine techniques. However, within the limitations of what it is possible to launch into space, it is likely to be difficult for robotic missions operating on the surface of Mars to provide conclusive evidence of whether life has ever existed there. 

TA1.2: Iron precipitates in acidic conditions in Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto in Spain is a terrestrial analogues of Mars. Image credit: F Gomez.

NASA and ESA are collaborating on a Mars Sample Return campaign involving three missions stages: a sample collection rover (Perseverance); a Mars lander carrying a small ESA-led rover to ‘fetch’ and load the samples into NASA’s ‘Mars Ascent Vehicle’ that will launch them into Mars orbit; and a Mars orbiter to capture the sample container (led by NASA) and fly it the rest of the way to Earth (led by ESA).

The samples collected by Perseverance will contain martian rocks, soil, dust and atmosphere and are expected to be about 15 g of material each and be roughly the size of a stick of chalk. Bringing carefully selected rocks from Mars back to Earth for detailed study will enable much more complex and complete studies using state-of-the-art lab equipment. This will give a better quantitative understanding of whether the returned samples formed in environments where life could have existed and whether they may contain biosignatures

Europlanet 2024 RI Joint Research Activities (JRAs) involving the Natural History Museum, the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, ETH Zurich and the Open University are supporting the development of techniques for non-destructive or minimally invasive characterisation and analysis of precious returned samples.

Europlanet 2024 RI is also offering virtual services to support observations and analysis.

A successful landing depends heavily on site selection and characterisation, tasks that are strongly tied to geologic mapping. Europlanet 2024 RI’s new geological mapping service, GMAP, fosters and supports mapping of the geology of all suitable Solar System bodies. In the case of the Moon and Mars this will include specific geologic and geomorphic mapping of past, proposed and future landing sites.

The virtual observatory for Solar System data, VESPA, hosts several data services from past Mars missions, including Mars-Express (OMEGA, HRSC, SPICAM), CRISM data from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a Martian craters database, simulated atmospheric profiles (derived from the Mars Climate Database), Hubble Space Telescope observations, significant data about the magnetosphere, as well as access to the Planetary Science Archive (PSA). 

Mars image from PVOL database. Image taken on 8 February 2021 by Mike Hood in Kathleen, Georgia, USA.
Mars image from PVOL database. Image taken on 8 February 2021 by Mike Hood in Kathleen, Georgia, USA. Credit: M Hood.

VESPA tutorials support researchers in working with the data, for example to compare measured and simulated profiles in the martian atmosphere or in plasma data, to analyse spectral cubes or to identify overlapping datasets in surface maps and images. 

The Planetary Virtual Observatory and Laboratory (PVOL) data service includes nearly 4000 observations of Mars contributed by amateur astronomers, which are used for research purposes by several professional and amateur teams.

Finally, Europlanet is developing educational resources that draw on missions and the latest research in laboratories and field sites to bring Mars into classrooms across Europe. Those students inspired by the missions in 2021 may one day have the opportunity to handle and analyse the samples collected and brought back from Mars by future missions.

Highlights from Year 1 of Europlanet 2024 RI

Highlights from Year 1 of Europlanet 2024 RI

Europlanet 2024 RI is one year old this week. Despite the pandemic, there has been a great deal of activity and progress over the past twelve months. The project is on track in its work to support the planetary community and provide state-of-the-art access to services and facilities for research in planetary science and related fields.

Transnational Access | Virtual Access | Networking Activities | Management

Transnational Access (TA) 

A core part of the work of a research infrastructure is to provide free, cross-border access for researchers to planetary analogue field sites, simulation and analysis facilities. Two calls for applications for Transnational Access (TA) were issued in Year 1 of the project and, despite Covid-19 restrictions, the first visits have started to take place. 

The suite of field sites and laboratories offered by Europlanet 2024 RI now numbers over 40 and has been expanded in Call 2 to include 11 laboratories in South Korea. Call 3 will include further facilities in China and Korea, plus field sites in the Argentinian Andes.

TA visit to Atomki-ICA
TA visit to Atomki-ICA. Credit: D Mifsud

Call 1, which closed on 5 May 2020, received 80 applications, of which 41 were funded. Despite the ongoing travel restrictions due to Covid-19, applications for Call 2, which closed on 6 January 2021, rose by 25% to a total of 101 submissions. The successful Call 2 applications will be announced by the end of March.To date, three TA visits have taken place, including a virtual and an in-person visit to the  Atomki Ice Chamber for Astrophysics/Astrochemistry (ICA) facility in Hungary and a virtual visit to Cold Surfaces Spectroscopy laboratory at IPAG in France. Some of the TA applicants have shared their experiences of submitting a successful TA proposal in a recorded webinar.

TA Development

Six of the TA facilities are being upgraded as part of the Europlanet 2024 RI project and the first of these projects has been completed.

TA 2.11: The Europlanet ICA support team
The Europlanet ICA support team. Credit: Atomki

In early 2020, an existing ultra-high vacuum chamber (provided by Queen’s University Belfast) was shipped to Debrecen in Hungary and installed at the beamline of Atomki’s 2MV Tandetron accelerator. The chamber has been upgraded with ultraviolet/visible and mass spectroscopy extensions that will optimise it for studying the effects of ion irradiation on a variety of different ice surface analogues. These upgrades will support research to improve our understanding of the physical and chemical processes in the Solar System. The augmented facility was operational in time to be included in the first TA call in May 2020, and the first two visits have already taken place. Find out more about the upgrades to the facility.

Virtual Access



SPIDER (Sun-Planet Interactions Digital Environment on Request) is providing access to six services for modelling planetary environments and solar wind interactions through a run on request infrastructure and associated databases. The SPIDER Virtual Access (VA) activity extends the twelve planetary space weather services developed through the previous Europlanet 2020 RI project (2015-2019).

In the first year of Europlanet 2024 RI, the first two SPIDER services have been prototyped and made operational:

  • A Mercury exosphere run on request service
  • A planetary plasma instrument background counts database and service.

Predictions of the solar wind parameters propagated to BepiColombo, Solar Orbiter and the Parker Solar Probe have been added to the Heliopropa service and to the Automated Multi-Dataset Analysis (AMDA) tool.

SPIDER services have also been utilised during the Bepicolombo Venus flyby in October 2020 and will be used again for the first Mercury flyby in 2021.

Simulations of Mercury’s magnetosphere using the operational SPIDER service have been performed, analysed and accepted for peer-reviewed publication in the journal Planetary and Space Science (Cross-comparison of global simulation models applied to Mercury’s dayside magnetosphere, Aizawa et al, 27 January 2021). The SPIDER project and results were presented in a session on planetary space weather at the Europlanet Science Congress (EPSC) 2020


VESPA logo

VESPA (Virtual European Solar and Planetary Access) is a network of interoperable data services covering all fields of Solar System Sciences. It is a mature project, developed within previous Europlanet projects and already connects 55 services.  

During Year 1 of the Europlanet 2024 RI project, planned workshops to integrate new data services into VESPA have been put on hold due to the pandemic. However, additional services have been published from legacy Horizon 2020 programmes, including Small Bodies Near and Far (SBNAF), and large infrastructures, such as eCallisto, a network of space weather radio observatories.

The Planetary Virtual Observatory and Laboratory (PVOL) service for amateur images has grown by 15% this year and now exceeds 50,000 entries.

The impact of VESPA has been significantly extended through collaborations with data infrastructures and international consortia. Representing VESPA, Europlanet Society has joined the International Planetary Data Alliance (IPDA) alongside national and international space agencies. The VESPA access protocol, EPN-TAP, is in a final validation stage by the IPDA and the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA).  

VESPA Development

During the first year of the project, VESPA has set up various communication tools and started the study of new infrastructure elements. 

Key milestones include:

  • The run-on-demand platform, OPUS, developed through the H2020 ESCAPE programme, has now been installed for VESPA. ESA is currently testing applications for the JUICE mission with Callisto flyby sequences. 
  • Test data services are being installed on the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) through the VESPA-Cloud pilot activity, with support from eduTEAMS/GÉANT and EGI to identify a standard installation procedure on the cloud. 
  • New versions of existing display and analysis tools have been released with extended support for VESPA data services and EPN-TAP.  
  • The SSHADE spectroscopy infrastructure has been enlarged to support multi-angular data and band lists.



GMAP (Geologic MApping of Planetary bodies) integrates partners and outputs from two projects previously funded by the EU through Horizon 2020 (UPWARDS and PLANMAP) to deliver tools and services for geological mapping of any Solar System body. The infrastructure created through GMAP will support future European missions in developing orbital acquisition strategies, rover deployment and traverses, and human exploration programmes. 

In Year 1 of the Europlanet 2024 RI project, information and data access components for GMAP service provision have been set up, for both internal and external user communities, and new collaborations have been established around the world.

GMAP Development (Joint Research Activities)

Geological Mapping Winter School

The first step in building a community of GMAP VA mappers has been through a Planetary Mapping Winter School, co-organised by GMAP and PLANMAP. This Winter School was over-subscribed, and the registration was closed two weeks early after 200 participants signed up from around the world. The Winter School took place from 1-5 February 2021, with 130 participating in the live hands-on programme and a further 70 following activities via the OpenPlanetary portal.  The programme has included lectures and practical experience in creating planetary geological maps, with instructors including high-profile experts from the planetary mapping community across Europe. Promotion of the event was supported through the Europlanet Society and the Europlanet Early Career (EPEC) network. It is anticipated that many of the participants will form part of the community of planetary geological mappers that will support the development of GMAP.

The Winter School has also put in place an overall architecture and dedicated web-domain for future training schools, which will serve as core events to publicise GMAP activities during the years to come. The school will also be a source of recorded material for the future promotion of GMAP activities. 

GMAP development activities have also resulted in Chinese partners successfully obtaining funding through the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). The funding of 3,160,000 RMB (~400,000 Euros) has been awarded to the ‘Key Technologies and Demonstration of Standardised Planetary Geologic Mapping’ project led by Prof Zhizhong Kang of the China University of Geosciences, Beijing (CUGB), which runs from 1st December 2020 until 30th November 2023.

Machine Learning Solutions for Data Analysis and Exploitation in Planetary Sciences

Machine Learning logo

The Machine Learning activity in Europlanet 2024 RI aims to foster wider use of machine learning technologies in planetary research, and to develop open-source machine learning tools for specific science cases.

At the end of the first year of Europlanet 2024 RI, the Machine Learning activity is progressing work on four science cases. These include:

  • The automatic identification and classification of interplanetary coronal mass ejections in in-situ solar wind data, with the aim of improving early detection and ultimately forecasting.
  • The automatic identification of magnetopause/bow shock crossings on Mercury through MESSENGER data, with the aim of improving our understanding of Mercury’s magnetosphere and its dynamics.
  • The development of a generalised machine learning pipeline for the localisation and characterisation of specific geomorphological features (mounds) that are present on the surface of Mars (science case in collaboration with GMAP).
  • The application of a deep learning object detection algorithm to detect pit craters on the surface of Mars from images obtained by the HiRISE instrument onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (science case in collaboration with GMAP).

The first three science cases above will be completed in February and March 2021.  

A Europlanet Machine Learning Portal has been launched and serves as a public access point for the services. A public GitHub has also been set up, where codes and scripts are available for the scientific community. The first results of the science cases were presented at EPSC2020 as well as at the European Space Weather Week.

Networking Activities (NA)

Community Support, Dissemination and Engagement with Stakeholders (NA1)

The Community Support, Dissemination and Engagement with Stakeholders Networking Activity aims to foster co-operation and to extend the user base of Europlanet 2024 RI’s facilities and services. Activities are focused around specific audiences (industry, under-represented states, early careers, the media, policy-makers and educators) and goals (widening participation, global collaboration, expert exchange and outreach).

Highlights from networking activities in Year 1 of Europlanet 2024 RI include:

  • Holding EPSC2020 as a successful virtual meeting with 1168 participants from 67 countries (the largest stand-alone EPSC to date).
  • A high-level Industry and Policy session at EPSC2020 that included participation by three Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), a representative of the Commission, and representatives of academia and industry. 
  • A training workshop on how to write a successful proposal for the Europlanet 2024 RI Transnational Access (TA) programme
  • The delivery of the Global Collaboration and Integration Development Strategy 2020-2024.
  • The launch of a pilot TA programme for European and Korean researchers to have reciprocal access each other’s facilities.
  • The launch of the Europlanet Early Careers Training and Education Portal and a pilot Mentoring Programme involving 10 pairs of mentors and mentees.
  • The launch of an internship programme for early career researchers to develop social media and communications skills.
  • The award of funding to four high-quality outreach projects, following the highest number of applications to date for the Europlanet Outreach Funding Scheme.
  • Provision of virtual training to outreach and education providers
  • Completion of seven educational resources related to Mars and Europlanet 2024 RI planetary field analogue sites.
  • Distribution of 11 Planets in a Room (PIAR) spherical projector kits to outreach providers around Europe.
  • The establishment of a not-for-profit German enterprise company with charitable objectives, FTP-Europlanet gUG, as a first step in ensuring long-term sustainability of Europlanet education and outreach activities.

Coordination of Ground-based Observations (NA2)

The Coordination of Ground-based Observations Networking Activity (NA2) is a network of small telescope facilities and supporting the integration of amateur astronomers into planetary sciences. 

Facilities in the NA2 Telescope Network.

The Europlanet Telescope Network, launched in June 2020, currently links 16 facilities located around the globe that range from 0.25 – 2m in diameter. At present, 14 out of 16 of the observatories can provide remote observations, enabling the network to operate despite Covid-19 travel restrictions.

To date, seven applications have been received, with four projects being awarded funding and three projects under consideration. The first observations started in January 2021. All four successfully-funded projects to date are led by female scientists from an under-represented state and cover the following topics:

  • Reducing the selection effects in asteroid spins, shapes, and thermal parameters (application for seven nights at Moletai Astronomical Observatory, Lithuania). Project led by A Marciniak, Poland.
  • Characterisation of V-type asteroids outside the dynamical Vesta family (application for eight nights at Chuguev Observatory, Ukraine). Project led by D Oszkiewicz, Poland.
  • Precise asteroid volumes from Gaia and ground-based observations I (application for six nights at Tartu Observatory, Estonia). Project led by M Polinska, Poland. 
  • Precise asteroid volumes from Gaia and ground-based observations II (application for five nights at Observatorio del Teide, Spain). Project led by M Polinska, Poland.

NA2 is also harnessing the amateur community through observational campaigns on planetary topics. In Year 1 of Europlanet 2024 RI, six observational alerts were issued through PVOL database, and these were followed by over 200 active observers. The observations related to two of the alerts (March 31: Storm Activity on Saturn’s North Polar Region and May 31: Jupiter Storm in the South Temperate Belt) have contributed to two research papers that are being submitted for publication by researchers at UPV/EHU.


Europlanet 2024 RI Kick Off Meeting - Group Photo. Credit: Europlanet 2024 RI./Jane Dempster
Project kick-off meeting. Credit: J Dempster

With over 50 beneficiaries, Europlanet 2024 RI is one of the most complex distributed research infrastructures funded by the European Commission to date. Over 60 members of the Europlanet 2024 RI Consortium gathered in Windsor on 27th and 28th February for the formal launch of the project, just before full lockdowns were implemented in most countries around the world. 

Over Year 1 of the project, the Management Team has administered the project and provided management and financial oversight, ensuring that progress is on track for project deliverables, milestones and budgets. The Europlanet 2024 RI structures and committees (including the Steering Committee, the Project Management Committee and the Project Advisory Board) have been set up and supported in their roles, and reporting procedures and record management systems have been devised and implemented in accordance with the project Grant Agreement and European Union standards.  

The Management Team has communicated news and updates to project beneficiaries and the wider community, and has implemented actions, including the distribution of the grant amongst the beneficiaries. Outcomes of a successful Council meeting, held virtually in October, culminated in the submission of a Grant Amendment to the European Commission to adapt to changes in project objectives in light of the pandemic, as well as adding new beneficiaries and expanding the suite of TA facilities.

Back to Europlanet 2024 RI Main Page

China-EU Project Launched to Support Planetary Geological Mapping

China-EU Project Launched to Support Planetary Geological Mapping

A new project to support planetary geological mapping has received funding within framework of the China-EU co-funding mechanism (CFM) on research and innovation cooperation. ‘Key Technologies and Demonstration of Standardised Planetary Geologic Mapping’ is led by Prof Zhizhong Kang of the China University of Geosciences, Beijing (CUGB). The funding of 3,160,000 RMB (~400,000 Euros) for the National Key Research and Development Project runs from 1st December 2020 until 30th November 2023.

The project aims to develop key technologies to standardise planetary geological mapping and implement the methods in geological mapping for current and upcoming Chinese and European lunar and planetary missions, e.g. Chang’E-5-8, TianWen-1 and BepiColumbo. It will focus on multiple thematic map feature extraction and standardisation of geological mapping technologies.

The project team involves several partners from the Europlanet 2024 RI consortium, including CUGB (Project PI), Wuhan University, Peking University, Shandong University, National Space Science Center of China Academy of Science, University of Padova, Jacobs University Bremen and Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität.


  • Topographic mapping based on cognitive enhancement (Wuhan University)
  • Reconstruction method of planetary subsurface structure based on radar data and optical images (Peking University)
  • Quantitative inversion of elements and minerals on planetary surfaces (Shandong University)
  • Ground verification of quantitative remote sensing inversion on planetary surfaces (National Space Science Center, China Academy of Science)
  • Standardisation of planetary geological mapping (China University of Geosciences, Beijing)

Planetary geologic mapping and modelling winter school

Planetary geologic mapping and modelling winter school

The PLANMAP team, in collaboration with Europlanet 2024 RI’s GMAP initiative, announces the first PLANMAP winter school on planetary geologic mapping and 3D geological modelling, that will be held virtually 1-5 February 2021. The PLANMAP winter school will provide an overview of the technical and scientific skills needed by the next generation of planetary mappers.

The last 20 years of science exploration changed dramatically the technical and scientific skills required to perform planetary geological mapping, so that the required knowledge are continuously evolving. The Planetary geologic mapping and modelling winter school will address the most recent outcomes on the production of planetary cartography, providing the students with the basics needed for map creation, their use for scientific investigation, landing sites characterization, rover mobility and resource exploration.


Important notice!


 Due to the large interest in the winter school registration closed early.
More calls will be opened in the future.

The Winter School will be held 1-5 February 2021.

Geology & Planetary Mapping Winter School homepage